A Wiki to Watch?

Via edugadget last week, I came across the CaseWiki. I love this wiki. Case Western Reserve is providing it as an online space for all of the university’s constituents to collaborate about and share information.

What kind of information? It seems like any kind. The creators provide an orientation page with suggestions.

Taking a look at the activity on the wiki, I found some interesting stuff:

  1. A student’s record of the progress of his independent study.
  2. A collaborative space for the team currently working on the Case screen saver project.
  3. Notes about an authentication projection at Case.
  4. A personal page maintained by a student.
  5. Instructions and information about using the Case email service.

And, then there is this map of content that has been geographically tagged.

Wiki-purists may object to the fact that you do need to be a registered user to make edits, and you must have a CASE Network ID in order to become a registered user. But, personally, I can understand the University’s reluctance to open this up to the entire world. And I think the community of users represented by those with University ID’s is probably large enough to make this a meaningful project.

I think this is worth keeping an eye on. The real test is how this wiki grows and evolves. Will it become a meaningful respository of useful information? Or will it become a cluttered wasteland of Web pages that time forgot?

Stay tuned. . .

5 thoughts on “A Wiki to Watch?”

  1. Interesting that outsiders *can* make edits to the discussion pages … an interesting way to split the difference between locked and open. And of course we can all see what’s there. A deeply cool site!

  2. “…a cluttered wasteland of Web pages that time forgot?”

    Actually, I was struck by this sentence in Martha’s post. Maybe this waseland is not as bad as it first seems – it actually sounds a lot like the Gmail model – never discard, just search later.

  3. Jerry,

    I like your more optimistic take on my cluttered wasteland. 🙂

    That said. . .

    The way I see it, the CaseWiki could be source of useful information on a lot of University-specific topics. In some cases accuracy about these topics will be crucial–particularly when the Wiki pages are essentially support documentation and information (which there seems to be a fair amount of already on the CaseWiki).

    I think we’ve all experienced first-hand what it is like to have our constituents referencing out-of-date documentation or information on the web (usually just “stuff” that got left behind when new, better, more-accurate “stuff” was created). It can make the challenge of providing support and services that much more difficult.

    If the wiki is being used simply as a place to brainstorm and draft this kind of information, with the “official” version residing elsewhere, there is less of a problem. If, however, the wiki (at least in some instances) is going to be the information of record, than there needs to be a commitment to keeping it up-to-date and accurate (And organized–I can imagine instances in which one person might start his/her own version of a piece of documentaiton because he/she disagrees with what someone else has started. Not that that would ever happen where we work.)

    It’s hard to imagine how this will play itself out. We can hypothesize how people will play together and develop information in this new environment, but, more than likely, they will (re)define the rules as they go. We may just have to sit back and watch and learn. . .

  4. With a wiki, if someone comes across some outdated information, they can change it. With traditional documentation (which is also prone to becoming outdated), there’s not much a user of the documentation can do if he finds the documentation to be incorrect and happens to know the correct information.

  5. You’re absolutely right Andrew. The wiki certainly makes it much easier for anyone to come in and update/fix/expand upon information of record. I love wikis, and this is one aspect of them that I love the most.

    However, the success of that model depends on a committed community of users who are willing to create and follow appropriate “rules.” I have no idea what the community of users at Case is or will become–I look forward, as an outsider, to watching them grow and develop. As for “rules,” it seems to me they are an important part of the wiki experience. There are technological solutions (ex: wiki software) and then there are social solutions (ex: the rules that govern the use of wiki software). One of the reasons Wikipedia is so successful as a project is the rules that have been developed (by the users as well as the creators!) on how to best use that tool. Again, there is no reason to assume that the CaseWiki won’t flourish into a community of users who are willing and adept at tackling the social solutions. And, again, I look forward to watching that happen.

    If for some reason a strong community didn’t develop and wasn’t willing to collaborate on developing the social solution, then we might be faced with my “vast wasteland” scenario or a hodge-podge of information, some very good, some not so good.

    I, for one, very much hope that doesn’t happen. Long live the wiki!

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