Wednesday, April 19, 2006

33 Wikis: #27 -- The SAP Apollo Wiki

This is the twenty-seventh installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: Jeff Nolan leads the Apollo Group, a strategy and communications org within SAP, the enterprise software giant. Nolan, one of Silicon Valley's top bloggers, is using a number of social media tools -- blogs, RSS, and of course, a wiki -- to better compete with Oracle, SAP's chief rival. The Apollo wiki is mostly used for extended project management. [Note: this is a private wiki].

Why we like it: this is one use of wiki technology that we are certain will gain wide adoption in the future. The gathering of competitive intelligence, and the management of that intelligence, are two of the most critical areas of activity for the strategy, marketing, and sales functions of an enterprise. Nolan's group has found a way to approach these activities in ways that are better suited to how employees actually work. The result? In addition to helping SAP with the overall effort to transform its culture -- and with helping the SAP in its effort to compete with Oracle -- the Apollo Wiki is eliminating the need for superfluous email, never-to-be-read status reports, and unneccessary paperwork.

What we all can learn from it: as we said above, the wiki -- in tandem with other social-media technologies -- could very well emerge as the competitive tool of the future.

33 Wikis: #26 -- The Vyatta Community Wiki

This is the twenty-sixth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: Vyatta, an Eastwick client, aims to develop an open source alternative to commercial routing software (think Cisco, Juniper), and the Vyatta Community Wiki is the place where it is all happening. [For an excellent overview of the company and its mission, see Om Malik's feature in Business 2.0.] Note: four weeks after Vyatta flipped the switch on this community -- turning it from a private to public community -- membership grew by more than 2000%.

Why we like it: Yes, we are Vyatta's agency, but we believe this is a great example of how a wiki can be used for the purposes of organizing a motivated community. Like the Mozilla Developer Center, which we covered yesterday, the Vyatta Community Wiki began with a singular purpose, with a direct appeal to members of the community. It's this kind of focus that can transform an ordinary collaborative project into a mission. FYI, Vyatta means "open" in sanskrit.

What we all can learn from it: As we said above, singularity of purpose may be the biggest takeaway for general audiences. But inside the technology world, it is yet another example of the wikis are so well suited to developer projects.

33 Wikis: #25 -- Mozilla Developer Center

This is the twenty-fifth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: Today and tomorrow, we will look at two wikis for software developers. Our pick today is the Mozilla Developer Center which serves as "a central nexus for all developer documentation related to the Mozilla Project and Mozilla technologies. In time, it is hoped that the Mozilla Developer Center will become a resource that web designers, application developers, and extension and theme writers visit on a daily basis." For those of you outside the technology world, Mozilla is the open source project that organized the creation of the popular Firefox browser.

Why we like it: This is an example of a medium (a wiki) almost perfectly suited to the demographic (developer) and purpose (the creation of an open source alternative) of a community. The development of any open source service or product requires a select but sizeable developer community, and the wiki --- a tool that many developers understand -- is a great environment for building such a community. It also helps that wikis function in an open source manner -- tapping the collective wisdom and contributions of the many.

What we all can learn from it: There are a number of developer communities like this; tomorrow we will look at another. But the visibility of the Mozilla Project should help publicize the viability of this approach among many other software companies that are looking for purposeful ways to engage with developers in their markets.

33 Wikis -- #24 -- SmallBusiness.com -- Experts in Charge

This is the twenty-fourth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: OK, if you are through working on the Millenium Problems and need to get back to business -- a small business -- then this might be the wiki for you. The elegantly and simply-named Smallbusiness.com provides a "variety of services and resources being created every day by a community of small business owners and managers sharing their personal knowledge about starting and running a small business."

Why we like it: Great name, great look (dead simple), and a great number of resources (volume is sometimes important). There are a number of commercial sites that target the huge and amorphous small-business market, but this is the only site doing this in a truly collaborative fashion. The value to this approach? As a partner at an independent PR agency, I can tell you: there's no substitute for knowledge that comes from people who have actually "been there, done that." This site taps the collective wisdom of an expert group and serves up useful, practical information in areas such as law, management, finance, marketing, HR, state-by-state resources, and much more.

What we all can learn from it: Smallbusiness.com does a lot of things well, but its biggest gift to the community is a lesson on expert-based services. In some market segments -- and this is one of them -- the most sought-after expert is the practitioner. We'll post a few other examples of this kind of service when we conclude the "33 Wikis" project.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

33 Wikis: #23 -- The QEDen "Millenium Problems" Project -- the seven million dollar wiki

This is the twenty-third installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

We thank the folks at Slashdot for introducing us to today's wiki.

