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Wired: How To wiki

Wired has created a fairly simple resource: How To Wikis covering subjects such as making youtube videos, using flickr, explaining DRM, etc. I’m starting to question the usefulness of resources like this. Five minutes with a good search engine will provide the same information, but with better context specific information for the searcher. Part of the same reason I’m questioning wikipedia as a concept – it is quite simple for anyone with marginal competence with online search/databases/Google Scholar to find what is needed. What is the value of aggregation completed on behalf of many people, rather than based on needs of one person? Not much value anymore.

10 Comments

  1. Emma wrote:

    Hmm… I know what you mean about the usefulness; however, I guess that as with so many things, people like their own version of something, no matter how many resources are already out there…

    However, I’d slightly misread your post & thought it was a “How to wiki” – i.e. how to use a wiki, so I was interested, as I was at a presentation a couple of weeks ago at ALT-C ( http://www.alt.ac.uk/altc2007/timetable/abstract.php?abstract_id=1220 ) where it was very much highlighted that students didn’t have difficulties with wiki software – they did find it very difficult to work collaboratively on it; most of them chosing to take the model of one student working on each page, rather than all of them sharing it.
    I have seen exactly the same thing myself & have been trying to find some good resources to help me encourage the students to use a wiki as it should be used. I was hoping you’d found it …

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  2. Alan wrote:

    What a great observation.

    It seems like the next evolution of the trend we saw for so long where people spent endless amounts of time create static resources sites full of web links for their favorite topic. As the web gres insanely the upkeep becomes un-doable, and more efficient via a social bookmark tagging and syndication publishing.

    So the same is for these sites- create static versions of content that is perhaps changing/evolving. I had a hard time even seeing wiki-like characteristics- articles are barely not at all hyperlinked. The one it does have is a lack of identified author(s).

    Then again, in random browsing, I did get some useful tips on the How To Upload Better YouTube videos ;-)

    For Emma, another disappointing result is wiki pages that end being long scrolling sequential pastes, people just keep on adding to the end, so it is more akin to a one thread discussion board. You might check out Wikipatterns http://www.wikipatterns.com/

    The unstructured space can grow into sprawling piles of hard to find, disconnected wiki-bits; an under appreciate role is an ever present “wiki gardener” who tends the weeds and provides some basic structure, etc.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  3. Randy wrote:

    >> … trying to find some good resources to help me encourage the students to use a wiki as it should be used.

    I think it will happen if the project/purpose is specifically set up to add to/edit a page.

    One project I did not too long ago was to have students use a wiki as a project management tool for a web programming project they were to complete. I teach in a community college, so students often do most work at home.

    By asking students to document what they were doing, I found that students started discussing the project on the wiki and using it better than I had anticipated.

    Hmm… I need to do that one again!

    George – I understand your point, but, face it, people are basically lazy. If we come across something that seems to do/provide what we need, we often don’t look any further. Not saying that this is optimal nor that it should be modeled in our classroom environment.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  4. Virginia Yonkers wrote:

    I too thought the same thing. So the title was not How to Wiki as in how to use a wiki but rather wikis that teach how to do things? Like you Emma, I am having trouble getting my students to contribute anything on a wiki (except maybe correcting a spelling error I left intentionally to see if they would edit it). Please let me know if you find such a source.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 6:55 pm | Permalink
  5. Hi Emma – sorry to mislead you! Have you looked at Brian Lamb’s article on wikis from a few years ago? http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0452.asp

    It might be at more of a conceptual level than you are seeking, but, still a resource I often use. We’ve also put together a wiki resource for our department that may provide some help: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/wiki/index.php?title=Wikis

    Take care
    George

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  6. Hi Alan – good point about the initial days of the web. Yahoo was the place to go. They had a directory of everything. But it wasn’t, as you mention, a model that scaled. As neat as wikis are, I think there is a risk that we misunderstand what they will ultimately evolve into – namely tools for collaboration, not for places to dump links we’ve organized for others. I’ve whined about this before on my connectivism blog: http://connectivism.ca/blog/2007/08/wikipedia_and_google_control_v.html

    Take care
    George

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Hi Randy,

    I think people can be a bit lazy sometimes (I know I can!)…but I wonder why educators so rarely do collaborative work. We have hundreds/thousands of colleges, universities, schools all teaching similar subject matter. Why not develop your resources collaboratively? (as mentioned in a comment above, wikis are for collaboration, not link dumping).

    One prof at U of Manitoba used a wiki with third year students to develop a java text book for first year students – a great use of wikis…but when it comes to “how to” info, I find google generally meets my needs…

    George

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Permalink
  8. Hi Virginia – a few resources on wikis have been posted above (Alan posted wikipatterns, I listed Lamb’s article). Do those help?
    George

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  9. Maria Yaniz wrote:

    Hi Georges,
    Although I see your point, I personally find Wikipedia to be a very useful starting point when I want to get started digging into a subject. It provides good context and then a few related links that result on new ideas for me to keep on digging with Google research engine.
    Maria

    Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 3:20 am | Permalink
  10. Virginia Yonkers wrote:

    Yes, George, these resources are a great start. I think also that the comments and your post point to a disconnect that is experienced in both education and new technologies: the process becoming disconnected from the product.

    In fact, the online Java “how-to” was a means for students to articulate what they were learning, as much as to leave behind a record of that learning. Very little research has been done on what knowledge is created (where and at what level-individual, group, and organization and all the crevices in between).

    The final product on the web is perceived as a resource for information, however, what type of learning takes place as we actually make the changes? Looking at the changes the others have made to the wiki, does our understanding change? As we respond to the writing of others, do we create new knowledge or greater opportunities for learning?

    Saturday, September 22, 2007 at 7:53 am | Permalink