Summary—Wikis: “From Each According to His Knowledge”

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*** The article by Daniel E. O’Leary appears in: Computer—Innovative Technology for Computer Professionals. ***

Hal Trent , Comtech Services, Inc.

As wikis continue to grow in popularity, their use is broadening and becoming an integral part of the World Wide Web. In Wikis:”From Each According to His Knowledge”, Daniel E. O’Leary examines the current uses of wikis and offers suggestions on how to properly implement wikis. The article summary below highlights the important topics O’Leary discusses in his article.

Developed by Ward Cunningham in 1994, O’Leary notes a wiki as a tool designed to allow participants to “add new content, link to other content, edit existing content, structure content, view content, and access content history through their web browsers.” Wikis offer a wide range of functionality including knowledge management, mass collaboration, author transparency, and access to dynamic information. The emerging use of AI applications in wikis also allows users or researchers to search the internet and assemble knowledge bases based on author credibility, subject matter, and other intelligent questions. Although O’Leary recognizes Wikipedia as a key use of wikis, he also suggests wikis can be used as enterprise applications.

Enterprise application use of wikis include

  • meeting setup
  • project management
  • best practices threads – Common Base Event (www.ibm.com/developerworks/wikis/display/CBEbestpractice)
  • industry taxonomy development
  • competitive intelligence – SAP uses wikis to monitor pricing and sales tactics

As with any robust application, wikis have their advantages and limitations. According to O’Leary, the advantages of wikis are

  • link people and content
  • build consensus
  • manage knowledge from multiple sources
  • engage contributors
  • ensure accuracy equivalent to traditional sources
  • delegate control to contributors
  • help users manage their behaviors

According to O’Leary, the disadvantages of wikis are

  • content accuracy and not knowing the author
  • Google is working on a tool that will prominently display the author info – http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-12-14-n19.html
  • lack of peer review
  • conflicting opinions can hinder consensus building
  • information security
  • scope creep
  • legal issues
  • content generally not available

Leary also offers suggestions on how to successfully implement a working wiki in an enterprise or non-enterprise environment.

  • allow author information
  • offer participation incentives
  • select a wiki admin
  • offer change alerts to subscribers
  • monitor access and registration (possibly capture IP addresses to ensure accountability)
  • categorize your contributors abilities (spoken language, job position, education)
  • offer information stages for content (sparse, developing, maturing, comprehensive)
  • GUI usability is key for users

Wikis will continue to add functionality to enterprise applications as the technology grows and becomes more robust. Over the next 5 years, wikis will integrate with AI technologies to create robust intelligent searches over the web and offer another level of use unforeseen in their original inception.

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