Friday, March 21, 2008

Week 2 assignment - Wikis

What is the difference between a blog and a wiki?
I see blogs as being similar to brief broadcasts sharing the latest news, current events, cool online resources and editorials similar to traditional newspapers. While organizations have blogs to share company news, individual blogs currently seem more popular for reasons I'll discuss in the second question.

Wikis are web-based collections of bigger information resources than those usually found in blogs, organized in pages of themes or subject areas, and are easily edited by the members of the wiki while logging a history of when and by whom updates are made. Wikis often have a common theme that is still relatively comprehensive, such as a subject guide on teaching evidence-based medicine or company policies and procedures.

What sort of things might be better suited for a blog and better suited for a wiki?
Blogs are best for news and current awareness updates covering a variety of subjects without needing a static, long-term reference guide to the information in them. Much in the same way epidemiologists track occurrences of disease in regions and populations, if similar information is popping up in multiple blogs within a certain timeframe it may indicate data or a pattern that should be paid attention to... but usually without the negative consequences of morbidity & mortality!

While it is possible for blogs to have more than one author, each person usually has a distinct writing style. In the case of a company blog conveying product or services information beyond brief news updates it can be a challenge to have a unified 'blog voice' which may lead to confusion for customers. I have not seen many successful group blogs that discuss or analyze issues in depth, but would love to see them if you know of some.

Wikis are great resources for building and maintaining collaborative reference guides and/or the development & production of group projects. It is wise to put as much time and consideration in planning and creating a wiki as any other database or catalog system. Just because we have the ability to create a free quickie wiki with preformatted templates that everyone can quickly edit does not mean it's the best option!

A few things to consider with initial setup include: What information will it hold? How will the information be organized in it? Does everyone agree on the wiki's purpose and to contribute appropriate information for it? Will the wiki be public (internet) or private (intranet/secure internet access)? Are certain group members in charge of the initial layout & design with the understanding that they do not have to carry the full load of information input? This only scratches the surface and doesn't get into the murky waters of wiki upkeep and maintenance.