Wiki Wonders

An interesting post by Meredith Farkas We have wiki has prompted me to write a little about the wikis I’ve experimented with over the last 6 months. Back in June we needed a tool to collaborate on the training for our new LMS. It needed to be easily accessible by all of the trainers and allow us to share thoughts on the material and programme without sending hundreds of emails round. I was pleasantly surprised when a wiki was suggested and we ended up using pbwiki as it was very easy to set up and had a WYSIWYG editor that anyone could use. We then demonstrated the wiki at the end of the training sessions and opened it up to all staff to ask questions and add their own thoughts. Although it then gathered dust for a couple of months while the LMS was delayed it was then resurrected when we went live and again had a need to share information and answer questions that everyone could see. Now things have settled down, we’re getting used to the LMS and the wiki has gone quiet again but the great thing is that over the last few months nearly every member of staff looked at the wiki for information and a number of people have had a go at adding information. Six months ago most of them had never heard of a wiki! The lessons I’ve learned from this so far include… not calling a wiki a wiki unless you want to spend a lot of time explaining what a wiki is; spend some time setting up pages and writing a useful front page so that people can jump straight in and start typing; use a wiki for people to ask questions and then not only can everyone see the answers but you can also search for them easily when you need to update the information; use a wiki with WYSIWYG editor as any amount of HTML is hugely offputting!

The second wiki I’m involved with is a conference wiki set up for our annual Forum for Interlending conference this year, Interlend 2008. As our conference committee is spread from Scotland to the south of England we are only expecting to meet a couple of times in person and last year the amount of emails we used to organise things was incredible. As my email client is not great at searching I spent a lot of time saying “I know I read that somewhere…” and sending and receiving information that had already gone round at least once. So far we have used the wiki to plan out the conference programme, discuss and share information on possible speakers and create a list of questions and answers about the practical aspects such as costs and transport. Next week we plan to open the wiki up to delegates so that they can see the programme develop and share their thoughts and questions on the delegates’ page and I’d like to have an update blog that people could read via RSS or on the wiki. Anyone interested in seeing the conference wiki in action after next week can email me for the password.

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