What this wiki is about: We interrupt our coverage on business wikis (we began our run just yesterday) to tell you about a wiki that means business. A group called QEDen has launched a wiki that hopes to solve the notorious Millenium Problems, which the Clay Mathematics Institute calls "classic questions that have resisted solution over the years." The Institute has promised a $1 million dollar reward for the solution to each problem. The QEDen wiki hopes to accelerate the problem solving by "assembling an army of nerds."

Why we like it: Whether or not you think this project is naive (more than a few folks at Slashdot think so), the QEDen wiki is one of the most radical expressions of "wisdom of crowds" that we've seen throughout this entire survey. And we like that the organizers are looking at the big picture, beyond the Millenium Problems. "QEDen is looking to change the very nature of mathematical and scientific research. Internet collaboration has been used to successfully build state of the art products ranging from software to encyclopedias. Why not see if it can be used to advance human knowledge?" Oh, and if you're wondering about how QEDen is planning to divvy up the bounty -- they're not. If a member of the community solves the problem, he or she gets to keep the whole thing. "QEDen itself will not try to lay any claim to the prize money (although a generous donation from the winner back to the community would certainly be in good taste.)"

What we all can learn from it: Again, this is "wisdom of crowds" in the extreme, and we will be very curious to see how the project progresses. For now, it should encourage other groups or organizations who might benefit from the use of a wiki environment for problem solving. A short while back, it was becoming fashionable for businesses to invite students and inventors to submit their best ideas, with the faint promise that a winning notion might result in a substantial reward. Why would a business do this? It can save a lot of money in R&D, and the pool of talent, theoretically, is limitless. The QEDen project suggests that there's an easy tool for organizing experiments like this.

Friday, April 14, 2006

33 Wikis: #22 -- Lucky Number Slevin Wiki -- Managing the Administrative Beast

This is the twenty-second installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: As Heather Green at BusinessWeek recently noted, the producers for the film "Lucky Number Slevin" used a wiki to track production and financing. I wish we could show you the wiki, but this one is private.

Why we like it: Well, as a former independent theater producer, I can tell you: managing production and budget can be an awful burden because there are so many players, so many moving pieces, and so many potential crises. I haven't seen the Slevin wiki, but if it made life easier for the producers I am impressed.

What we all can learn from it: There are many collaborative tasks in the business world that can be better managed on a wiki. If you have a project that generally requires updates and signoffs from multiple people, at multiple locations, we strongly recommend you go the wiki way.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

33 Wikis: #21 -- WikixBox360 -- Another kind of Product Wiki

This is the twenty-first installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is about: wikiXbox360 is a collaborative site for fans of the Xbox platform. From the about page: "wikiXbox360 brings together gamers who share a passion for gaming and the Xbox 360. This site is a communal dashboard that enables like-minded gamers to connect, share, and build a knowledge base from their individual experiences, expertise, and perspectives -- a community by gamers for gamers."

What we like about it: We spoke a few days ago about ProductWiki, the first wiki-based product catalog. wikiXbox360 points the way where many product manufacturers may go: the creation of their own product communities, driven largely by the passion of their fans. The look-and-feel, and special features -- like "watch this page" -- seem to suit the audience.

What we all can learn from it: As we said above, wikiXbox360 might pave the way for other product-fan sites. The big question: do you have a product that has a community of users/fans who care so much that they need to speak with one another? There have got to be lots of companies who'd answer yes to that question -- for a few examples, take a look at the excellent Brand Hijack, by Alex Wipperfurth. Another takeaway: the snazzy look and special features demonstrate the adaptability of wikis (a theme that has been building in this series over the last few days). That will matter to companies who are focused on their brands, even those that are willing to allow their customers to create their brands (again, see Brand Hijack).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

33 Wikis: # 20 -- The TV IV -- Survival by Wiki

This is the twentieth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is about: Yesterday we asked you to sit in an armchair, and to consider the possibilities for leveraging your sports addiction on a wiki. You can stay in that armchair, because today we want to tell you about an opportunity for all TV lovers: The TV IV, the most complete collaborative Web site dedicated to our favorite medium (evidence of our feelings here and here). From the "about" page: "The TV IV seeks to give you current, up-to-date information on your favorite shows, both current and old. This is an open encyclopedia of television shows, which means that anyone can edit the information at will. We urge you to go to your favorite television show and help contribute, as this website can only grow with your contributions. The TV IV aims to include information about every television show and is not limited to American or British television. "

