Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting people involved, keeping people involved

Ten ways to get people involved and to keep people involved on your wiki

One of the biggest challenges in managing a wiki is getting people involved -- and keeping them involved. In the last post, some techniques were covered on how to get people involved on your wiki and a video series on wiki adoption was provided. Today, I'd like to cover a few tips from some top wiki organizers on Wetpaint, some Super Painters. Here are some techniques they use to get people involved on their wikis and to keep them comin' back for more!

1) Utilize the member messaging features of your wiki service: send a welcome note to new members and keep your members up-to-date on recent updates.
2) Be responsive: answer questions from site visitors or community members quickly
3) Keep site content up-to-date: visitors will not be encouraged to come back if the content is out-of-date and is not maintained
4) Update the site frequently: visitors will return to see what's new
5) Host contests on the wiki: get people involved; create buzz
6) Conduct polls: schedule weekly or monthly voting
7) Create a custom help page for your wiki (rather than hosting help page): make sure they know who to contact for help or for more information
8) Provide good moderation: accept differing points of view, but make sure people stay on discussion point and make sure members do not make personal attacks or call each other names; use 'page watch' features and correct site vandalism on public wikis quickly
9) Promote featured content from your wiki on its home page: provide links to featured pages or articles, discussion threads, contests, or polls
10) Recognize the contributions of your members: feature a top contributor on the home page; publicize a listing of the top contributors; give top contributors additional authority (e.g., moderator authority); send a message of "thanks" to top contributors

Do you have other suggestions for getting and keeping people involved on a wiki? Post a comment on this blog and share it with us.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Build it and they will come

Build it and they will come? Maybe so, but maybe not. One of the challenges in managing an active wiki is getting people involved – and not in just reading, but in contributing to its content. Here's a link to Ross Mayfield's blogpost about an adoption strategy for social software in the enterprise.

Here are some suggestions to getting like-minded people involved on a wiki with you:

  • Post a message on a relevant forum
  • Link to your wiki from relevant newsgroups and message boards
  • Find those who are blogging about your topic and post a comment referencing your wiki
  • Place a campaign for assistance on a relevant Talk Page on other related wikis
  • Work with your wiki host to ensure the code it’s generating is search engine friendly so that it will be found easily
  • Submit your URL to search engines
  • Create relevant tags for the wiki content
  • Volunteer to speak at a local meeting of a club or association related to your topic
  • Put your wiki’s URL in your e-mail signature
  • Ask others who are hosting websites related to your topic to consider posting a link to your site and you, in turn, add a link to theirs on yours
  • In your organization, select a wiki champion, who is knowledgeable about wikis, will be an advocate of wikis as a best practice in collaboration, and will coach employees
Do you have other suggestions? Post a comment to tell us what you think.

Here's a video by Stewart Mader on how to grow wiki adoption:

As posted on YouTube by slmader

You don't want to miss his video series 21 Days of Wiki Adoption

Image credit: Original photo CC by license in Flickr User Start Cooking

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gone fishin'

It's spring break! I've gone fishin'

Since there's no DSL, cable, satellite, or dial-up connection there, I'm going cold turkey from computing for a week!

I'll be back before you know it --- to share more wiki'd ways to collaborate and to create web-based content. Until I return, visit Everything Wiki for everything you might want to know about wikis!

Don't forget me! : ) Subscribe now (free) and you'll know when I return.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In the beginning, wikis began with wikitext

In the beginning, wikis were created using wiki syntax (or wikitext), a markup language that is used to format and to display the content. Wiki syntax is described by some as a simplified version of hypertext mark-up language (HTML), that language mysterious to some, but responsible for the display of content when you visit websites using your browser. On many wikis, you still must know the wiki syntax. Even some wiki hosting services (or wiki farms) require you to use wiki syntax. However, have no fear - hang in here with me...the story has a happy ending for those who don't want to learn codes to create web content. However, the HTML coders of the world may be looking for work elsewhere in the new world of wiki.

