Monthly Archives: March 2009

Making Wikis Work for You

Okay, so Wikis aren’t new technology. In fact, Wikipedia, the largest Wiki in the world is probably fairly familiar to you. But do you know how to make a useful Wiki? Let’s take a closer look to see if a Wiki can make you more productive.

First take a look at this video from Common Craft that explains in limited detail just what a Wiki does.

 

Got it? Good. Now lets discuss some good and not so good ways to use Wikis.

Imagine this scenario: You are putting together a presentation that involves several areas of expertise. The members of your group possess these individual skills but no single person possesses them all. To take it a step further, suppose that the six members of your group are located throughout the world.

This is a big problem. Communication alone can be painfully inefficient, much less collaboration. But with a Wiki this problem becomes an opportunity. Person A can begin by constructing the portion of the presentation that he/she is most familiar with, then Person B, and so on. And throughout the process, members of the group can view the document as it is being edited by different members to make sure that it is still in line with the overall goal. The end result is a final product that is the collaboration of each member of the group, all without so much as a conference call.

Now you probably got that much from the video, so lets look at some ways that a Wiki would seem like a great idea, but could probably cause more trouble than its worth.

Wikis really aren’t great for brainstorming. While it is true that most, if not all, Wiki services provide a message board element to the home site, there really has to be a well established final product in mind before using a Wiki becomes practical. Also, its important that each member of the group knows their specific job or role, as it relates the the overall goal. (For obvious reasons)

One more point that might not be so obvious. Wikis are great for smaller, more manageable groups, but are they really practical for a group of say, 400? Imagine the organization needed to ensure the appropriate people were working on the appropriate elements, it could be daunting if not impossible.

Overall, Wikis are great for project based collaborations with smaller groups. They eliminate the constraints of location and timing, and really allow for a more efficient way to collaborate then even in-office collaboration. 

Some sites that provide free Wiki hosting:

Wikidot

pbwiki

WetPaint

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Why Ning Might Outlast Us All

When I think about it, my social media experience began quite young. I wasn’t even a licensed driver when Xanga became a must have for myself and my peers. What I remember of it was great. I knew when Jessica was having a bad day, when Michael was listening to a new CD (remember those?), and when Laura broke up with David (he was a jerk). And while Xanga was great, where is it now? Well it still exists, and still has members, maybe not a thriving membership base, but hey, E for effort. 

My point is, social networking sites have shelf lives. Myspace was hot. It had its time to shine, and now, I challenge you to find someone who uses it as their “home plate” for social media. And while Facebook may be most peoples “home plate,” it has come dangerously close to removing itself from that roll on several occasions. (Recall the uproar over the news feed, and most recently when they tried owning our information indefinitely?)

Enter Ning.com. This site allows you to create your own social media site based around a concept, a cause or an organization. You can make it as exclusive or inclusive as you want, and with minimal time investment, you can produce a site that looks absolutely professional. Ning.com allows you to do everything your normal home plate for social media does, only it puts the reigns in your hands.

Recently in my social media class we were charged with creating our own Ning.com site that would be available to the community in and around the Oklahoma State University School of Journalism and Broadcasting. With a small amount of fumbling, we were completely in business in under and hour. Skeptical? Here it is, the very site we created that day, still thriving.

Ning.com is a great tool, but its just that, a tool. With any website, content is king. Ning.com wont make your site the next Facebook, but with some strategic moves, and good development, you’re gonna be shocked what Ning.com provides.

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