Why we like it: Where else can you go to get the Fall network schedule for 1963, and correct it if it is wrong? And The TV IV caters not only to nostalgia but also any variety of contemporary programming. The only requirement is that you care so much about your shows that you'd want to visit this site and perhaps contribute to it. There's got to be a pretty big audience. At last count, this wiki logged 73, 148 articles. But what we really like about this wiki is that it's a survivor (pun intended). It has a rather complex history:

In the summer of 2005, TV Tome became TV.com following its buyout by CNET. Several people who frequent The TV IV forum in the Something Awful Forums were unhappy about that. The new site was filled with Flash and ads, and some of the content from TV Tome was missing. It was decided that, like The Six Million Dollar Man, "we can rebuild him," er, I mean, it. The TV IV wiki was born.

By the way, don't feel bad if you love TV so much that you'd want to write about it. Steven Johnson says TV is good for us. We agree, though we wish there were fewer commercials (we're working on that).

What we all can learn from it: This is another great fan site -- but for all fans of an entire medium, not just a specific artist, entertainer, or work. But there's a bigger lesson here: to repeat what we said above, the fact that this project has survived by changing its format (from static Web site to vibrant wiki) is impressive. If your Web site is failing, ask if there's an easy way to make it more interactive.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

33 Wikis: # 19 -- ArmchairGM -- Channeling Your Inner Oscar Madison

This is the nineteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: ArmchairGM is a collaborative site for sports enthusiasts who believe that blogging is not enough. From the "about" page: "Most fans don't have the time to commit to running a blog nor the inclination to promote, design, and manage it, and these are the minimums needed for an effective web presence. You have to write well, write often, promote yourself, have an effective and pleasing aesthetic, and manage criticism and technical difficulties well. And you have to do this constantly: It takes a long, long time to build a readership. But it takes only a few days of idleness and disrepair (or one day of idiocy!) for it to crumble."

Why we like it: All good wikis have motivated, opinionated communities. We can think of no community as opinionated and as motivated -- e.g., to share their opinions -- than the millions of armchair coaches, general managers, and would-be Oscar Madisons of this world. This new site -- with has logged close to half a million page views in less than two months -- enables sports fans to post news, opinions, and, of course comments. Because it's a wiki, almost anything can be edited. You can't edit comments, of course; and we wonder how participants will feel that their opinions -- as opposed to news -- can be edited. But what we like most about this site is the Digg-like "voting" feature which determines the rank of an article based on reader ratings.

What we all can learn from it: Two things: first, the voting feature is something that we expect many other media sites -- traditional media and new media -- to follow. Not only does this democratize the process of placing stories -- an approach that communities respect -- but it also makes good business sense (think of the implications for advertising). But another lesson for all: there are other worlds where fans enjoy talking/arguing with each other at least as much as they enjoy talking/arguing with professional commentators. There are other markets for this kind of approach.

Monday, April 10, 2006

33 Wikis: #18 -- ProductWiki

This is the eighteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: The first product catalog powered by wiki technology, ProductWiki is "a community of people sharing their knowledge and experience about the consumer products and services."

Why we like it: Three Canadian engineers (Amanie Ismail, Omar Ismail, and Erik Kalviainen) found inspiration in Wikipedia to build their own platform, and one that's tailored to meet the demands of a robust online catalog. The result is a well-designed, ad-supported, one-of-a-kind service that's targeting a very large and competitive market sector (by the way, ProductWiki is in no way affiliated with an Amazon project with a similar name). One critic recently noted that ProductWiki it does not differ in any significant way services like Epinions, except for the dubious capability that it offers its users to edit the contributions of others. Our take: the risks are greater, but the open-edit capability is a good differentiator for ProductWiki, which has the agenda of "keeping the information honest." We also like the look and feel of the site -- clean, elegant, functional, with a few light Web 2.0-ish features built in.

What we all can learn from it: We believe that ProductWiki points the way that many consumer-facing sites will go, integrating wiki technology into their services. While the DIY nature of pre-built wiki platforms will continue to appeal to most people, a number of businesses will build their own tools, or -- as the emerging Amazon wiki story foretells -- build wiki technology into current Web-based offerings.

