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March 1, 2009

Wiki Credibility

My first experience with wikis involved an irate teacher and a student who couldn't quite understand why two of her research paper's sources weren't valid. Wikipedia emerged while I was in high school. The common notion was that Wikipedia was not a reliable academic source. Even classes that required online sources outlawed Wikipedia because it could be edited by anyone. This is the entire premise of wikis. They allow a wealth of information to be shared... and you don't have to be a published author to contribute! Yes, there are certain disadvantages (such as inaccurate or misleading information), but Wikipedia (and many others, I'm sure) have taken steps to prevent this. Wikipedia even requires proper citation and displays a warning message when sources aren't cited. My hope is that through these precautions and their growing popularity, wikis will become a credible source in the near future.

Wikis aren't just for research papers and looking up random facts, though. They are also an extremely effective tool in the workplace. Our readings this week illustrated this idea. I was tickled to read about Geek Squad's use of wikis in Wikinomics because I have two friends that work for Geek Squad and have contributed to their wikis (Tapscott & Williams 244). For tech-savvy people, wikis are a great way to communicate complex ideas (storyboards, page layouts, etc.) because they allow continual editing and input from everyone involved. I hope that we can impliment this type of extreme collaboration in our own wiki.

February 26, 2009

Bottoms Up!!!

I also just got done reading Wikinomics How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams. I wasn't sure what to think before I read this article. I'm still somewhat new to the world of wikis and I'm just getting my feet wet in this area of technology. I was surprisingly inspired by this article. I even thought that it was revolutionary.

I didn't know much about the Geek Squad before reading this. I now have a lot of respect for Robert Stephens. I think it's very smart of him to adapt a new way of collaborating by listening to what his agents were already doing. According to Stephens, "While I had my head down doing this in preparation to open the wiki's floodgates, the agents had self organized online in probably the most effective and efficient collaborative that's already out there." They were communicating through an online game and now that online game is encouraged as a form of communication through out Geek Squad.

My boyfriend is a bartender who plays World Of Warcraft everyday. He has a guild that mainly consists of his coworkers. He has told me that his manager sometimes just logs on to ask him to come into work early or if so and so had been on the game today because he was looking for him. It's interesting how online gaming can encourage communication about many other issues other than the game itself.

The thing that really made me happy about this article was the concept of bottom-up innovation. I think that Gil Dennis' ideas were revolutionary for a corporate environment. Dennis understood that his employees had knowledge about the customers that the market researchers could not produce. He started a forum for his employees to contribute their ideas on customer insights. I would have to imagine that this also created a new level of trust within the corporate environment and helped the employees feel valued and possibly take more pride in their job.

I worked for Hennepin County about ten years ago and the part of my job that I enjoyed the most was referring clients to different social service agencies that could help them with what they needed. I wish there were wikis like this back in those days. I had a mail box that letters would get dropped in and when clients needed help with something I had to pull out a paper file and go through them looking for something that could be of aid. It would have been so different with wiki. I could have collaborated with my coworkers and organized something that would have been more helpful for the workers and the clients.

Wikis, Geeks, and Battlefield 2

Wow guys...I don't even know where to begin with this one. I was reading for this week Wikinomics How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (Chapter 9) and I was really inspired by the story of Robert Stephens and his Geek Squad.

Basically, Stephens created the Geek Squad (P.S. He is a Gopher alumni, hollar!) and was trying to find better ways for the employees to communicate, wiki style. After discovering that the employees all played Battlefield 2 together, and that they used this for not only entertainment, but also communication and connection, Stephens realized that he was going about his wiki project all wrong. Here is what the chapter says...

Stephen says the experience changed his thinking completely. “Instead of trying to set an agenda,” he said, “I’m now going to try and discover their agenda, and serve it.” (Tapscott, Williams p. 243)

This hit me with a big "DUH!" for our projects in class, and for my life in general. Instead of thinking of my own way of doing something, my own "agenda" as Stephens puts it, I need to understand what people around me are doing, and cater to their needs (within my own goals and boundaries, of course). This is also what I feel our sites should be about. We have an idea, a project. However, this project is not soley for us to say, "Whoopdee do, look what we did". It is a living thing for people to use!!! Thus, it needs to be focused on those people and how they are going to use it.

This anecdote not only connected well with the rest of the chapter, but it really is something I want to focus on for the rest of this class, and I think it applies to the way our world is working, especially in the online world. It is all about the services, the techniques that work best to help people do what they need/want to do in the most efficient way. Isn't that what we are all seeking in life?

So that is what I mostly got out of the wiki idea. I am not big into the technical issues (in case you hadn't already figured that one out), but I am huge into the people issues. AND! if I can understand how something works for people, I am completely willing to learn the tech stuff and make it work so that I can simply help people. Hollar!!!