For those who choose to install your own wiki engine or who choose to create a wiki on a wiki hosting service that requires wiki syntax, you'll need to learn a little about wikitext. Although there may be a short learning curve on using wikitext to produce a page, it is nowhere close to the learning curve required to learn HTML. I wish I could give to you the cheat-sheet of everything you need to know about wiki syntax on this blog. Unfortunately, there is no standard wikitext used across wiki engines or wiki farms. In the early days of wiki, this was often a complication for people involved in more than one wiki. This lack of standardized formatting across wiki software also makes it difficult to transfer wiki content across platforms or wiki servers.

Wikitext uses ordinary punctuation to format text on a wiki page. Examples of how basic formatting is performed on some wikis are discussed below with some noted differences:

  • Bold text
    Bolding of text may require using HTML tags, such as <> to start bold text, followed by the < /b > to stop on some wikis. One wiki application requires that a pair of two single quotes be placed around the text to be bold. Another wiki service will bold text that is preceded and followed by a pair of asterisks (**bold** = bold).

  • Italized text
    Italicing text is often defined by using a single pair of quotes around the text (‘italics’ = italics) but by underscores on another wiki (_italics_ = italics)

  • Unordered list
    Using the asterisk symbol may define an item in a bulleted list on some wiki applications. Other wikis let you use the HTML tags to define lists (e.g., <_ul_>, <_li_>, <__/>)

  • Ordered list
    Using the # symbol may define an item in a numbered list on some wikis. However, on other wikis, the asterisk (*) is used for an ordered list. Some wikis permit you to use the HTML tags to define ordered lists (e.g., <_ol_>, <_li_>, <_>)

  • Horizontal line
    Adding 4 dashes to the page may define a horizontal line on some wiki applications.

Because of the differences across wiki engines and wiki services, you would need to consult the documentation for specific information about the tags required.

For those who have no interest in learning and using any tags or codes at all, even though it might be recognized as the simplified version, HAVE NO FEAR! You can create super wikis without any knowledge of wikitext. No tags are required! In my opinion, it is really unnecessary to give wiki syntax another thought. Most of the wiki farms today allow you to create a wiki without knowing any wikitext. Some give both options -- for those techie / geeky types who must write code or tags when developing web content. Most wiki hosting services now offer a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor where all you need to do is click on the "Edit" button and type your text. A task bar is generally available for you to easily customize your text (bold, italics), to align your text (left-justified, right-justified, center), and to add lists (bullets or numbers). It's also usually very simple to add images and include links in your content without knowing any tags.

Even if you love coding and enjoy the challenge of using tags, think about your wiki community. When given a choice, choose the most simple approach -- the new approach -- no tags. By using wiki services which don't require any tags or wikitext, your wiki community can expand greatly.

Here's a short video from my friends at Wetpaint that describes how the old approach of using wiki syntax for creating wikis differs from the newer approach:

As posted on YouTube by wpseattle

It sounds like an easy decision to me. For more information, visit the Everything Wiki site for a listing of the popular wiki services and see how many choices you have in creating wikis with WYSIWYG editors. It's hosted on Wetpaint where no tags are required. While there, join the community. : )

Note: Extra spacing and creativity (_) were required around the HTML tags to demonstrate them on the blog -- and they may potentially not display completely.

Image credit: full circle magazine

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A checkpoint - wiki terms you may know

I've now spent a few weeks communicating how a wiki can be used by a group with common interests to collaborate and develop a website easily and quickly. Hopefully you have visited a number of wikis (maybe those identified on my Wiki'd Places blog). Maybe you've even had a chance to join a wiki community, update content, or even add a page to a wiki. I think it's time for a little checkpoint. :)

Try matching the following terms to their meaning and then check how you did.
1. camel case
3. sandbox
4. wiki farm
5. wiki engine
6. wiklossary
7. wikitext

A. a wiki page where new wiki users can play around or experiment in creating or editing content
B. a server or collection of servers where wikis are hosted
C. a concise glossary of wiki terms
D. text without spacing and with mixed capitalization
E. text written in a wiki markup language (i.e., simplified alternative to HTML)
F. a type of software that runs a collaborative wiki system
G. an acronym for new people often victorious
H. an acronym for neutral point of view, a goal for reference wikis like Wikipedia

Don't peek at the answers before completing the task. For more information, visit the wiklossary on Everything Wiki. Post a comment or send me an e-mail to tell me how you did!

