By Meredith Farkas | July 12, 2005
Library Success wasn’t the only wiki to come out last week.
We also saw the birth of the LISWiki, which has been criticized by various people in the biblioblogosphere (love that term! Thanks Karen!). I do agree with some of the critics that the LIS Wiki needs more of a defined focus and purpose, and that’s what I told its creator, John Hubbard, when he emailed me about it. And I think he’s coming to see that is the case as well. But just because it isn’t focused now, doesn’t mean it won’t be later. John is just trying a different approach to wikis than my more structured approach (which is really me just imposing my own organizational scheme on it from the start). Perhaps as he gets more articles, the organization and purpose of the wiki will become more clear. John seems to want the LISWiki to be far more egalitarian (anarchic even?), where no one person exerts control over the wiki. Will it work? I don’t know. Either way, he will learn from his experiences/mistakes with his wiki and we will learn by extension. So while I have a different philosophy about how a wiki should be created, I see the value in learning from different approaches.
And the main thing is: at least he tried. He thought a library science wiki would be great and instead of writing about it in his blog (which I don’t think he has) or discussing the idea at a conference or suggesting it to some other organization, he made it happen. So I feel a little bad for the criticisms of John’s wiki, however correct they might be, since I know how difficult it can be to get up the nerve to start something like that. I remember when I started the ALA Wiki, I worried that my idea would be criticized by the library blogosphere. Or worse, I thought that I’d end up with silence and that no one would contribute. Every new thing we do is a risk and sometimes things don’t work and we learn from them. But sometimes they do work. This is why I think it’s worth taking these risks and trying to find new and clever uses of technology.
This doesn’t mean that I embrace “technolust” or using technology for technology’s sake rather than to fulfill a purpose, but I do see a purpose to people getting practice with a wiki, which I think is a big part of why John started the LISWiki. I never changed a thing in Wikipedia before I created my own wiki. Frankly, I was intimidated. And I bet there are plenty of other people who are intimidated by the idea of changing other people’s Wikipedia entries too. It’s a new paradigm for web-based collaboration, and it can make people uncomfortable initially. I think something like the LISWiki or Library Success is less intimidating because it’s a community of librarians. I strongly encourage librarians who’ve been wanting to get involved in wikis to get involved in the Library Success Wiki Community. If you want more information on how to edit the wiki, visit Wikipedia’s Editing Help Page, the MediaWiki’s User Guide or the Library Success Wiki’s own tips page. If you mess something up and don’t know how to fix it let me know. There are no changes that can’t be rolled back and no mistakes that can’t be fixed. It’s great to talk about and read about the potential uses for wikis, but there is no substitute for what you will learn from actually using a wiki yourself.
Another person who has impressed me with their “Just do it” attitude is Luke Rosenberger from the lbr weblog. He had the idea to have people add conference reports to the ALA Wiki and he ran with it, spending god-knows-how-much-time putting up a page for every meeting at the conference. And then when the conference was over, he added links to reports from other blogs (I did a few, but Luke was a machine). Now he figured out how to tag each entry with categories so that the conference reports can easily be found on an alphabetical list (an idea I am now borrowing for the Library Success Wiki. Brilliant!
Andrea Mercado — of Library Techtonics and the PLA Blog was a big inspiration to me while I was still in library school. She showed me that I didn’t necessarily need a library job to contribute to the profession. Andrea is fearless. As a brand-spanking-new librarian, she went to conferences and networked her heart out, and one year later she seems to know everyone and is involved in so many different things. She has even gotten herself a plum gig as co-manager of the PLA Blog with Steven Cohen. How? She took the initiative. The girl’s got moxie.
I used to be too intimidated to actually try to create anything myself. I’d just let my ideas build up in my imagination with no practical outlet. I thought my ideas were dumb and that if they were good, wouldn’t someone have already tried to do the same thing? I thought about the ALA Wiki idea for a good long while before I got up the courage to do it. I kept asking myself, “why hasn’t anyone done this before? Is it a bad idea? What am I missing?” I didn’t have faith in my own ideas. But the success of the ALA Wiki has given me the courage to take on other projects. I realize that the worst thing that can happen is that my idea fails, and in the case of a wiki, the only investment is time and the cost of a domain name registration. Not all of my ideas may be great, but I’d rather try and fail than do nothing and learn nothing.
How many of you have ideas marinating in your head that could easily be put into practice? What are you waiting for?
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