Learning from Wikis

I am continuing to add content to the Biz Wiki, although a great bulk of my three research guides is now in the wiki. In working with the wiki I am learning a great deal about how to better organize information, and I am becoming more familiar with some key business resources. On Monday the Biz Wiki taught me something else—– that there are some really evil people in the world, and fortunately, there are also some pretty spectacular people as well.

I was out of the office Monday and was without an Internet connection all weekend. On Tuesday morning I opened my inbox to discover the following email:

Was just having a quick look at your business wikipedia. Looks like a great idea, but thought I should let you know I’ve just removed a ton of porn links from the main page — looks like someone had edited it to insert them above the text. Maybe you could check it looks okay now — I wasn’t sure of the original layout.

My first response was to be very, very, miffed that some (lots of censored adjectives go here) person would have the audacity to defile the project that I had been working on. In checking the history of the wiki, I was appalled that the entire home page of the wiki had been covered in tons of spam linking to some rather vulgar site. I immediately began considering “Protecting” every single page in the wiki, so that only someone with sysop privileges could edit it. But, I took a walk, had another cup of coffee, and calmed down a bit.

My emotions then swung in the other direction. I was very grateful to the person that fixed the wiki before other visitors had to see the vandalism. Most people would have probably visited the page, saw the spam, and thought “Well, it’s not my wiki, so the creator can deal with it.” Fortunately this good neighbor saw a friend in need and lended a helping hand. I thought that this was really, really cool, as the Biz Wiki is not as public or as well known as something like Wikipedia. If someone had defaced the entry of Yo-Yo on Wikipedia, it could have the potential to be seen my thousands of people. Someone would probably feel more inclined to fix a defiled page on Wikipedia, as it has a greater potential to affect more people. However, this person knew that wikis could be edited by anyone, and fixed a problem that would probably only affect a very small audience. Very, very cool.

While this event showed me the evil and goodness of the people in the world, it also opened my eyes to the power of a wiki. Wikis can be edited by anyone, which is why some are so scared by the idea of a collaborative resource. That’s the primary criticism for Wikipedia, as people can potentially post wrong or purposely misleading information (or even links to their favorite porn sites). The other side of the coin is that there are many more wonderful good neighbors out there who understand the value in a group edited resource. They are the ones who define a wiki community, and the strength of the members determine the strength of the resource. Whether they post to a wiki anonymously or with their real names, these types of people see the value in providing good free information. They understand that good information does not necessarily have to cost thousands of dollars or come from a big name vendor, but can come from a community of people that use it. I’m still working on my wiki, and I know that the community of users may take a great deal of time to develop. But from my recent experience with my good neighbor, I am confident that there are more good people out there to help build and maintain the Biz Wiki.