Understanding Wikis – Their Advantages and Disadvantages

wiki advantages and disadvantagesUnderstanding Wikis – Their Advantages and Disadvantages

What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a website where multiple users can add, remove,and edit content on each page by only using a web browser.  This makes it extremely easy to collaborate with people, even in situations where they cannot meet face to face.

Since the only tools needed to use a wiki is an Internet connection and a web browser, there is no longer a worry if all the collaborators have the same type of software.  Wiki will serve as a virtual, collaborative memory for all the users.

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One of the best examples of a wiki is wikipedia.com, an open encyclopedia.  It is one of the most widely used reference tools on the web and it has millions of collaborators.  Anyone can add their own entries.

Not all wikis are wikipedias, however.  Some wikis are for private use and are simply communication tools between family, friends and co-workers.  For example, a family of five brothers and their wives may build a private wiki where each brother can have his own page and update the other brothers about family happenings or make plans for a family reunion.

On the other end of the spectrum, a major corporation may want to use a wiki to keep several employees updated on a project.  The corporation may have offices in New York, London and China.  By using a wiki employees in each of these offices can collaborate, add data, modify data that was added by another member and even upload photos and files.

There are many free wikis to choose from.  Some of them have their own hosting and some would need to be installed on the server.  In addition to the free versions, there are also paid ones.  Compare the features of various wikis before you make up your mind on one.

Some wikis allow for a lot of formatting.  In the beginning, you may want to stick to a basic wiki that serves as a way to communicate and collaborate with others.  A wiki  doesn’t have to look super fancy.  Once you get used to how a wiki operates then consider getting a fancier model with extra bells and whistles.

Using a wiki is supposed to make  life easier, not more complicated.  By keeping things simple and sticking to the basics, you will be able to use a wiki for many personal and professional uses.

For example, you may be able to use a wiki to help plan the bake sale you volunteered for, show your family the pictures from your last vacation, and work on a joint venture project with a partner that lives 3,000 miles away.

Advantages of using Wikis

• Wikis are edited in a web browser.  It doesn’t matter is a user is using a PC or a MAC or if they have a certain type of software.  As long as a user can access the web they can access the wiki.

• Being able to access the wiki anywhere you have a web connection is another advantage all on its own.  If a user is traveling then they don’t need to worry about bringing any files with them.  They can simply log onto the wiki and have all the information they need.

• Emailing a large document to several people can take time and some people may not receive it due to spam filters.  By using a wiki one user can share his or her work with all of the users at one time.

• Another advantage to using a wiki is that all the drafts of a document are saved.  If a team of people have altered a document several times and feel that using the original introduction would now work better than the revised version, they can easily go back and retrieve the original.

• A wiki can be protected with a password so you don’t have to worry about the public viewing it.

• A wiki also gives the advantage of being able to put many ideas together and then going back to edit them when necessary or when time allows.

For example, you could use a wiki to keep track of all your outsourcing.  A user account can be set up for all virtual assistants, ghostwriters, graphic designers, etc and a page can be created for each project.  Then team members can provide input on what has been done on behalf of the project and what they still need to do.

When communicating through a wiki there is no worry about emails getting lost or thrown away.  All communications will be kept inside the wiki.  Users can also upload files to the wiki, which is another great tool for collaboration.  If a ghostwriter depends on a virtual assistant to assign article topics, they can simply upload them to the wiki.  Everyone can access them at any time.

By implementing the use of wikis in your business you will be able to stay on top of projects and have a better sense of organization.  You and your team will be able to visualize group goals and the actions that need to be completed in order to achieve those goals.

Disadvantages of Using Wikis

• A wiki is a web based document which means that what you put up into cyberspace can be found by other people.  Wiki’s can be protected by using a password, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t hack into it.  One of the people that has the password may be a little less than trustworthy and give the password out to others.  If you are working on a project that you really don’t want others to see, you may not want to use a wiki.

• Wikis do make it easy for several people to brainstorm and collaborate on projects by adding content to a group website, but if no one is keeping tabs on the content, it can get pretty confusing.  All of your great ideas may turn into one big “idea mess”.  Designating someone to organize the wiki and its content may be a solution to this problem.

• If someone in agroup is not tech-savvy, they may be very timid about using the wiki.  If one or more of the users are avoiding the wiki because they are scared of it, the whole group will lose out on those people’s ideas.

• It is not uncommon for a group member to be lazy about doing their fair share of the work.  When that person has access to everyone else’s work, it may be easy for them to steal ideas and take credit for work they didn’t really do.

• What happens when you lose your Internet connection or are traveling and cannot find a connection?  Since the wiki is web based, if you can’t get to the web, you can’t access the wiki, and therefore, you can’t access the work.

• There are many types of wikis to choose from.  Some of these can be confusing as to how to install it and back it up.

You should weigh both the positive and negative aspects of a wiki before you decide on using one.  You may want to experiment with one, perhaps on a personal level first, before you implement the use of one for your business.

Wiki Resources:

http://www.wetpaint.com/

http://www.wikispaces.com/

http://www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers (ad-free for teachers k-12)

http://tiddlyspot.com/

http://www.jot.com/ (Google has aquired Jot, you can fill in your email address to be notified when registration begins again.)

http://www.wikidot.com/

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