I really hope others see this perspective for our sites. I want to learn how to do this stuff, yes, definitely. But learning how to do something without being able to put it to good use doesn't really do much. So...that's what I got for this week. Hooray for Wikis and making life maybe just a little bit more simplified.

I do not need caffine to be wired- Net Generation.

I always had a special interest in reading about how different generations compare to eachother, but this is the first time I heard the term “net gen”. I agree that people who grew up in this era did not so much have to learn how to use technology but rather it was almost a second “instinct”. Everyone always wanted to be the first one to have the new phone or ipod, but the want for shiny gadgets has turned into a demand from corporations to produce faster. If I was to attribute only one adjective to describe the net generation, the word must be “speed.” This can be good as well as bad, but to be able to multi-task is not something everyone can handle without having nervous breakdowns. I would be grouped with the net gen because of my age and even though I am a really good multi-tasker there is only so much one could take with three instant messengers on, checking updates on Twitter, looking at my e-mail inbox and blogging at the same time. Sometimes it sounds as if there are a million voices in my head, but the net gen has a longer tolerance at multi-tasking than any other generation, and eventually they will not even notice they’re doing five tasks at once because it is something they have always done.

The history of Wiki is so much more extensive than what I originally thought to be a simple editable on-line encyclopedia. I also never knew Wikis were having such a big impact on companies and their employees. My place has yet to actually do any team building exercises using the internet, but that is okay since we work with selling books. I think wikis are a great innovated idea for the work environment. Everyone gets to contribute without worry that they are saying too much or too little. Other people will help take your idea than mix it with their own in order to make a “super idea.” (Yes, that was lame of me.) Not only does it promote people to share their opinions but it is also cost effective in many ways. It does not cost anything to create a wikipage and it cuts back on the use of paperwork. Win-Win I say.

I can also definitely vouch that people do indeed talk about their work when playing video games and if you run in the group that loves to talk about how computers work, someone will always supply an answer to your question. Talking into a microphone while you’re pressing buttons is really easy after a couple of hours. I still think blogging in the work place seems to be more trouble than useful, but Jonathan Schwartz (Wikonomics Pg. 14) has a good point that blogging gives good insight into what people think and it has an unedited genuine feel to it.

The Net-Gereration, are you ready?

In contrast to baby-boomers, our generation is known as the Net-Generation; one that spends numerous hours during throughout the day checking our email, instant messaging and text messaging. Some corporations aren’t comfortable with our generation and feel that we spend too much time on the internet and not being productive during our time at work. However, William’s Wikinomics states that our generation is more geographically dispersed and communicating throughout the work place is becoming more important. Networking sites, such as wikis and blogs, allow companies to run cohesive yet decentralized by linking the virtual teams together. (William, 246) In fact, Ross Mayfield founder and CEO of Socialtext states that research has shown that emails themselves are reaching a breaking point. Workers are spending too much time on email and they need a second resource for communication, this is where Wiki’s come in and where I become baffled by them.

Cunningham’s chapter on starting up Wiki’s really helped my understanding of a wiki and how they are constructed. To be honest, my only exposure to wikis is through Wikipedia. Until this week I didn’t understand why people would want to construct a wiki, but it is known as “the simplest online database that could possibly work.” (Cunningham, 15)

A wiki is a lot about collaboration of space, ease of access and use, simple and uniform navigational conventions, and apparent lack of formal structure. (Cunningham, 16) So, why set up a wiki? We first need to consider the type and scope of users we expect and the context of the users. In reference to the reading, our wiki will be a collaboration of information on the Republication National Convention for information seekers, convention committees, researchers, police and many other groups of people. One of the first wikis that was developed was Wikipedia and has grown to the world’s largest Wiki. Even though we don’t expect our wiki to grow as fast as Wikipedia, we hope that our wiki will be just informative and integrative for our audience.

The Geek Squad

I find it amazing how the Geek Squad grew their business practically overnight once they signed with Best Buy (Tapscott). They went from $3 million after eight years of business to $1 billion with the publicity and association with Best Buy. You can tell that their employees are proud of what they do when they wear their jackets shopping off the clock. They aren't afraid to be labeled as geeks and people approach them in the store to ask questions. They are the experts on computer problems.

Even though they are the experts on fixing computers, doesn’t mean that they like using different tasks on them. The company had tried to get them to use the Wiki, but it didn’t go over very well.

The idea of the Wiki is good. It allows for contruibution from multiple users to be edited and organized (Leuf). Instead of e-mailing back and forth to a bunch of people, you all can compare and see how the page has changed through the entire process.

