Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wiki watch-out

I recently read about the Talk is Cheap social media 'unconference' for PR/communications practitioners, planned by Gary Schlee. It's sounds like a great event, with the potential for lots of engaging face-to-face conversations. I'm looking forward to it.


The only thing is you need to sign up by Wiki.

Now in theory, I'm a fan of this application. I like the interactivity. I frequently refer to Wikipedia when I'm doing research. I wanted to learn more so I attended a Wiki session at the last Mesh conference. Unfortunately, as someone who has a limited knowledge of HTML, I found the presentation virtually incomprehensible.

I'm also a little perturbed that virtually anyone can rewrite a Wiki, sometimes making it better, though often making it worse.

Then there's the matter of the way a Wiki records any changes that are made. So, for example, if you (or I) do go in there to add your (or my) deep thoughts to an entry and say, make a typo (or worse, a fairly substantial error) well, anyone who visits can find out it's you.

That seems like an undue amount of pressure to be placed on an individual who just wants to sign up for an event. Who with no harm intended happens to screw up the registration list, realizes what he's done, goes back to fix it, puts his name on the list, doesn't realize it's been removed, gets a couple of emails highlighting his innocent shenanigans for all and sundry who happened to sign up for updates, calls the organizer to apologize for the mess, explains that he did not intentionally take his name off the list and finally manages to get himself registered without disturbing the delicate balance.

OK, I admit it: that was me!

My point is, I think Wikis should have an administrator/editor (this can be a team) who vets any changes to said Wiki before making them public. To minimize dumb mistakes but keep the ideas flowing. I realize this will slow down the process. But hey, a little reflection never hurt anyone.

Anyway, I'm planning to attend Talk is Cheap. And if you see me there, I'd be happy to continue this conversation.

2 comments:

Gary Schlee said...

Great post, Martin. And thanks for signing up for Talk Is Cheap, as fraught with danger as the exercise might be. :-)

It's true there are risks to using such an open collaborative space. For Talk Is Cheap, we're sensitive to the fact that someone could inadvertantly wipe away a lot of info on the site. To help offset that, we're regularly backing up the data on each page so that we can recreate that content if necessary. Ultimately, we feel the ability to interact with the site--to sign up or volunteer to do a presentation--trumps the dangers of little security.

But here's the rub: Talk Is Cheap is primarily targeted to PR folks wanting to learn more about social media. If they're not already in this space, how keen will they be to actually edit the page in order to register? We've given them the option of emailing us so we can do it for them, but it is a concern.

Parker said...

Martin -

I'm a huge advocate of wikis ever since I started using one at work a few months ago.
I like the fact that so much responsibility is put on each person as they use the wiki, but haven't given much thought to the idea of an administrator. Hopefully, we can have some friendly conversation about the ups and downs at Talk is Cheap.
See you there.