33 Wikis: #17 -- Wikitravel -- A Trusted Community for "Consumers Like You"

This is the seventeenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: We are shifting our focus these next few days to consumer sites, beginning with a collaborative project called Wikitravel. From the home page: "Wikitravel is a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide. So far we have 8,293 destination guides and other articles written and edited by Wikitravellers from around the globe."

What we like about it: When I was younger -- and far more restless, but far less able financially -- I depended on budget travel guides to help me plan and navigate trips to Europe. My favorite was the Let's Go series, which were written mostly for people generally like me: recent college grads, budget-conscious, and open to a more-than-occasional detour -- a relaxed if superior attitude that viewed traditional travel guides as silly, irrelevant, and, most important, untrustworthy. In short, the Let's Go series played well to a large population of consumers who shared a common ethos -- "smart and adventurous travel ... on a shoestring." The community was very loosely defined, but it was real enough and big enough that it worked.

The world of travel has changed a lot since those days, in large part because the first Let's Go generations have grown up (looking back on old itineraries, many of us are saying "let's not"). But even younger travelers today are a lot more sophisticated. Along comes Wikitravel, a collaborative site that seems well-suited to the needs of any informed traveler, young or old, rich or poor ... provided you accept the new ethos: that the new community of travelers -- Wikitravellers -- can all get smarter by sharing what they know. In a sense, this site does for smart travelers today what Let's Go first did for young travelers a few generations ago -- make the world a little smaller by bringing together like-minded people. It reminds us of the Edelman Trust Barometer -- we tend to trust people who are most like us. In the world of travel guides -- there are so many -- Wikitravel may have found a great way for like-minded people to share info on all sorts of topics, including traveling with families, info on airfare, hotels, itineraries, dining, health, and safety.

What we all can learn from it: This is another example of how a distributed, volunteer online community might do a better job than a publisher in documenting the intricacies of a complex market. But the "trust" factor (discussed above) is another big takeaway. Private and public organizations can learn a lot from this wiki, which demonstrates the role that trusted communities can play in helping consumers make important decisions.

Also worth noting: Can I Crash?, a wiki service that "lets you lend your sofa to travelling bloggers." Talk about trust.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

33 Wikis: # 16 -- The Tax Almanac

This is the sixteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: Finally, a wiki that even my mother would like. I'm serious -- my mother prepares taxes for consultants and small businesses. The Tax Almanac is "a free tax research resource brought to you by Intuit, the makers of the professional tax preparation products Lacerte and ProSeries .... Our goal is to transform tax research and to improve the effectiveness of tax professionals everywhere."

Why we like it: There are so many reasons we like this wiki, starting with the corporate sponsorship. As we note above, this is a project "brought to you by Intuit," the maker of many tax and accounting software products. The Tax Almanac is a smart use of a collaborative environment where everyone can benefit -- the professional community and the corporate sponsor alike -- while the burden of developing and maintaining the wiki is distributed. Second, this is a very good resource that taps the wisdom of a very sophisticated crowd that live and work across the country. And it's a nicely designed (organized) wiki, making it easier for participants to find what they need and contribute.

What we all can learn from it: Tax is clearly a subject where the wisdom of the crowd beats the intelligence of the individual. But perhaps the biggest takeaway is the nature of the corporate sponsorship, which not only keeps Intuit close to its customers -- in this case, professional consumers of its tax and accounting products -- but also helps with visibility and brand (BusinessWeek recently named The Tax Almanac a "pacesetter" in collaboration). But also note: you'll have a hard time finding the word wiki on the home page (scroll down ... way down). We love the word wiki, but we may need other words as the tool continues to migrate from the world of developers and to the bigger world of non-techy professionals and consumers (hi, Mom).

Friday, April 07, 2006

33 Wikis -- #15 -- The Library Success Wiki -- Wikis for Professional Development

This is the fifteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: This week we looked at wikis for politics, and wikis for education. Big theme all week has been information, and today we turn to folks in the information sciences, namely librarians. One of the best specimens in this category is a wiki called Library Success that bills itself as follows: “… one-stop-shop for great ideas and information for all types of librarians. All over the world, librarians are developing successful programs and doing innovative things with technology that no one outside of their library knows about. There are lots of great blogs out there sharing information about the profession, but there is no one place where all of this information is collected and organized.”

Why we like it: Created by Meredith Farkas, a librarian in Vermont, the Library Success wiki serves as a collaborative site for librarians all over the world. As with many other professions, the teaching and practice of library sciences varies widely state to state and country to country. This wiki serves to raise the standard across all territories, with information on best practices in technology, training, programming, professional ethics, and other topics.