The only downfall that I can think of is the fact that visitors can edit the page. This can lead to inaccurate and unreliable information. As a result, the site must be monitored to ensure it authenticity. The Wiki does allow you to see who made the changes and when they made the changes.

I think the Wiki is the new and effective way to collaborate in groups. I had never used a Wiki before until this year, now I’m using it for two different classes!

February 25, 2009

Wikiality

So even I love wikis because of their usefulness, I have to agree with Steven Colbert in the Colbert Report regarding these little web miracles. Watch this video featuring "The Word" and you can easily see how opinions can be blown out of proportion and facts can be distorted. I love random facts and being able to learn them in wikis, but how can one even know whether something is indeed a fact or just a distortion of a fact? Sometimes, even news stories and sites with reportedly "good" sources have been known to have skewed facts. And sometimes, sites have presented opinions or non-facts in a fact-based manner. And in reality, when we are simply browsing the web, how are supposed to tell fact from fact-ish or fiction? I realize I may have drifted and brought down the morale of the blog, but I feel that today, with our use of the web for factual information, we need to be able to know whether the information we are reading is indeed fact or fiction...

Continue reading "Wikiality" »

Work and the Wonky Wiki

Thanks to my experience and the readings this week, I now understand how wikis came into being (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001(?), p 14-15), I have examples of good uses of the wiki format and examples of inappropriate projects for wikis (Barton, “Embrace the Wiki Way!”), and I have grandiose ideals for how I can implement and use wiki and web 2.0 applications in my workplace - if I could get around IT. And, I have a reference for how to organize tasks and manage conflict on collaborative teams (Brown et al, 2007, p 126-135) although this last reading seemed out of place given the other strictly wiki related readings. Still, I copied the list from page 135 to use as a cubicle decoration (a.k.a. subtle hint).

I love my job. I work for a medical device company that thrives thanks to network security. On top of that, approximately 90% of communication at this company happens via email. That statistic alone says we need to look into better ways of communicating. I wonder what percentage of emails sent contain fewer than 140 characters if you exclude the corporate signatures…

As I was reading about the origins of the Geek Squad in “Wikinomics”, I imagined what it would be like to have access to games at work, or access to Facebook for that matter (Tapscott and Williams, 2006(?), p 241-245). But if the company cannot monitor how you use something, they just block access to it in the name of corporate integrity. Interestingly enough, we do have some collaborative tools to use that are company sanctioned. We have a document management system where you can check documents out, make changes, and then resubmit them for approval. This works great for electronic approvals and revision control. What is most interesting is that this system has a feature where you can “submit” items for collaboration, which allows a selected group of coworkers to go into the system, view, check out, and modify a single document. This is a great feature and it is actually very wiki-like in design if not a bit one-dimensional for a web application.

There are a few issues with the system that would be solved by using a wiki. First, documents are often checked out from the system and collaborators forget to check them back in, so the project can be delayed as the document sits buried in someone’s temporary files. Second, a fair number of people don’t know how this option works so they don’t use it. Third, you are limited to the editing and commenting capabilities of the software you use to author the file. For example, MS Word’s track changes will show who added or deleted what, but if you author an entire document that way it gets really messy. The system has a change history that can be completed each time the document is checked in, but it is optional and it relies on the author to detail every change made in that revision.

That said, I can see so many areas where wikis could be used to foster collaboration on documents and projects, particularly in the medical device industry. I think the stigma that Kaitlin S. cited from Leuf and Cunningham regarding how wikis are unstructured and too open and makes implementation in a highly regulated industry difficult, but not impossible (p 33). I think eventually the right people will see how beneficial this technology can be to the industry and the rest will be history. I just hope I am still around to say, “I told you so”.

Working with wikis

In the wikinomics reading this week, wikis are discussed in depth in regards to how they work with businesses and companies. Page 247 explains that younger generations of web workers are using new web based tools that promise advantages for companies. Tools such as wikis allows for peer-to-peer collaboration where workers can broadcast collective information in one place. Wikis allow people to engage and cocreate with more people in a more versatile system.

It seems that all these new powerful web tools are becoming more and more popular among businesses and can be used efficiently among different companies. However, I have to be somewhat uneasy about the accuracy of information on wikis. A lot of my professors specifically instruct students not to get information from sites like Wikipedia, because anyone has the power to go in there and change information and record inaccuracies. So, while wikis allow for this great collaboration that normally wouldn't be possible with other mediums, this advantage also introduces some disadvantages. With so many people adding information to a wiki, there is a lot more room for error. Additionally, it is hard to monitor and edit such an expansive site that has so many web workers constantly updating information.

