Book Review: Wikinomics

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams provides a good explanation of what wikis are and how businesses are using them. The combination of innovation and creativity that they invite fosters collaborative work in the new economy. Although some of the 2007 references are already dated and the examples are largely from the corporate world, a few hours skimming the material is insightful and well worth a curious non-profit reader’s attention.

Emphasizing once again how the ‘Net Gen’ (as the book references young colleagues), there are frequent examples of how Gen Y just thinks differently. Collaboratively, using technology seamlessly, and not constrained by convention, these tough critics are willing to be a part of the solution. Wikis and other ‘shared spaces’ provide all of us an opportunity to share ideas.

The book provides some concise indications of what a wiki is (other than Hawaiian for quick): it allows multiple users to create and edit the same web page. It also explains through several stories why this tool and other web developments are so critical to how we will function moving forward. Wikis, we are reminded, help one user harness the energies and ideas of others, remotely, to develop a single stream of thought.

As I learned from Dr. David Loertscher’s June presentation to Colorado librarians, (appropos, this link is to the wiki for the workshop!), the shared knowledge of a classroom of students each researching 30 sources, posting them to a wiki, and eventually producing final assignments based on the summaries of all of the sources have the potential to be greater than the sum of any one student’s research endeavors. And thus it is with wikis. I have been a wiki lurker for projects in the library community for several years–each time there is a workshop, a grant, a project, a group will initiate and collaborate on a wiki. I have a personal wiki to track my garden seed ordering and planting.

But a practical non-profit application? The wiki is underutilized & underemphasized, to be honest. Perhaps I’ll try a wiki as a community collaborative effort to come up with a uniform intake form for human services in Colorado. Here’s a link to a previous post that explains wikis & highlights how one non-profit uses a wiki to share information on their collaborative around reducing lead.

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