What we all can learn from it: the wiki as steward to a profession holds a lot of promise, and we believe that the Library Success wiki is a great example. We expect other professions to build out collaborative environments for their own folks, but as is true of all wikis, it takes the energy and dedication of an evangelist and gardener (in this case Farkas) to get anything meaningful going.

33 Wikis: #14 -- The Science of Spectroscopy Wiki -- The Long-Tail of Education

This is the fourteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: The Science of Spectroscopy Wiki is a collaborative site for the teaching of spectroscopy to university-level and advanced high-school students. Definition (Wikipedia): "Spectroscopy is the study of spectra, that is, the dependence of physical quantities on frequency." It is often used in physical and analytical chemistry, and astronomy.

Why we like it: The evangelist and gardener of this wiki is Stewart Mader, an instructional technologist in math and sciences at Brown University. As we learned in a recent comment, Mader and his cohorts have created an environment that enables students "to learn about spectroscopy using a model that starts with real-world applications, gets them engaged and asking 'how does it work?' and then teaches techniques and theory." What we really like about this wiki is how it has attracted a global community of collaborators -- scientists, teachers and students -- to work on group projects. In effect, the wiki has created a global classroom.

What we all can learn from it: Just as wikis are enabling people to go beyond organizational boundaries, they can also enable groups to recruit the best participants across geographic boundaries. And while spectroscopy may constitute a small neighborhood in the larger world of education, the contribution that the wiki has made to the teaching of this subject might inspire folks from other fields to do the same. We will soon tire of using the phrase "long tail," but it is very appropriate here. Niche matters, and Internet tools can help people to find one another. [Note: Tomorrow, Mader will present a paper on the wiki, at the excellent HigherEd BlogCon.]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

33 Wikis: #13 -- The Westwood Wiki -- Wikis in the Schools

This is the thirteenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: The Westwood Wiki is a collaborative workspace for the Westwood Schools (K-12) in Camilla, Georgia. The gardener and evangelist is computer science teacher Vicki A. Davis, AKA "Cool Cat Teacher." Davis and her students have created an highly interactive, vibrant workspace that supplement several parts of the Westwood curricula.

Why we like it: Wikis are getting lots of interest in the schools because the benefits of peer production and participation are becoming better known. But to really get a wiki going like Westwood has, you need an evangelist with Davis' stamina and character. She's encouraged her students to not only use the wiki, but to immerse themselves in all things Web 2.0. As a result, this is a pretty sophisticated site, with a few unexpected treats (check out the 4th grade podcast -- a big cute yes, but still impressive). We also like that Davis has shared so much about her experience. Her notes on the wiki and in her blog will help other teachers navigate their own entry into the world of tech-supported education.

What we all can learn from it: Like all the wikis in this series, the Westwood Wiki has lessons for people in markets outside its own. The way wikis encourage and reward collaboration and production should be of interest to any organization that has the mandate of developing its constituents, especially organizations -- commercial and public -- that have been forced to do more with less.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

33 Wikis: #12 -- The ICANN Wiki -- Behold, The Event Wiki

This is the tweflth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: The ICANN Wiki is a collaborative site for people who take part in conferences for ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Wikipedia says this about ICANN: "Headquartered in Marina Del Rey, ICANN is a California non-profit corporation that was created on September 18, 1998 in order to oversee a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the U.S. Government by other organizations, notably IANA." Not clear? In short, ICANN is one of the premier -- if not the premier -- organizations on Internet policy.

Why we like it: Creative, funny, and hyperactive, the ICANN wiki will emerge as a model collaborative site for any organization seeking to leverage the community that supports its events. But like many good event wikis, this wiki does not belong to the organization, ICANN, but to the ICANN community. Going well beyond what any organization can do alone, this wiki enables conference participants to share notes, plan get-togethers, meet people, and much more. And did we mention that the site is funny? We love how many of the participants are featured in photos and caricatures (click on the image to the left).

What we all can learn from it: Event wikis are gaining traction in the technology world, and we expect they will go mainstream very soon. There are so many benefits for participants. And organizers too are learning that a wiki is a great way to support participants, who often attend conferences for reasons only they know. Check out, for example, the official Web 2.0 2005 wiki, which helped attendees to organize several successful after-hour events.

Monday, April 03, 2006

33 Wikis: #11 -- The Politics.ie Wiki -- A Living Encyclopedia of Ireland

This is the eleventh installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: The organizers of the "Politics.ie Wiki" describe their project as follows:

"Our aim is to create the largest online resource of Irish political information.... This is a member driven Irish political encyclopedia, so the more help you give us the better it will become. We're currently working on 3005 articles on Irish politics."

