Monday, May 2, 2011

Unscrupulous people and wiki collaboration

I have been interested to get comments from several people about the way I have used a wiki by Wikispaces to plan and develop the free online conference for midwives on the 5th May 2011; the Virtual International Day of the Midwife (VIDM). There has been concern that the wiki is open to "unscrupulous people" who will "go in and wipe out your content, add content you don't wish to have there, etc."

Why I use a wiki
There are a few reasons I have chosen to use a wiki to develop the Virtual International Day of the Midwife.
  1. The wiki models a process that can be used for collaboration and not only introduces wiki to health professionals, but also the idea of open collaboration and learning.
  2. It allows me to collaborate not only with the VIDM organising committee but also anyone who has an interest in the event.
  3. Open collaboration gives people a sense of community ownership, which hopefully will make the VIDM much more successful.
  4. Saves me time. If people see an error in what I have produced, they can correct the error without involving me.
  5. The process of developing the conference is transparent. This allows people to track what we're doing and why, and learn by our success and failures, as evidenced by the World OT Day in 2010.
  6. The "history" section of the wiki allows me to go back to previous versions which can be very useful if I have forgotten what I did, or how I did it.
How does the wiki work?
I have been using this same wiki for the last four years, and I have had only one incident where unwanted material has been added which I was able to quickly delete. I am able to set the wiki specifications so I am notified every time someone makes changes to a page. I can also track and trace changes via the wiki "history" and revert to previous editions, as well as block unwanted visitors.

If anything, people have been slow to use the wiki. I think this is because they either do not know what a wiki is and how they can make changes, or they feel they do not have the 'right' to change someone else's work.

What are the alternatives?

There are a number of other free platforms that you can use, which are websites and not collaborative spaces. Google Sites is one such place to look at. And of course you can lock up a Wikispaces page so people can see it but not edit it, like I have done with my ePortfolio.

The Virtual International Day of the Midwife is an open, free community event that is designed to share information and resources, and to bring people together. We are not out to make money - we have absolutely no funding. So the whole process of this event is open and
community-focused from the first planning day to the posting of the last recording. I feel that locking the wiki up would interfere with this process.

And as for unscrupulous visitors, the community will deal with them as and when they crop up.

Image: 'One Ring to Rule Them All'


Stephen Blyth said...

Since 2005 I've been using wikispaces for a variety of open community projects and closed once since. Not a single instance of virtual vandalism or unscrupulousness. Not one!

Fears can often be exaggerated, and actually mask other issues which people aren't willing to own up to. Things like a change in the balance of power.

I'm with you when you suggest letting the community addressing any problems when they crop. My motto: only fret when you need to.

Chris Woodhouse said...

Good piece Sarah. I like how the open Wiki approach has worked with both the Virtual International Day of the Midwife #VIDM and Facilitating Online #FO2011. There can be a place for restricting or denying editing access (your on ePortfolio being a good example), but in general the more restrictions there are in an environment or with a resource, the less freely it can be used (duh!) - with the inevitable consequence of less innovation, creativity and interaction. Keep up the good work!

WiseWoman said...

I loved it that, when reading the Wiki page, I could correct a couple of minor typos without having to bug you (and, knowing that you would see me as a person making a contribution to the integrity of the whole.) It just works. I've never heard of wikis outside of my association with you, Sarah. Have started one myself just so I have my hands on the gears but I mostly just hang out there all alone. :(