Finally, wikis can contain so much information that it can appear unstructured and unorganized making it difficult to make effective use of the site. Similar to writing a group paper – where everyone has their own writing styles – a wiki is bringing together so many different web workers that it can be hard to maintain uniform and stay consistent among entries. So while wikis are a very powerful online tool and can be great resources to receive information, users must be conscious of the downsides and maintain some skepticism about the accuracy of the information.

Wiki, Wiki, What!

I hope everyone go the scratching reference in the title. These wikis are amazing to me and provide a common place for users to share information and gain knowledge of a topic without being in the same room. The value that it gives researchers or companies far out weighs conference calls or expensive meetings to work on new products or to generate new ideas and provides a comon place to work. The other feature that I really found great is that users can edit or add information to a website that is basically a text site with no frills. We are not weeding through a bunch of complacated formats and the general information is easily accessable. A great example of that is what Robert Stephens was able to do with the Geek Squad.

Now for the down side. A user has to be careful on what information they trust and or use in their research. Since it is an open forum, anybody can edit or add to different topic sections. For example, I could go on to Wikipedia and edit or add to a subject that I have no idea about or want to mess up. User creditablility and integerity have to be at the for front to assure this type of technolgy is not abused.

Tim Kaplan

Importance of Wiki Disadvantages

To be completely honest, I am a little skeptical of wikis. Well, I suppose just Wikipedia. I don’t really trust that site because it can be changed by anyone and who knows if the information someone puts up is correct. How can credibility be established with a site like this? I don’t really have the answer to that question but I can see how wikis are an effective tool in the workplace. This is evidenced by the Geek Squad at Best Buy where they used a wiki to bring members together to develop product ideas and designs (Tapscott & Williams, * 243-244). It is an excellent place for collaboration and the sharing of ideas. The fact that wikis can be easily altered to add or remove things makes them quite simple to use. One thing that I like about using a wiki in the workplace is the connections that can be made between employees even though they might be separated by thousands of miles.

The two readings for this week talk about the numerous benefits of wikis and how they can be used in today’s workplace. Leuf & Cunningham* also talk about two disadvantages of wikis which I think are important to keep in mind when we are creating our site. They are that a wiki,

1 “can be too open, providing too little visible and enforced linking between contributions and who made them.
2. It can be too unstructured, with unacceptable freedom in how material is contributed and organized.” (33)

I can see where these two pitfalls might happen in the workplace. It goes back to the readings from last week about organizational schemes and structures. If everyone follows their own concept of organizing what they add to a workplace wiki, the information can easily be arranged in a while that is confusing. However, I feel that if a workplace wiki had specific restrictions about what could or could not be added or how, employees might not be as interested in contributing or might not be as creative as they could be without the restrictions. Therefore, I think the importance of these disadvantages is to be aware of them and perhaps foresee how they could affect your wiki (in whatever the context).

I think these two disadvantages might not affect us as much because we have a plan for how our information is going to be organized on our site, and we know who is doing and contributing what. Even if this plan changes in the future, we have an outline of what the site will be. But I think it is important to keep these disadvantages in mind as we construct the wiki. It can become easily unstructured if we don’t stick to our plan for how to organize the information on our site.

* Note the dates weren’t listed on the PDFs for the citations.

February 24, 2009

Why Wikis Are Awesome

I think the reason that Wikis are so heavily used and effective in the workplace and in society in general today is because of the variety of information sources and the ability for them to be easily updated on a daily basis. When I was reading the article about the Geek Squad, I felt that it offered a good explanation of the ideas that you can get out a group of like minded, intelligent individuals with common interests. Instead of hiring engineers to come up with ideas for Geek Squad branded products Robert Stephens enlisted his own “geeks” to come up with ideas and they produced many of their most successful products.

I think this relates to Wikis because instead of just one person composing and managing the information like on a typical website, a Wiki allows for tens to thousands of common people with all levels of knowledge and different forms of information to collaborate what they know or understand about an issue or idea. This helps develop a more complete information source with all sorts of view points and ideas embedded in the page, not just the viewpoints and ideas of a single author.

Also due to the ease of editing a Wiki, it is easy to update information on a daily basis. On Wikipedia for example, the same day that information is released or becomes available to the public it is almost immediately put on Wikipedia. For instance, at the Grammys on February 8, 2009, Blink 182 announced that they were getting back together, making a new album, and going on tour. That information was put on Wikipedia that same night and there is extensive information on the happenings since then including information from as Associated Press interview that happened as recently as February 19th. And like I mentioned earlier Wikis are a collaborative resource. Instead of having to see the Grammys that night and read the Associated Press to find this information, you can find it all in one spot on a Wiki.