Sunday, August 22, 2004

Quick: What's a Wiki?

The number of library-related blogs is growing rapidly, as practitioners explore their usefulness in the profession and for their patrons. A related technology, the "wiki" has gained national prominence because of a July 29, 2004 article in the Wall Street Journal: "'Wiki' May Alter How Employees Work Together" [Premium Content].

A "wiki" is a computer's answer to Stone Soup: users build content collaboratively and entries are corrected, expanded and "riffed" upon to grow the wiki's content base organically. A well-known example of a wiki is the Wikipedia, the "free encyclopedia."

A fine introduction to all things wiki can be found in Searcher magazine:

Quickiwiki, Swiki, Twiki, Zwiki and the Plone Wars, by David Mattison, Searcher, Vol. 11, No. 4, April 2003.

The article provides explanations of the technology, a glossary, and lots of links.

While the wiki may not be the ideal mechanism for a patron's scholarly research, it may be quite useful in building students' collective understanding of a topic, in sharing professional information and insight about a particular topic, or in expressing the accumulated thoughts of a work group on a given project. The wiki may be worthy of librarians' careful consideration.