7 08 2007

Thanks to a link on one of my technical writing discussion lists, I came across this great article written in 2005: “Wikiphilia – The New Illness“.

Normally, I’d just skim such an article as my only real exposure to Wikis has been via Wikipedia (as a user and very occasional editor) and on the periphery of Wiki implementations in software support and development teams.

However, for my new client I am likely to be very involved in organising one team’s Wiki. From the looks of it, this Wiki was set up about a year or so ago and since then it’s become a bit of a dumping ground—’disorganised chaos’ would seem to be the best description, even though it’s an oxymoron. And it doesn’t seem as if people use it to its potential. For example, I haven’t noticed much in the way of collaborative discussion, which is what I thought this Wiki was meant to achieve.

I’m having a teleconference meeting about it on Thursday, so we’ll see what comes from that. Meantime, this article is a good read and I think it summarises very well the inherent problems with a Wiki that I’ve observed from a distance. I particularly liked these two paragraphs:

“And so the Wiki becomes a dumping ground for fragmented and incomplete files, textual sound-bites and aborted attempts to catalogue. And therein lies the second great failing of Wikis as information repositories – the absence of accessible organization and indexing. Although the basic Wiki functionality includes a simple search facility, there is little to no built in support for indexing or cross-referencing below the page level. There is no reading path made available to newcomers so that they might work from fundamental to more advanced material. Cogent explanation does not result from snippets of conversations; and exchanges of opinion need not be illustrative or informative.

Attempts to collate existing “content” into more substantial portions are easily defeated by the free-for-all editing of others, and further inhibited by the user group’s conflicting notions of the worth of the content and the best means for its explication. Just try and find something when the content, un-indexed, is constantly changing under foot.”