Wiki Whacking

November 30, 2006 at 4:16 pm | Posted in collaboration | 1 Comment

A glance at eWeek shows a fun divergence of opinion on wikis:

The first article is:

Let Freedom Ring By Eric Lundquist

Opinion: New technologies such as wikis, blogs, podcasts and social networks should be welcomed in the enterprise, not ignored.

The second article is:

Wikis Are a Waste of Time By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Opinion: People say wikis are wonderful, but really they are just another form of groupware, and not all that useful to most people.

I’d say they pretty much have both ends of the spectrum covered! Opinions at companies (sometimes even with an individual) seem to waver back and forth between these two extremes, hopefully settling on a practical approach in the center that acknowledges their promises and pitfalls and recognizing wikis as a tool. Like any tool, it can be abused or misused.

Really, the articles aren’t about wikis – they are about groupware and technology-based collaboration. The “waste of time” article states:

“Here’s the point: wikis are just another form of groupware. That’s all. “

Right! But he then goes on to take the pure negative angle saying that groupware often fails, a core group winds up using it and the majority ignores it, people want to just do their jobs, culture often disincents collaboration, yada yada yada. Or you can point to all the positive examples like the first article, and the idea that humans really do want to interact with other humans and collaborate. A single article that points out the pros and cons would probably be more useful.

But taking a technology angle isn’t the right approach. My collegue, Peter O’Kelly, is fond of describing wikis as a “way of working” rather than a specific technology. While wikis are document centric today, there are attempts percolating to apply them to spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and more. Superimpose any of your feelings about groupware onto wikis. But every time a technology like wikis comes along that makes groupware more accessible and easy to use it tips the scales towards the positive view.


1 Comment »

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  1. I wonder if the true value, or innovation, of Wikis is purely the user interface – in that non technical people can easily participate in a wide range of acitivities that Wikis can be applied to.

    Of course, once you enable particpation by just anybody, then the potential for dilution is inevitable.

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