I don’t know what’s going on… but I like it.
I know, I said a while back that 2005 was going to be the year of the wiki, but I really underestimated the time it takes for people to see the real practical benefits of a social tool. I think by the end of this year, wikis will have approached a tipping point in the library profession. While wikis may have been the hot new thing in 2005, people (other than me) are really starting to get some practical mileage out of wikis in 2006.
Take a look at some of the wikis highlighted in Eastwikkers’ 33 Wikis project. They run the gamut from wikis for subject enthusiasts (sports, games, etc.), to guides (to travel, doing taxes, etc.), to educational resources (in k-12 schools, universities, etc.), to wikis for certain professions/communities (ICANN, librarianship, progressives, etc.), to grassroots knowledge repositories (for community info, bird flu info, autism info, etc.), and more that defy categorization. The wikis highlighted there are the best of breed, and I’m thrilled that the Library Success Wiki was highlighted there as wiki #15 last week. A wiki is only as good as its contributors, so I thank you all for your efforts in making it a success.
What is really exciting me is how people are starting to see the practical use of wikis for smaller-scale projects. Amanda Etches-Johnson has been providing the library blogosphere with an amazing resource for years: a list of blogging libraries. While this probably was a manageable project in the past, the number of libraries that blog has grown ridiculously large and the number of libraries that start and quickly abandon blogs is even larger. It’s not something any one person can maintain unless it is their only job (and as far as I know, Amanda is a busy gal). So instead of abandoning the project, Amanda wikified this resource. Now anyone whose library has a blog or whose blog has changed URLs, met an untimely demise, etc. can add or update the information in the wiki. The burden is not 100% on Amanda, but is distributed throughout the blogosphere. And that’s what’s so beautiful about wikis — what one person could never do, the entire community can accomplish easily with a wiki.
Another great wiki that just came out is the LISauthor wiki. This wiki was developed by Fiona Bradley with the goal of collecting information about eScholarship, writing, publishing, research, speaking, etc. And while it really needs a logo, I think it could be a terrific resource for those of us interested in contributing to the profession in various ways. Fiona writes:
What has been most clear to me recently is that librarians want to write – they want to tell their stories and lessons learnt. They don’t have to be on a tenure track or in any particular kind of library, or even any library to have the motivation to do so. On the other side, librarians also want to help others to write, and be publishers in their own right whether by running a conference and publishing the papers, or starting a newsletter or journal, or promoting deposit in repositories. Lastly, practitioners want to stay in touch with the most relevant research – and these days that could include tools like OPML Reading Lists, database alerts, Journal TOC feeds as well as more traditional browsing and serendipitous methods. With LISauthor I aim to look at all of these issues and think of ways to bridge the divides that sometimes form.
Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get an e-mail from someone asking me for advice on starting a wiki or telling me about a cool wiki they’ve created at their library. While sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by the questions, it is so thrilling to see how people are using (or are thinking of using) wikis to provide better services to their patrons, to collect knowledge behind the scenes, and to capitalize on the collective intelligence of their patrons and/or their colleagues.
Wikimania is coming up in August and is taking place at Harvard University. The conference organizers are very interested in having librarians participate in the conference and I’ve gotten a few e-mails this week on the subject. The Call for Papers is here and the deadline for presentations has been extended to April 30. I am really interested in doing a panel presentation on using wikis as knowledge repositories (in the corporate world, academic institutions, communities, etc.). If you have any interest in participating in Wikimania, let me know and we can toss around some ideas.
One thing I’d like to suggest: if you have a great idea for a wiki that collects best practices on a library-related subject, do consider just making it a part of the Best Practices Wiki. I totally understand the desire to have a separate wiki, but when the goal is to collect best practices, it’s great to have them in one centralized repository. I love how Jenny Levine encouraged people to add their copious knowledge about gaming in libraries to the wiki rather than reinventing the wheel and creating a new one. And how Miranda Doyle of the amazing site Teen Librarian realized that it was far more expedient to add her knowledge about teen readers’ advisory to the Library Success Wiki than to go through the hassle of maintaining her own wiki. Better for us all to pool our resources and energies into one wiki. Wikis take time to create and time to maintain (especially in dealing with spam). We’re stronger together than we are alone. And I’m happy to do anything I can to make a well-organized space for large collections of information.
No matter how we do it, we need to collect this knowledge to benefit us all. What a waste to have information useful to the profession just live and die trapped inside of us.
but you’re all reinventing the wheel, liswiki.com was around first, why is it we need specialized wikis at all?
Well LISWiki is a specialized wiki itself, and I address some reasons for its existence under Why not just Wikipedia? on its about page. As for the niche LIS wikis that are cropping up, I wholeheartedly share the “reinventing the wheel” sentiments reflected above.
