Welcoming wiki technology | PostIndependent.com

Welcoming wiki technology

Elizabeth Malloy

The Internet has been used as a tool for sharing information since its inception. Over the past few years, “wiki” technology has been introduced as a way to allow individuals to modify and contribute to this knowledge base. What is wiki technology? The term “wiki,” derived from the Hawaiian term, “wiki wiki,” meaning “quick” or “informal,” refers to collaborative software used to create a Web site. It is used on the Internet at large, as well as on closed intranets, such as those established within business organizations. It is, in fact, a wonderful tool and a huge time-saver for companies wanting to restructure their intranet and centralize communication.

An example of a public wiki Web site is Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), which is a Web-based, free-content encyclopedia written collaboratively by volunteers. It has editions in approximately 200 different languages, about 100 of which are active. Containing approximately 1.6 million articles at present, this dynamic reference is one of the most popular reference sites on the Internet, receiving around 60 million hits per day.

Almost all visitors may edit Wikipedia’s articles and have their changes be instantly displayed. Wikipedia is built on the belief that collaboration among users will improve articles over time, in much the same way that open-source software develops. Contributors need not have any expertise in the subjects which they edit, though they are warned that contributions may be “edited mercilessly and redistributed at will” by anyone who so wishes. There is also a set of policies identifying kinds of information that are not appropriate for inclusion. These policies are often cited in disputes over whether particular content should be added, removed, or revised.

Because of its open nature, vandalism and inaccuracy are problems in Wikipedia. The status of Wikipedia has been controversial, and it is both praised for its free distribution, free editing and wide range of topics, and criticized for alleged bias opinions, deficiencies in some topics, and lack of accountability and authority when compared with traditional encyclopedias. Critics argue that allowing anyone to edit makes Wikipedia an unreliable work.

Wikipedia has free-content sister projects which fulfill non-encyclopedic roles. Its largest are: Wikitionary (a free dictionary project), Wikibooks (a free textbook project), and Wikiquote (a free encyclopedia of quotations), to name a few.

On June 1, PC World magazine released its list “The 100 Best Products of 2005.” It named Wikipedia one of the year’s 100 best products. The magazine says that their award is for “great products (that) meld practical features with innovation.” Wikipedia serves as a reference for the media, academics, and others. I actually find myself using it rather than doing a search in Google. Check it out and do a search; you’ll find a wealth of information.

Other than using Wikipedia and its related sites as reference materials, how can you and your business benefit from wiki technology? I’ll share an example from the Blizzard office. We’ve revamped our Intranet by installing wiki software that enables all employees to contribute to employee manuals, department procedures, message boards, meeting notes, etc., with submissions showing up instantly. Providing this kind of access to shared company documents allows each and every employee to enjoy the most current data available at any given time. This contributes greatly to consistency throughout all departments and increases companywide efficiency on a number of levels. The ability to collaborate and contribute also fosters a feeling of ownership among employees. It is clear that wiki technology will continue to gain popularity as more and more people discover its many benefits.

Elizabeth Malloy is the business development manager at Blizzard Internet Marketing Inc., based in Glenwood Springs. Blizzard writes a technology column once a month. For more information on Blizzard Internet Marketing Inc., see http://www.blizzardinternet.com.

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