Why we like it: While dKosopedia attempts to educate U.S. progressives, the "Politics.ie Wiki" seeks to educate all Irish political watchers on the history, current events, and the inner workings of government. Because of the country's colorful, tumultuous history, this project has a lot of interesting material to work with; contributors are putting the wiki to good use in collecting, dissecting and managing that material.

What we all can learn from it: This is a good example of the wiki as reference, a category that Wikipedia has helped to popularize. But don't let the relative smallness of this project ("only" 3,000-plus articles) fool you -- it may still be one of the best, and most up-to-date references on Irish politics available. By combining historical and current information resources, the wiki blurs the lines between reference and news, just as Wikipedia has done on a larger scale. Think of this wiki as part of the long tail of worldwide, wiki-based publishing projects.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

33 Wikis: #10 -- DoWire Wiki -- School for E-Democracy?

This is the tenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: "DoWire's E-Democracy Best Practices Wiki," a project of DoWire.org, is a "collaborative drafting environment" for people interested in e-democracy. DoWire founder Steven Clift defines e-democracy as follows:

E-democracy represents the use of information and communication technologies and strategies by democratic actors within political and governance processes of local communities, nations and on the international stage. Democratic actors/sectors include governments, elected officials, the media, political organizations, and citizen/voters.

To many, e-democracy suggests greater and more active citizen participation enabled by the Internet, mobile communications, and other technologies in today’s representative democracy as well as through more participatory or direct forms of citizen involvement in addressing public challenges.

The DoWire wiki provides a workspace on the Web for both practioners and students of e-democracy to share information on tools and best practices.

Why we like it: As a front-page article in today's New York Times notes, the Internet is fast becoming the preferred medium for political communication, and DoWire's commitment to promoting the use of the Internet for more representative government may soon start getting a bigger audience. The wiki looks at experiments inside and outside the U.S. (see the pages on projects in Canada and the U.K.), and features a well-written "Best Practices Guide" based on Clift's model for e-democracy. Participants can share info on how governments are using Internet tools to get closer to their constituents, involve them more in policy-making, and in making various processes more transparent.

What we all can learn from it: If dKosopedia is a virtual school for progressives, the DoWire wiki is a virtual school for anyone interested in learning how to make the Internet work better for government. Beyond the world of politics, it also shows how a wiki can be used to evolve the way we think about deeply-entrenched institutional processes. As we'll see in the latter part of "33 Wikis," collaborative technology has also generated great conversation about the evolution of governance in business, and a number of interesting experiments are already underway.

Related links:

--e-democracy wiki
--deliberative-democracy.net wiki
--The IBM Center for Business of Government: "A Manager's Guide to Civic Engagement"
--Corante's "Civic Minded" blog

Saturday, April 01, 2006

33 Wikis: #9 -- dKosopedia -- School for Progressives?

This is the ninth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for: a wiki project by DailyKos, the most popular political blog in the world, dKosopedia describes itself as a "collaborative project of the DailyKos community to build a political encyclopedia. The dKosopedia is written from a left/progressive/liberal/Democratic point of view while also attempting to fairly acknowledge the other side's take. It was started in April of 2004, and currently consists of 5,494 articles."

Why we like it: Of all the political wikis we've visited, dKosopedia seems to have the greatest potential as a vehicle for bridging the camps that comprise the general progressive agenda. The wiki was born in the midst of widespread soul-searching in the Democratic party, many of whose leaders had begun to marvel over the Republican Party's ability to consistently stay on message. dKosopedia's architecture reveals an acute sensitivity to this issue, providing resources such as "frameshop" (nod to George Lakoff's now famous attempts to educate progressives to connect better with voters), a political "glossary," and a "meme tank" (instructing participants on ways to create better, persistent ideas and themes for discussion on the Internet).

What we all can learn from it: Politics aside, dKosopedia represents an interesting case study for any organization struggling to define itself and get consensus on mission, ideology, and direction. By taking both a bottoms up and top-down approach, this type of wiki may in fact help to create an emergent organization -- an organization where none truly existed before. Whether this works for the broad groups of people who identify themselves as progressive is another question. And as many a critic of Lakoff has said, it will take a lot more than PR lessons to win the hearts and minds of voters. Still, from our perspective, this wiki project is one worth watching as we move toward the next presidential election.