I spent a useful day yesterday at Brunel University taking part in a Wiki Workshop organised by the Knowledge, Information, Data and Metadata Management (KIDMM) subgroup of the British Computer Society.
It was an eclectic group of people comprising people, ranging from those involved in local government and community groups to knowledge management consultants and university staff. Their focus was on the use of wikis in helping them achieve their various organisational goals and needs.
The thing that stood out for me was the dichotomy between those who were approaching the use of wikis as a knowledge management tool, to those who were exploring wiki use as a means of encouraging collaboration in writing documents and participation in social issues etc.
The format of the day was along the lines of an “un-conference”, with the themes and topics explored emerging from the questions and interests of the group. Four key areas of discussion emerged, from which some excellent discussion ensued:
- Role – who does what on a wiki, issues of ownership, editing vs. open-ness etc.
- Genre – need to acknowledge there are various types of wiki use, and styles and types of writing involved
- Life-cycle – wikis have a life-cycle, and how to plan for this
- Barriers to entry – technology, permissions, usability, interface etc
Some of the discussions are captured in a wiki that was created for the event.
This was not a hands-on, “how-to” workshop, but an opportunity to explore and discuss some of the issues involved in wiki use (and indeed the principles of Web2.0) in the wider community and business context. Some of the random thoughts that stimulated my thinking in the workshop included:
- the problems associated with wiki content, where the lack of structure an editorial control often means that those who know how to use the technology and/or who have the time to devote are more likely to develop the content, rather than those who actually “know”.
- collaborative writiing is a very different way of writing and requires courage (and confidence) to actually change what someone else has written
- there’s an ongoing issue with the need to resolve the tension between the freedom and flexibility that the wiki technology affords, and the constraints and requirement to conform imposed by organisations and agencies
- when introducing a wiki into an organisational setting need to consider mitigations for the fact that wiki use will directly confront the “norms” of command and control that typically exist (implicitly or explicitly) within hierarchical organisations.