26 November 2007

Something missing in Wiki-dom

Lately, I have come to think slightly differently about wikis. Initially, as a devotee of the Common Craft show's explanation of wikis, I touted wikis as the ultimate collaborative tool. I can even think back to reading an article by James Fallows in the Atlantic months ago about the lack of collaborative software and thinking, "Come on, James Fallows! It's called a wiki!"

But actually, I think that there is something missing in wiki-dom: collaboration. Over the last few months, I have set up wikis for a slew of projects with other people and no matter how much I encourage them to use it, show them the Common Craft video, or remind them that it's available...it sits. It gets forgotten.

Why is this?

I have a theory. It's called Academic Touchy Feely. Frankly, I think that there is something in the academic culture that stops us from writing over someone elses work or discarding text without making sure it is ok first. I think that if I were in a more corporate, business culture, people wouldn't hesitate to edit the wiki to create a cohesive, comprehensive, collaborative document. But in academia, or at least in my case, people don't want to type over someone else's work. So they post their ideas/corrections/additions/edits beneath it. And the wiki takes on a very untidy, unfinished, informal appearance.

So while I think the wiki has its uses, I am starting to wonder whether those uses are purely dependent on audience.

When I say it like that, it seems obvious. Perhaps you are saying, "Come on Sheck. Isn't it just like everything else?" Well, yes, I suppose so. But I thnk it is a new phase for me in my technological life. The excitement for technology is evening out (not to be mistaken for waning). I am reviewing, rethinking, rediscovering the utility of some technologies and really trying to get a sense of what works when and for who. And to consider those questions independently of exploring the technology. I am pretty excited by it, actually. It's the same, but new.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

It's not just the academics.

I have set up several collaborative projects only to have them pretty much ignored by all but a couple of online friends.

At first I just thought it was because I am not one of the blogging big names, but now I think that people are into their own stuff, their own blogs, their own wikis, and that while they talk a good game about collaboration, it really only applies to people collaborating with THEM.

And people are just busy - God knows I haven't stepped much outside my box lately, either.