Wisdom in wiki production/Users' experiences with wikis

This is where you may write your own experiences with wikis or experiences you have heard of from others. You might mention e.g. what the wiki is used for, what challenges have been faced and how they have been resolved, on which wiki platform the application was created (such as MediaWiki) and what the wiki experience has been like.

Case: Tamypedia - Work towards community feeling and transparency


The University of Tampere (Finland) student union Tamy established the wiki Tamypedia (a part of it is also available in English) as a web communications development project early in 2011. The wiki is intended to function as the database, and in addition, as the collaborative tool for community writing and networking for the purpose of, say, discussing successful events and practices. Anyone can read Tamypedia, but only people with basic user accounts in the University of Tampere IT system can edit it; all Tamy members have such accounts.

The Tamypedia platform selection was MediaWiki, because Tamy members had the most experience in its use and it was considered particularly important that students were aware of Wikipedia. From the very first, the creation of a sense of community was a key goal in the wiki project; this was manifested in the collaborative design of the structure of the wiki under the guidance of Tamy's communication officer.

The promotion of a sense of community has been evident in the use of the wiki also. Tamypedia is perhaps most significant for various Tamy activists, e.g. those in subject-matter-specific student associations and hobby groups, and also for various Tamy committee members and representatives. Even the Tamy office has found Tamypedia most useful: the wiki has been made use of in writing annual reports and action plans (as well as the respective implementation plans), in distributing and commenting on minutes of meetings and memoranda, in drafting the new Tamy strategy and in publishing various policy papers. In addition to this, people will be working during the summer to create guides for student organisation activists and student representatives in the university administration; memoranda have been distributed concerning union training events as well.

All in all, the wiki has been a good tool for making all Tamy operations more transparent. In the future, Tamypedia will gain even more weight, value and visibility, because there is a website renewal ongoing in Tamy during which all document data bank materials will be transferred into the wiki. The new website and the wiki will be clearly and closely interlinked.

Case: Häme-Wiki - new form of local heritage work in libraries


As a part of its local heritage work, the Hämeenlinna City Library started the Häme-Wiki (see basic information about Häme-Wiki also in English), a wiki that collects and presents local information. Häme-Wiki is a free-of-charge, freely modifiable database concerning the area of Kanta-Häme. When Häme-Wiki was first published in August 2009, hundreds of new articles were entered within the next few months. The success was due to the close cooperation among various parties in the area as well as vigorous communication efforts.

However, it is difficult to obtain new articles. In order for the service to thrive, we need new, eager writers and continual active marketing. At the moment, we have only a few active writers, as most of the participants in wiki-writing courses only write one or two articles. The course participants are always very enthusiastic, but writing articles alone, apparently, feels like too demanding a job. Events should be arranged, time and again, for participants to write collaboratively under guidance.

Häme-Wiki is working to bring schools to join their materials producers. Teaching and inspiring teachers in the use of new tools is quite demanding. On the other hand, we may expect many teachers to join eventually, because the use of social media and a community service such as Häme-Wiki in education would make very good sense for a variety of reasons.

Case: An association wiki is flexible


A national association started a wiki in 2008. At this phase, the use was sporadic, and even though the potential users included all members, only a small part of them registered as users. The wiki was initially used for drafting the program of the association, but eventually, the use spread to other functions. However, the wiki was used almost solely by the board members and staff. Approximately a year ago the association decided to expand the use of the wiki because local chapters were experiencing a need for a wiki platform. The platform has been MediaWiki.

The wiki has had versatile uses in the service of the association. It has been used for official documents (agendas, minutes of meetings, memoranda, statements, bulletins) and for establishing contacts among the member associations (events and recruiting databases to promote the exchange of ideas). The wiki also works similarly to an intranet: up-to-date contact information is available there, and members may keep their personal documents there if these documents relate to the work of the association.

Challenges have been presented by user administration and information security, the difficulty of the wiki syntax, the organisation and finding of the materials, and the recruitment of new wiki users. Training has been organised for users, and they have been encouraged in the use of the wiki. In various events, participants have been prompted to edit the pages - after the first editing session, the second is easier - and all local chapters now have persons in charge of the wiki work.

Case: Instructions wiki for a business


At my job, I took part in the introduction and production of an instructions wiki. The idea was to use the wiki as an internal platform to store instructions that were previously scattered in different places. We created the wiki on a MediaWiki platform installed on our company server. The technical aspects were handled by an IT specialist, and the content production was handled by two staff members, one of whom concentrated on the structure and the other on the content. Contents were produced by other people also, when necessary.

