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.
I’m delighted to see this post. This is one that’s been puzzling me as well–the tendency to proliferate new wikis rather than adding to existing ones. Setting aside arguments about quality, Wikipedia didn’t get to be what it is because 10,000 contributors each started their own subencyclowikithingie.
Wikis and blogs are very different. It makes sense for people to start Their Very Own Blog. It only makes sense to start Their Very Own Wiki if they have a distinctive purpose that existing wikis don’t cover. That’s why I keep mentioning LSW when I talk about success stories…
Begging pardon, but these arguments are just nonsense, undermining themselves at every turn. Wikis are “a good experience,” but they’re not the same as blogs. This is pure non sequitur. If setting up and operating a wiki is a good experience–even if nobody reads, let alone edits, it–then that’s the end of the matter. Our “community” ought to be as interested in innovation as in marching powerfully together, albeit for distinct reasons. (Why, now, should we “adapt what we already have”? I am no uncritical fan of technology—there are times when I believe the wheel ought to be reinvented, again and again, until we get it right. Who says what we already have is what we ought to settle for?) Argument from the example of Wikipedia amounts to demanding the exception dictate the rule. Not all wikis pretend to -pedia glory.
I gather the gist of these remarks, obscured by the absolutist proclamations, is that before folks think about firing up yet another wiki, they ought to consider contributing to and using existing ones. That’s an unremarkable suggestion. Maybe it’s worth pondering why folks perhaps don’t think about existing alternatives, in a chicken-or-egg fashion.
“Wikis are all about getting large numbers of people to collaborate and share information in a single space.”
But they’re also good for putting up a quick and dirty website, especially if you don’t build it from scratch (e.g., by using the pbWiki platform). Just thought I’d point that out!
Stacy, absolutely. However, I was referring to their original intent, which was as a community for sharing ideas. Wikis are used for so much more these days, and that’s why I mentioned that not all wikis fit into the “knowledgebase” category.
Meredith your right not all wiki’s are knowledge based. I am working on a new project http://www.wherearethejoneses.com which uses wiki to encourage creative. http://www.wherearethejoneses.com is an online daily comedy sitcom which uses wiki based technology to allow the community to upload scripts, storylines, charcters, locations etc. Its a really interesting use of wiki to generate comedy entertainment.
Check it out and let me know what you think. http://www.wherearethejoneses.com