Creating your own Wikipedia is not at all difficult. It does not matter if you want it to concentrate on a specific theme, or if you want to create a wiki for your town or company; the basic considerations are very similar at the start. Here are some tips on what to take into account when you create a wiki. As it needs “green fingers” and a suitable environment. Although one only has a limited impact on group processes as an individual fan of wikis, there are a few elementary basic rules which will help.
Wikis need “missions”
Consider in advance what you want to achieve with your wiki. Is there a large enough target audience who are sufficiently interested? This is important, as you will need to find engaged authors who will fill the wiki with content and keep it alive. The “wiki effect” can only occur when the system is integrated into a larger overall context. This means that the wiki needs to help to solve pressing problems in a group or be a medium for constructive processes of change.
Wikis demand a great deal from those involved: They need to formulate their thoughts, independently develop organisational systems, create rules and keep to them. For this reason, wikis are only used when they cover a need and one can detect a practical use for the user. This can be a reduction in the daily routine work, particularly in businesses and other organisations. Alternatively it can be the simplification and acceleration of working procedures. It may also, however, be recognition from your colleagues or the creation of a collaborative working atmosphere. Wikis help, for example, to reduce the volume of circular mails. This leaves more time to concentrate on the more involved questions. The prime example, Wikipedia, owes its success not least to the circumstances surrounding it: Before Wikipedia, search engines did not really give a truly central starting point for internet research.
In public wikis, the relevance is often due to the importance of a theme of a (large) number of interested parties. Thus, for example, the Frankenwiki is a wiki which primarily appeals to residents of the Franconia. If there are enough authors within this group to create good content, then the wiki can aim for a wide impact and, for example, be valuable for tourists.
Do not aim straight away to be Wikipedia
Make realistic estimates of the probable scale of the wiki project. There is a difference if the wiki is a medium for a team or a small group, or whether it is for a larger group with somewhere over about 30 members. For the latter, it is no longer possible for everyone to communicate with everyone else directly. Small groups form, just like in other public spaces – like a Vienna coffee house, where you sit privately but can also be seen. This means, for the wiki, that an individual can no longer take care of the whole project. This also means, however, that for small groups, for example, because of the small number of participants, spelling mistakes may not be corrected and perhaps moderators will be needed.
An empty wiki stays an empty wiki
Even where a system ensures full freedom, a wiki should display a structure in advance for the contents. This can be done by creating templates, for example. You make things much easier for the future wiki authors, if you organise the site roughly in advance. Also, create some example articles. Seeding a wiki means creating a picture of how the texts can be written and setting up an initial organisational structure which can then be developed. Introductory workshops can accelerate the important explanatory processes, at least for a core group in the wiki.
In public wikis, which tend to be set up more anonymously, it is a good idea to provide, for example, introductory videos or webinars (e.g. GoogleHangouts), in order to answer questions and explain procedures.
…keep it simple
This point concerns both instructions on procedures and also the necessity to agree on certain basic rules. This is very sensible.
Too many technical features, regulations and categorisations can choke off the creativity which should unfold in a wiki. Also user friendliness is important here, and simple usability of the wiki software is essential. User friendliness functions are the prerequisite for animating the users, giving them the enthusiasm to write. This involves, amongst other things, a visual editor (WYSIWYG) so that the users can write without using wiki code, NS good search function so that contents can be found again easily.
Enable engaging and lively contents
It does not matter if it is a company wiki or a public one, the more the wiki engages the users, the more motivation will be generated. This applies for the design, which should be clear and uncongested and support the usability. However, it also applied to the contents. You need to make sure that pictures can be uploaded and inserted into articles as easily as possible. The wiki should also be able to be readily integrated with online services such as Google Maps, GPSies, (Youtube) videos and audio files.
Such functions make the contents more useful, particularly for town and region wikis. In general, you can also consider integrating your wiki into Facebook, the blog software WordPress, or many other options.
Let it grow
Trust is important in the “social web”. Nothing will work in a wiki without confidence and trust. If someone wants to keep complete control over the process, they are more likely to suffocate it. The responsibility for the process lies with the participants. Wikis open up a certain level of freedom to organise work processes in a sensible way yourself, away from rigid regulations. If a group process requires a majority of workers because they are to take on the conceptual work, then they will only do this if they have a clear prospect of implementation. And: If they are really involved and have control over the process.
This is similar for public wikis: the committed users sacrifice a large part of their free time. This should be appreciated, among other ways by allowing them to have a say. Other possible ways of showing the value you place on their contributions should be considered, in order to keep the levels of motivation high.
Technology – choosing the right system
Once you are clear about your basic structures, then you should scrutinise your technology. The various wiki systems differ significantly in their capabilities and extendibility. Do you have the right environment, a site host or will you place your wiki in the cloud? Furthermore, features and connections play an important role. The wiki should be pleasant to work with and clearly designed, and users should ideally find their feet in the system by themselves quickly and easily. When you chose your wiki software, take note of whether there is a comprehensive, publicly available help desk. Find out about how suitable it is for your users, but also for your administrators.
It is best to get a group together to think out your objectives and how they are to be realised. Involving more people will give you more points of view and so you will be able to avoid the pitfalls more easily. Look around for wikis which fit your requirements.
We recommend the Wikipedia software “MediaWiki” due to its worldwide acceptance and to it having the largest community of developers. If you want to “spruce up” the system, should certainly take a look at the free wiki “BlueSpice free“.
How to create a wiki easily and cast-effective? Try BlueSpice in the Amazon Cloud (Amazon Web Services), and you can start it up in just a few steps.
When it comes to the conception and introduction of wikis, it is often not as trivial as is might first seem. So talk to experts like us at (Hallo Welt! – Medienwerkstatt GmbH), who have years of experience with wiki projects, for example about our conception workshops and training courses.
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