Most of the instructions were written from scratch because they dealt with new software. In addition to text, we used screenshots and described the various phases step-by-step. The production was slow, but on the other hand, since the instructions have now been entered into the wiki, everyone is using the same versions, which are easy to update when necessary.

Because all staff members were not familiar with the use of wikis, we arranged training for those who wanted to have it. Regardless of the training, we are facing the challenge of making everyone use the wiki. For example, we do not want users to print out the instructions because if they do so, they may soon have outdated versions in use. If the updating of the instructions wiki were left to one person only, it could be that all instructions would not stay up-to-date. The solution could be to have persons at various departments, or persons using certain software, in charge of their specific instructions.

Case: Collaborative novel


In 2007, the project A Million Penguins tested a new way of producing a literary work of art. During five weeks, a great number of people pitched in and, together, produced a text on the MediaWiki platform. A blog was used to communicate the event. Anyone is welcome to evaluate the outcome in the web.

Case: Wiki to guide the work in an editing room


In October 2009, the Hämeenlinna City Library set up an editing room in which customers can work independently to digitize their audio and video recordings and edit the outputs. All visitors receive 1-2 hours of individual training at first. This does not suffice for most visitors, and therefore, a wiki (only in Finnish) was created for customers and staff both to present questions relating to the hardware and software in the editing room. The questions may receive their answers from the library instructors as well as from customers.

The wiki has not worked quite as desired. When a customer has a problem, the customer wants help immediately. It does not seem to be enough that there is a wiki available for checking if anyone else has had similar problems. Well-written instructions on paper help customers better when they are experiencing problems. On the other hand, another type of user might benefit from wiki instructions especially if the structure of the wiki were simple. Most customers visiting the editing room are somewhat advanced in years, which might explain why they are relatively unenthusiastic to turn to the wiki when encountering problems.

Case: Lab exercises at an electrical engineering course


In education, a wiki can be used as the lab platform. Many different components are used in electronics, the operation of which students must study and learn. In our case, each course participant chose a certain component and created a wiki page about it. The instructor created a wiki in Wikispaces and gave write and edit permissions to students who accessed the service with their nicknames. These university students worked mainly on their own pages because the course was passed or failed on the basis of it. Only a few students touched upon the topics of any others' pages even at the level of providing comments. The wiki pages were worked upon for about one month, and as the deadline drew closer, the pace picked up, because many students started work only at the last moment.

The benefits of this lab could be seen to be the following:

  • the public nature of the work, in other words, it benefits others also
  • the visibility to what others are doing and how they are going about it
  • the materials of others can be used for learning
  • the same topics can be built on during later courses.

Case: kompowiki (only in Finnish)

Please read more about this case in the Sometu column (only in Finnish)

Case: Wisdom in wiki production: a wiki book production process


The production of this wiki book was started as a peer production effort of certain organisations interested in the use of wikis. The production process was started in a project group that worked with wikis and blogs and their contents in education, operating under the ESF-funded project AVO - Open Networks for Learning. The goal of the subproject was to produce materials concerning wikis and blogs, making them publicly available in the web. Initially, the idea was that the project team would produce materials for others to use and enhance. However, the project was also intended to pilot new ways of working and to communicate the relevant experiences to wider audiences. Therefore, the idea of extending the group of producers as early as the brainstorming phase seemed suitable and we decided to try. We convened a core team to start the work on the seed.

We set up a workshop to kickoff the work, and all core team members were present in person. We discussed issues relating to wikis, the material to be produced and the production process to be started, and then proceeded to meet monthly to collaborate on materials online. The project coordinators convened the team online and made sure the production progressed. The online meetings, a couple of hours each, contained about one hour of discussion relating to general issues of materials production such as the structure, certain specific content issues, and the flow of the process. The second hour was dedicated to concrete work on the material. We kept the web conference open during the work and were thus in contact with the other producers while we worked, and we also could use other tools for collaboration when needed. At the end of the collaborative sessions, we used the web conferencing system to discuss issues that we perhaps encountered during the session. In our experience, this form of work went smoothly and we also found out in a concrete way that a goal-oriented peer production process requires a coordinator. The members in our collaborative process expressed their wish that the coordinators would regularly remind them and prompt them to produce materials. A voluntary production process such as ours will otherwise encounter the problem that work easily gets postponed to the next day and next week.

Wisdom in wiki production contents
Wisdom in wiki production Home 1. Introduction 2. Starting to use wikis 3. Different uses of wikis 4. Target groups of wikis 5. Introducing a wiki for use 6. Wiki content production process 7. Good wiki material 8. Wiki literature