A while back in The Studio, we talked about a do-it-yourself wiki, called Zim Wiki (link here). Wikis have recently flown back across my radar, so I thought I would take a moment to share a few more thoughts.
If you read my article above or if you have a modicum of web-savvy-ness, you already know that a wiki is a user-generated repository of information, a crowd-based encyclopedia of sorts, containing articles submitted by users. But then there is the why of it. Why would anyone in general, or professionals in particular, want to use a Wiki? You may already be using a wiki via applications that tap your company’s knowledge base within your own organization. Do you have access to a central source for enterprise intellectual capital created or edited by your co-workers and colleagues? Then you have been wiki-fied. Are you familiar with the inefficiencies of “recreating the wheel”? Then a wiki might be the answer to your prayers.
I can think of lots of uses for them. How about a group of attorneys and firms handling a mass of similar types of cases sharing general (not client-specific) information about strategies, new developments or experiences? How about a consortium of lawyers and clients with common interests, such as intellectual property preservation or insurance regulatory matters helping further the group’s expertise and awareness? How about continuing legal education efforts? How about Bar Association resources? Seriously – we lawyers are definitely entrenched in the information business and any means for streamlining, organizing and making accessible the vast quantities of data out there is a GOOD thing.
So, how do you set one up? Besides using Zim Wiki, there are a few other options out there, whether you intend to host your own or utilize someone else’s server and platform. Remember that a wiki is essentially a massive database with broad read / write access. Different wiki tools offer different features which may or may not meet your end goals. Assess the different options with your desired feature set in mind – hopefully one of the available options comes close.
Another consideration is content licensing. Members are devoting their intellectual capital to populate your wiki, after all. Common licenses include the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons license, but it helps to understand them before deciding how to protect your members’ information.
In a similar vein, you will need to spend some time considering guidelines. Seems that whenever a group of people (or worse, a group of lawyers) get together, there may be friction borne of differing interpretations of the rules and limitations governing interactions. There are community standards and individual article standards that need to be considered. If you are brave, and you already have a community in mind for your wiki, you might even want to get the members involved in this process. Some time spent at the beginning encouraging discourse might prevent later conflicts.
Looking for Wiki tools? Check out some of these links:
MediaWiki, a popular wiki engine that is used for Wikimedia and wikiHow. YourWiki, a wiki host for the non-do-it-your-selfer. Wikia, a free Wiki-hosting project. Intodit, another free hosted Wiki groups tool. PBwiki, an easy to use wiki hosting service with free and premium levels. Springnote, a free wiki-based online notebook. Use if for notes, organization, scheduling, group projects and anything else you can think of. Wikispaces, a free and paid service with a decent WYSIWIG editor, 2GB of storage and features for a single wiki with unlimited users Wikidot , another free and paid service, this with up to five sites, with up to 300MG of storage on each.
Want to compare your options? Visit Wikimatrix, a site that compares wiki packages, with more information than you can shake a wiki-stick at. Sorry for that.
Hopefully, my musings on wikis might help you think about them and facilitate your quest for creating the next e-powered think tank. I would love to see how people would use wikis in their own professional venues – definitely feel free to share in the comments!