By Meredith Farkas | May 1, 2007
In Please, Not Another Wiki Casey Bisson complains about the proliferation of wikis:
Perhaps I cringe at any suggestion to create a new wiki because I wonder why that content can’t be published on an existing wiki. Perhaps I cringe because I wonder if the proprietary motivation to create a new wiki is itself in conflict with the community nature of wikis. Perhaps anybody can have a blog, but it seems to take a whole community to raise a wiki.
I can’t say I disagree. Often, when people talk to me about creating wikis about very specific aspects of library and information science, I suggest that they just add a section to the Library Success Wiki. It’s not that I hate competition. It’s because I know that, more often than not, the other wiki will not get used very much (unless it is a directory project a la Blogging Libraries). And I know that we’re all better off having a smaller number of wikis that really get used than a lot of wikis that get lightly used at best. This doesn’t mean that I don’t root for many of the niche wikis to (speaking of that, go add to the LISauthor Wiki!), but I know realistically that we are all better off with more people focused on fewer wikis.
I’ve seen a lot of examples of niche wikis, both inside and outside of the library world. I understand why people would want their own wiki. It’s a good experience to install the wiki, develop content, an organizational scheme, etc. And those of us who have blogs are so accustomed to creating unique blogs to fill a niche. While that does work well in the blogosphere, it doesn’t work in the wiki world. Maybe also people don’t feel comfortable carving out a space of their own in a wiki created by someone else. However, this is what a community wiki is all about. They belong to all of us.
Wikis are all about getting large numbers of people to collaborate and share information in a single space. It’s about strength in numbers. If we “let 100 wikis bloom” we each get a smaller pool of people contributing to each of them. We’re much stronger coming together in a single space to do that. That way, people only have to remember one URL, they only need to create one account or profile, and they would feel a lot more connected to a single community than they would to a bunch of wiki communities. A wiki that doesn’t get many edits or is only edited by the person who creates is does not look like something others would want to dedicate their time to. People would rather dedicate themselves to editing a wiki that is vibrant, constantly changing and reflects the views of hundreds or thousands of people. Let’s stop reinventing the wheel and find ways to adapt what we already have. This isn’t my wiki; anyone can come in and work to make it what they want it to be or to develop a large space that they can make their own. Wikis are infinitely expandable.
Obviously there are certain topics that wouldn’t fit into the Library Success Wiki. Maybe they’d work in LISWiki, which is more like an encyclopedia for our profession. And certainly I’m not suggesting that people put institutional knowledge within Library Success. For institutional knowledge, you really do need your own institutional wiki. For some very specific local collections, it may make sense to create your own wiki, but not always. It’s just worth considering if your potential collection may fit into an already existing larger collection that people are familiar with and contribute to.
And if there’s something you don’t like about the wiki you want to add to, change it. You have as much right to make changes as the administrator does (other than on the server side). I’d love to see the Library Success Wiki better reflect the needs and interests of the profession.
Because we are so much more powerful together.