Tag Archives: web site

Wikis (vs. Blogs)

Wow, this can’t be that unusual of a post–there’s got to be tons of info already out there. Just catch this Kennedy-Nixon debate on the subject:

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A dear friend called me–she must’ve been really lacking for tech info!–to determine if she should use a blog or a wiki on her project. She knew a bit of blogging from her travels, but had also heard me talk about managing some wikis with The Librarians. She wanted a place where an environmental coalition could track progress on their mutual goals.

Not only that, she wanted to post info for the public that wasn’t available elsewhere and needed a cost-effective means of communicating for the coalition’s partners–a mix of non-profits, government agencies and private industry. On top of that, there is no one on the team with web experience or funding for such.

I recently sat down with her to ask, as a neophyte, how she made her selection.
KT: I chose a wiki over a website since websites invoke a connotation of needing to be ‘polished.’ A wiki puts a more grassroots face on an issue, making its information accessible by all types of people. Our purpose was truly to share information in the simplest, easiest, fastest yet long-lasting way. And I chose a wiki over a blog because we needed a collaborative communication tool rather than a place to share news.

JW: There are so many free wiki building sites out there. For example, PBWiki provides free educational or personal pages. I also have used wetpaint. How did you choose which tool to use?
KT: A asked a few people I knew which ones they were using and I also did a little internet research on my own. Many of the wiki tools I found were overly formulaic but they also weren’t flashy and had a low entry level for new computer users.
Wikidot: 100MB, no ads, not good with Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0 or less
Bluwiki: no ads, very basic, mainly german sites
Intodit: questionable compatibility with IE
Wetpaint: unlimited MB?, image gallery, plain text editing

I went with wetpaint–despite its generic template–as it met our criteria: free, easily accessible by different browsers and users.

JW: Aren’t you a bit afraid to introduce the wiki to your collaborative?
KT: At first, I had the privacy settings open to anyone but after I remembered some public meeting participants who really sidetracked the issue of lead-poisoning, I decided to restrict who could create new content on the site. Comments are still open to everyone; I at least wanted to start out showing our collaborative how we could communicate with each other effectively at the wiki. I’ve taken the initial stab at collecting and posting info, and soon I’ll do a ‘show and tell’ at one of our meetings. I’ll then be able to train the non-techies, and I can easily explain that a wiki is simply a tool for communicating. I know that not everyone in the collaborative will become an avid wiki user or advocate.

JW: But maybe someone will adopt, and get excited about promoting the wiki or adding content.
KT: The end product is owned by the coalition, not the me or my organization as the creator. That’s the advantage to using a wiki over a website or author-connected blog. And there’s an added bonus for us, modeled after another wiki I found in my research, one that collected public comments as a tool to promote advocacy for their issue. I’m hoping we can move to that level of usage in the future.

Now, see the finished product (well, by nature, wikis are always a work in progress) from the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning in Denver.

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Start Connecting

It’s hard to think about how to get started in this new virtual world, but what’s important is to try something.

When you do, think about how it can be:
visual…are there photos or things that grab attention?
easy…do you require more than 2 clicks to sign up, are you requesting too much of your readers?
incentivized…contests, counters that tally participation, recognition–what will you offer?
community-oriented…can people feel part of a group, are there special people (large donors, stars) already involved?
fun…are there games, quizzes, fun ways to interact?

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