Updated: We have created a short (3:52) video called "Wikis in Plain English " that you might enjoy. It was inspired by the content of this post.
This entry should provide an easy-to-understand (but fictional) example of a wiki at work for people new to the technology/concept. While this use of a wiki may be unconventional, I think it provides a foundation for understanding how wikis can be used to accumulate and organize group information.
My friends and I are going on a camping trip in two weeks and we need to figure out who is bringing what. We plan to backpack, so redundancy should be avoided at all costs. Our goal is to make sure that every person brings their part of the whole.
Luckily, we are all computer users and are familiar with a wiki- which is a type of website that can be updated/edited without programming or special permissions. If you are unfamiliar with wikis, go here.
I open the new wiki and like all new wikis, it starts as a blank slate- no content at all. Since I opened the wiki, I take the lead and start off by editing the front page by clicking the â€œEdit This Pageâ€?? link. In plain text, I describe our goals, the dates and other logistics and click â€œSaveâ€??. The front page of the wiki now has content that relates the basics of the trip.
Next, I edit the page and add two headings: â€œWhat We Haveâ€?? and â€œWhat We Needâ€??. To make the headings stand out, I use special punctuation like this â€œ^^^What We Haveâ€??. Under these headings, the whole group will use the wiki to figure out what weâ€™ll be bringing on the trip.
I send an email to the group that says â€œFolks, Iâ€™ve opened a new wiki space for our camping trip. Please visit it and add what you will be bringing on the trip. Hereâ€™s the link: xxxxxxxx.comâ€??
Over the next two days, my camping buddies each visit the wiki and click the â€œEdit This Pageâ€?? link to add what they will bring.
Josh edits the page and says heâ€™ll bring a camp stove- but he has no fuel. So he puts the stove under the â€œThings We Haveâ€?? column and the fuel under â€œThings We Needâ€?? column.
Soon after, Karen arrives at the wiki and sees that fuel is needed. Knowing that she can bring fuel, she moves the word â€œfuelâ€?? from the â€œNeedâ€?? column to the â€œHaveâ€?? column- ensuring that the group can feel secure that we have the fuel we need for the stove.
Jimmy has a camp stove and fuel, and planned to bring it, but once he visited the wiki, he saw that Karen and Josh have plans to bring theirs. So, he edits the wiki to show that heâ€™ll bring cooler and ice. Then, he puts â€œbeerâ€?? under the â€œthings we needâ€?? column.
Over a few days, the group is able to finalize the list by viewing the wiki and making edits to the lists to reflect what they can bring. We can all see and agree on what weâ€™ll bring and what is needed. We reach consensus on the wiki. If any one of us sees an inconsistency or mistake, we can correct it on behalf of the group.
More Than Camping Supplies:
It turns out that we donâ€™t have a place to camp. So, I add a completely new page to the wiki so that weâ€™ll have a blank slate for talking about campsites. I edit the front page and use special punctuation to add a new page. It looks like this when I type it in: [Choose Campsites]. Once I click â€œSaveâ€?? and return to the wiki home page, I see that the phrase â€œChoose Campsitesâ€?? is now a link. When I click it, a blank page appears with the heading â€œChoose Campsites.â€??
So, just like I did on the home page, I edit the page to add content. I list my top 2 choices for campsites and ask the other campers to nominate their favorites by editing the â€œChoose Campsitesâ€?? page. Over the next few days, they all come by and edit the page to add their nominations and talk about the benefits of each. In the end, we have a great list of sites and use the wiki to select the best one.
It turns out that the camping trip was a success- we all brought exactly what we needed and loved the campsite (though we wish Casey had not eaten the beans.)
A few months later, we plan another trip and find that the wiki we created before is still available and provides a perfect starting point for the planning. We have the supplies and campsites listed already, so the next trip is even better.
Working together with a wiki, we were able to easily come to agreement on what we needed. Because we all have equal access and there are no technical barriers, everyone in the group could play an equal and essential role in the planning. We all agree that there was really no better way to plan the trip than through using the wiki.