Wiki as Online Roladex

After speaking about wikis at Computers in Libraries, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of people about potential uses for wikis. One idea that came out of those conversations really struck me as potentially an excellent use of a wiki. On two separate occassions, two different public librarians asked me if I thought a wiki would be good application to replace a database of local contact information. I think this is a great idea! Imagine if librarians or community members add content for county officials, doctors, libraries, schools, etc, for the community. Each wiki article for the contact or name could contain a great deal more information than just name, phone, and address. Perhaps pictures of the location of a business, or a link to Mapquest, or an in-depth description of services rendered could be included. With many wiki software clients, it is very easy to generate an A to Z list of the articles (in this case, names and contacts), and you could search this virtual roladex wiki by keyword. Contacts and names could also be placed into various categories for easy browsing, sort of like using the yellow pages. Just think of the opportunities for community outreach and community building that this type of wiki could create.

Technorati Tag: CIL 2006

Temporary (I hope) Biz Wiki Outage

As I mentioned during my presentation this morning, our library completing our website overhaul this week.   The change happened this evening some time, and it appears that the Biz Wiki is temporarily out of commission.   So, if you’re trying to get to the Biz Wiki, you may get a message that says, ” Sorry for the inconvenience, the page was not found. Due to revisions of our web site the page may have moved or renamed.”

I’ll look into this further in the morning, but in the meantime, you can get to the Biz Wiki via the IP address of the old library server by following this link.   I may have to work off of the old server if things don’t get fixed by tomorrow afternoon.

Wiki World Presentation

I attended Meredith’s Wiki World presentation yesterday, and I must say that it was a good show indeed. She presented information very clearly, and I am sure that all of the 120 attendees learned a great deal about the topic. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the attendees downloaded wiki software   immediately following the presentation, or quickly ran to their systems folks shouting, “We have got to do this!” Meredith did a great job of explaining the ins and outs of wikis, and she was quite the evangelist for using wikis in a number of library settings.

For those that missed the OPAL presentation, Meredith’s notes can be found on the LibSuccess wiki, and the Playback from the presentation can be found in the OPAL archives.

The Place to Be this Thursday

You want to know about wikis? Hear it from the Wiki Woman herself, Meredith Farkas in this OPAL event:

Thursday, January 12, 2006 beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 2:00 Central, 1:00 Mountain, noon Pacific, and 8:00 p.m. GMT:
Wiki World: An Introduction
Wikis are democratizing the World Wide Web in a way that no other Web application has. A wiki allows a group of people to collaboratively develop website with no knowledge of HTML or other markup languages. Any member of the wiki community can add to or edit anyone else’s content, which is what makes Wikis so revolutionary and so controversial. Wikis are being used by librarians as knowledge repositories, subject guides, conference planning vehicles, and Intranets, but they could be used in any situation where quick and easy online collaboration is a goal. This session will explain what wikis are, how they could be used in libraries, and what to consider before creating one of your own. Presented by Meredith Farkas, Distance Learning Librarian at the Kreitzberg Library atNorwich University in Vermont. Meredith is the author of the blog Information Wants To Be Free and the creator and administrator of the ALA Chicago 2005 Wiki and Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. Sponsored by the Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center.
This OPAL event will be held in the Auditorium.

I got many of my ideas about the Biz Wiki by reading Meredith’s blog. She’s full of knowledge and loves to share, so if this topic is of interest to you, join the free presentation. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Another Fine Library Wiki

Michael blogs about SJCPL’s new wiki:

Our Reference Librarians and Web Developer are hard at work on this new project! And let me be the first to say they are making great strides to move SJCPL toward Library 2.0! What you’ll find is librarian created subject pages in the grand tradition of Kansas City PL via a Mediawiki installation. All of the staff have been trained and are creating pages in their areas of interest and expertise.

Cruise on over and take a look at the wiki. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for what they are doing. Thus far, it looks to be a really great use for a wiki, and they’ve got quite a few users adding content.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

This post was prompted by an email from a business librarian at another institution, who was inquiring about my use of both a blog and a wiki to disseminate library information. In the email, the librarian asked:

Are people actually reading? No offense 🙂 I find that often librarians’ efforts in distributing information is in vain or not fully appreciated. I notice that your blog [in this case, referring to my Business Blog] has 16 subscriptions via Bloglines so there is a steady readership. However, how are the students responding to this service?

I can assure you that no offense was taken, but I believe the question gets to the heart of one of the primary reasons people have for fearing the use of new technologies. That is, what if you build it, and no one comes? Using newer technologies like this are often a risk, because you never know if anyone will use a resource or service until you build it. And unfortunately, it can take some time and effort to put something together. Imagine choosing software, training staff, getting staff buy-in, marketing a service, or spending lots of money, etc., only to find that no one really cares about the service/technology, and no one uses it. The possibility of failure is extremely intimidating, but we have to face those challenges (and deal with those failures) if libraries are going to continue to thrive in the future. The beauty of the biblioblogosphere is that you can find inspiration, or avoid potential pitfalls, by learning from others.

In my case, I’ve taken a couple of risks with using blogs and wikis to disseminate library information. For me, the risks that I faced were mostly my time, effort, and pride. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn how to set up a wiki or blog, customize it to your liking, and then add (and continue to add) content. And, if I developed these (what I thought were) really cool resources and no one used them, well, I’d have to swallow my pride and start something else.