I have offered to collaborate with other library wikis created after LISWiki was launched, and have also tried to reach out to the editors of several “one man directories” out there, but without the best results. Usually, as with the author of the blog directory mentioned here, I just get ignored. And in at least one case so far, the person chose to literally take it with her rather than include it in LISWiki.
I guess it’s just a question of what level of granularity people are comfortable with. There’s a thousand strong links at LISWiki’s blogs directory, however, so I’m not sure why there’s a need for another version, wikified or not. Because everyone can edit them, a big plus of wikis is to avoid such duplicative efforts.
Those concerns aside, I have to applaud the act of sharing information, since it still feels like the “lurker” mentality is a larger threat to spreading information, and not having it “die trapped inside of us.”
First of all… I would not say that Library Success and the LISWiki are trying to accomplish the same thing. The LISWiki is a library science encyclopedia and the Library Success Wiki is a community for the collection of best practices to improve the profession.
And, Blake, I’d already created Library Success in late June and was adding content to it when John contacted me about his wiki. I had spoken with quite a few people at ALA Annual about creating a wiki to collect best practices and started publicizing it a few days after John publicized his. I wouldn’t exactly call that me reinventing the wheel.
The reason I did not merge Library Success with LISWiki early on in the development of both wikis is that I wasn’t a fan of his original model. His wiki didn’t have a particular mission statement or purpose that would compell people to contribute. The Library Success Wiki did. And that was something many people have mentioned as being problematic in making a wiki successful — you need a clear purpose. And I think John found that to be the case as well since for a long time, he was the only one adding content to the wiki.
I think they are both excellent resources, but serve different needs. I don’t see anything wrong with specialized wikis. I just know from experience that creating and maintaining a wiki can sometimes be a real pain, and that if people want to avoid that and create something within Library Success, they are more than welcome to and I will do anything I can to help. It may be the case that many people have wanted to create wikis on a certain subject, but didn’t know how and this would give them the opportunity to have a space.
Specialized wikis build a sense of community. There are librarians who would never contribute to the wikipedia who would add to a collection of resources for librarians. Whether that is right or wrong, it is the reality.
Thanks for mentioning my wiki Meredith 🙂
As to the discussion about why someone would start a new wiki instead of adding the content to LISwiki or to the Library Success wiki (both of which I have used and in the case of the latter, contributed to), there’s a couple of reasons, and I think these would hold true for a few subject-specialised wikis:
1. I wanted to gain experience with wiki set up and administration. I knew how to use and edit them from Library Success and Wikipedia, but admin is another issue.
2. I took a look at other wikis, websites and blogs and thought that if I added the LISauthor content to those other resources, it had the potential to be hard to find within the established directory structures.
3. Some of the things I am talking about, like repositories, there are multiple hosts and versions of (eg – many people add their work to either DLIST, ELIS or both, or their own institutional repository). I think this is a good thing: one goes down, there’s another available.
Although I have started a new wiki for this topic, there is no reason it cannot be duplicated elsewhere, LOCKSS right? 🙂 All the material is CC licensed so there’s nothing to stop someone that thinks that content fits their wiki to duplicate it themselves. And that’s the same for most wikis.
I plan to continue to contribute to other wikis (including Library Success and Wikipedia) but running a wiki of my own gives me motivation to contribute more regularly to these types of resources.
I totally agree with your approach Fiona and I think it’s a great learning experience to create your own wiki and see what happens with it. I definitely think Library Success would benefit from a link to your site if not some of your content in the future. I’ve never pushed for people to add content to the wiki (and have never lobbied people with collections to put them here) and this is the first time I’ve even suggested that people put their collections here if they’d like. It was more about letting people know that the possibility existed than saying that other people shouldn’t have wikis. It’s like saying “why do people need their own blogs when you can just use LISNews?” 😉
I think it’s a great idea to encourage people to contribute to wikis because although the directory is well-developed it can still be difficult to work out exactly where something new might fit. Although we are nominally the experts at organising information when it comes to creating our own, it can be hard!
There’s plenty of content that has yet to be wiki-fied that could do with a new home, even my Library Songs page as I am quite tardy with adding new suggestions – http://www.blisspix.net/library/songs.html and I’m sure there are many other lists and collections that could benefit from being added to a wiki too.
A specialized wiki can also serve as the kiddie-pool before folks venture into deeper waters. Joyce Valenza’s http://teacherlibrarianwiki.pbwiki.com is one example of a resource for a clearly-defined target audience.
Wiki has been an invaluable resource for myself and many other parents in learning more about autism. As the father of an autistic child, much of my information has been acquired from wiki sources. In my opinion, the Wiki world will soon challenge traditional search engines as the “go-to” resource for information.
[…] Farkas, M. (2006, April 15). It’s a wiki wiki wiki wiki world. Retrieved October 15, 2009, from Information Wants To Be Free: http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2006/04/15/its-a-wiki-wiki-wiki-wiki-world/ […]