Image credit: artofthemix

Answers: D, H, A, B, F, C, E

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wikis at work

Does your desk look like this?
Are you having problems taming the paper tiger?
Do you agonize over what information to keep, where to keep it, and how to find it?
Are you actually referencing the current version if you find what you need in the stack?
Do you have multiple copies of different versions of documents?
Do you know who has reviewed the document and what changes they made?
Do you have the current version, with mark-up where changes are needed, buried on your desk?

Wikis won't resolve all the world's problems in information management and collaboration. However, wikis are currently at work in corporations today. Wikis are increasingly being used by groups inside corporations to:

  • Quickly and easily create a website to manage content
  • Eliminate series of e-mail exchanges with attachments among a group
  • Avoid dealing with complex and expensive groupware in collaborating with others

Many corporate wikis that are for internal use only are hidden behind a network firewall where access is limited. However, some corporate wikis are being hosted by wiki hosting services on the Internet, but are set up as private wikis with restricted access. Some corporations are using wikis to communicate with their customers and with the public, as a key part of their branding.

Here's a short video from Get Connected on how wikis can be used in business:

As posted on YouTube by getconnectedtvshow

Wikis are collaborative tools that can be used in a number of ways. Here are a few examples:

  • To co-author proposals
  • To co-author business plans
  • To communicate initiatives
  • To display static or dynamic information on a website
  • To display frequently-asked-questions (FAQs)
  • To facilitate online discussions of topics
  • To gather requirements
  • To get team members involved
  • To host an intranet or extranet site
  • To organize and manage projects
  • To record meeting notes
  • To solve problems remotely
  • To track deadlines
  • For brainstorming
How are you using wikis at work? Post a comment and tell us all about it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wikis in education and learning

It is difficult to truly estimate the number of wikis currently used in education settings. The use of wikis, a natural tool for distance education, is increasing in education. Wikis are used to facilitate group study or team projects. Wikis are used in a number of ways.

Here's a short video by pbwiki with some suggestions on using wikis in education:

As posted on YouTube by ramitsethi

How can wikis be used by educational institutions (e.g., universities)?

  • to create knowledge repositories
  • to build communities of practice by creating a collective repository of information
  • to build expertise in a subject area, which can be refined over time by the community members and other interested individuals
  • administrative scheduling
  • faculty profiles (e.g., research interests, courses taught, areas of expertise)
  • current events and activities
  • clubs and organizations
  • student feedback
  • journaling
  • establishing and managing study groups, study buddies, and mentor matching
  • student services, such as ride sharing
  • fan sites for teams (e.g., football, baseball)
  • posting job opportunities
  • posting opportunities to participate in research
  • building intranet sites for groups or events
  • posting volunteer opportunities
  • creating a local restaurant directory with reviews

How can wikis be used by instructors or teachers?

  • to post course information such as
    - course syllabus,
    - study resources,
    - external links,
    - assignments,
    - project requirements,
    - project planning and management,
    - project information,
    - frequently asked questions (FAQs), and
    - extra credit projects or assignments
  • to create interactive activities for the students
  • to monitor online discussions among students to determine problem areas
  • to post expert reviews – post student work for general discussion but post a review by an expert
  • to build a collective knowledge base of course materials across school sessions or years

What types of student activities can be supported by wikis?

  • homework hand-in
  • case library of example designs and solutions
  • student advice page
  • build a glossary
  • exam reviews
  • student galleries

Some educators are apprehensive about using wikis because of the ads that are often displayed on free wiki sites. Some wiki services offer services for a fee where ads can be removed. However, some wiki hosting services offer ad-free wikis for qualified educators. Wetpaint offers free ad-free wikis for educators. Also, Wikispaces has been offering up to 100,000 ad-free free wikis since 2007.

Here's a short video created by pbwiki that describes the benefits of using wikis and collaboration in education:

As posted on YouTube by ramitsethi

If you're using wikis in education and learning, post a comment and tell us all about it.