Wiki’s seem to be the long lost brother of social networking. Wiki’s actually are great examples of users of the social web collaborating to create the best product possible. Besides the obvious perils of using wiki databases as credible sources of information (the way college students seem to think that wikipedia is a scholarly source). Wiki’s can also have organizational benefits. They can serve as databases and shared knowledge pools. I thought I would delve into the scholarly definitions of the wiki and the benefits they have.

Leuf and Cunningham (2001) explain that a wiki is “a freely expandable collection of interlinked web pages, a hypertext system for storing and modifying information – a database where each page is easily editable by any user with a forms-capable web browser client” (p. 14).  Thus, a wiki can be edited and updated by anyone with access.  Large sites such as Wikipedia allow global access to most wiki pages, however an internal wiki system that allows different levels of access to different organizational groups will serve to alleviate some of the inter-departmental tensions created by a decentralized organization.  A wiki system will not only create a new communication channel and knowledge base, rather open the door to new innovative collaboration techniques.

Raman (2006) posits that wikis have two distinct organizational benefits.  Wikis enhance communication by allowing project teams to communicate over a common platform.  In addition, the wiki provides a central information base with reference to important information salient to tasks, thus eliminating communication slowdown caused by incomplete information.  Wikis also support a knowledge sharing culture within an organization.  Wagner (2004) explains that wiki technology thrives on being an open system.  Anyone with access can edit any wiki page and share information with others. Davenport and Prusak (1998) posit three factors that contribute to inefficiency in knowledge markets.  A lack of centrality and incompleteness of information can impede the process through which both brokers unite buyers and sellers and ease of access and availability of information. Wikis create the centrality necessary to unite those who seek and those who have knowledge. An asymmetry of knowledge between different groups or teams may exist and may create a roadblock to efficient knowledge management and sharing.  By creating a wiki knowledge base with organizational access, any group in the organization will have the ability to access information thus limiting the asymmetry associated with poor knowledge sharing.  Lastly, localness of knowledge can hinder the ability of local groups to obtain knowledge from distant sources.  A catalogue of sources, such as a wiki, can be helpful to identify where or with whom the knowledge in the organization resides.

Beyond the organization – wikis can serve as repositories for data shared by social groups. Also, many software applications use wikis for their user manuals – especially if the software goes through many permutations and versions.  To stress the importance of wiki’s – many organizations, celebrities, and public figures devote time and effort to ensuring the validity of their wiki.

While wiki’s are not direct social networks – they are a growing source of information that is becoming increasingly relevant in our digital age.

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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