First Experience with a Wiki

My experience with wikis, until recently, was mostly theoretical.  I’m familiar with WikiPedia of course, but what I knew about creating content using a wiki was limited to blog posts and a couple of presentations.  That changed when our LMS vendor, SirsiDynix and our Unicorn user’s group, UUGI, put up a wiki, using  MediaWiki, with yours truely as the moderator.

What’s the purpose of the wiki?  We have a very active set of listservs that support the modules in Unicorn and there are a lot of “this is how we did it posts.”   The listserv software doesn’t support attachments and in any case we are then faced with trying to remember where and when we read something.  For a while, the user’s group maintained a FAQ but that required intermediaries to get the document into the FAQ.  What was needed was a means for users to post their own documentation and for other members of the community to be able add to and correct the documentation.  A wiki meets all of those needs.

What I discovered when I got started is that a wiki is incredibly easy to use.  Learning less than a dozen tools will let you do pretty much anything you need  to create and edit an article.  Most of these tools are as simple as knowing that ==Heading== creates atop level heading, ===Sub-Heading=== creates a sub-heading, and so on.  I was able to create wiki articles in a fraction of the time it would take me to code a conventional web page.  Since it is web based, I can work on it at home with the same ease as I do in the office.

A wiki is a powerful tool for that allows the content providers to concentrate more on the content and less on the  method of delivering the content.  It is terrific for dynamic content that changes often and for collaborative projects but it would also work for that staple of library instruction, the subject guides.  All you need is a browser and an Internet connection and you are in business.

The College will soon be offering wiki space and, now that we have our new servers, we can support our own wiki in the  library if we wish.    I encourage staff to consider the possibility of using a wiki  both within departments as well as for public content.  I will offer an  inservice training session when our user’s group wiki is opened for all Unicorn clients and again as the wiki software becomes available at the College.  But it isn’t too early to consider how you can use a wiki to effectively provide information.

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3 Comments on “First Experience with a Wiki”

  1. Gene Roche Says:

    I’ve become a wiki-believer myelf for all the reasons you mentioned. I alos like the history feature in MediaWik that allows me to have a total record of all revisions, ao I can easily go back ot prvious versions if I need to.

    The College wiki is open at It’s open to the public for reading but requries a William and Mary userid for posting.

  2. Mack Lundy Says:

    Thanks Gene, I forgot to mention the history feature. I’ve used it several times myself to compare versions rollback to a previous version of an article. Quick and easy.

    Most staff only use a fraction of the capabilities of software like DreamWeaver and given the expense of that software, wikis are worth a first look.

  3. Debra Weiss Says:

    The e-SWAT wiki is a wonderful example of how well a wiki can serve a group. Wayne setup the wiki for them last fall, and since then they have created a huge amount of content that they share with each other. They use it for documentation, communication, training, keeping up with changes, discussion, etc. For the iPod project, the revision history has been particularly invaluable as the project developed since it made it very easy to track changes made to procedures. I love that the students have made the wiki their own — they uploaded pictures of each other, created fun bios, artwork. Really gives a sense of community and collaboration.

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