Fortunately, my risks are paying off thus far. I’ve been very pleased that the Business Blog and the Biz Wiki have both been used extensively. While I wish the Blog had more subscribers to the RSS feed, I am finding that RSS usage has not yet taken off on our campus. In fact, I imagine most of the 16 subscribers to the Business Blog are librarians from other libraries, not students/faculty at my university. I am working on that though by trying to promote RSS through workshops and other means.

It appears that most users are accessing the Business Blog and the Biz Wiki through a traditional web browser. We have the ability to measure click-through statistics through our InfoTree, which is where most students would access the resources. Last year, the Business Blog was accessed through InfoTree 2265 times. And since the Biz Wiki went live in August, it has been accessed 1193 times through InfoTree. Our InfoTree currently has 3113 records of databases, websites, subject guides, search engines, etc, all organized by subject area. This past quarter (Sept 5-Nov 20), the Biz Wiki was the number 25 most-used resource in InfoTree with 1065 click-throughs. The Business Blog, during the same time period, was the number 53 most-used resource in InfoTree with 497 click-throughs.

Because of the Biz Wiki, I believe the usage of the Business Blog will decrease to a certain extent. Before the Biz Wiki, I used the Business Blog more as an on-the-fly research guide. That is, as business students had questions about their projects, I would post things about finding resources for their projects. I still do that to a certain extent, but the Business Blog is now transitioning more into covering current awareness about business topics, promoting business resources, etc. The Biz Wiki is a little more broad in subject coverage, as it is replacing my traditional html research guides, but with a little more content. I believe students will go to the Biz Wiki before the Business Blog when they’re looking for the best business resources for their topics.

I think we all at one time or another think that our efforts are never “fully appreciated” . But the way I figure, that can be the case in almost everything that we might do in life. Efforts in trying new things may be in vain, but I believe that if you are really passionate about something, your users will find out about the resource and start using it. I’m lucky in that I get to talk to about 500 business students each quarter in library instruction sessions, so the blog and the wiki are the last things I show them in class. The blog and the wiki are also the easiest place to find my contact information, so if I show them this last, hopefully they’re more likely to remember that the Business Blog and Biz Wiki are resources that can help them with their work. I’ve also been very fortunate to have a great deal of buy-in from my colleagues. They are very good at referring business students to the blog and wiki, and they use the resources themselves when helping students find answers to business questions. I try to get as much feedback from my colleagues as possible about both the Business Blog and the Biz Wiki, as they use the resources and also see how others use them. Probably one of the best features of both blogs and wikis is the ability to edit and change things. In other words, if something is not working as intended, you can change things very easily.

When I first built the Business Blog, I had lofty dreams that students would be posting comments to my blog posts left and right. I thought that each post about a project or resource would be a great discussion medium. I’ve been disappointed in this area, as the only comments I’ve received were either from spam or other librarians. I first thought that this might be the result of a false perception that students shouldn’t comment on “Chad’s Blog” for fear of me or others thinking they were “altering” or “tampering” with the content of “My Blog.” I am now more inclined to think that most virtual discussion about research and class projects is taking place over email, IM, and in courseware discussion boards (like Blackboard or WebCT). As far as the Biz Wiki goes, I have had a few users fix my typographical errors, but that’s about it. And I’ve got no way of knowing if those users were students or not. The Biz Wiki is basically brand new, but I imagine it will follow the same trends as the Business Blog with very few (if any) comments or edits coming from the user community. And you know, I’m okay with that. The users are going to use it however they want to meet their needs. It’s not my job to tell them how to use it. It is my job to keep updating and adding content that is appropriate and pertinent to their courses and class projects. That requires a lot of work, but I know that if I don’t keep up with it, my efforts truly will be in vain.

Settling an Argument Over Wikipedia

One of my colleagues forwarded me this email from her son in college. She had sent this around to the rest of our reference department as well, hoping to get answers from our staff. Her son writes:

Hey Mom, I’ve got a kinda silly reference librarian question for you concerning the validity and accuracy of an online information source. You see, my roomate staunchly vouches for the accuracy of information on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. His argument is that because of its large base of writers, and the enormous amount of information that those writers have, coupled with the fact that many of the writers watch after certain posts making sure that they update and protect the information that they are interested in, the information is as accurate and complete as any other legitimate, peer reviewed, edited online/printed source of information. My argument is that because Wikipedia is open to all persons that want to post, and that the majority of those that post are not experts in their field, coupled with the fact that there is no universal editor for the site, makes all of the information on the site, from trivial details about someone’s favorite band, to biological information about mice, suspect. I don’t necessarily mean in papers that we write for college, its obvious that I couldn’t use Wikipedia information for such purposes, however, I was telling Nick that I suspect the information on the site to the extent that I would be worried about citing facts/information in common conversation. You don’t have to answer in a wordy fashion, I was just wondering whether or not Wikipedia was potentially a reliable source of information for non-academic situations.

What do you think? If you have any input, please use the comment form. I promise to forward all opinions to my colleague’s son.

A Wiki for 6 Strings

I was looking for some *cough* free *cough* guitar tabulature for a particular song that our church praise band is playing on Sunday. I checked out the usual guitar tabulature sites, and then discovered The Tab Wiki. After poking around a bit, I was pleased to see that there were a few songs from The Man in Black. From the statistics page, there appears to be about 700 pages in the wiki, and 1124 registerd users.

The Tab Wiki is another example of how easy it easy to organize information with a wiki. In this case, songs are organized by genre, song title, and skill level. There is even a section devoted entirely to acoustic guitar, which is unique, as most other guitar sites don’t distinguish between electric and acoustic guitar styles. Another really cool thing about this wiki is that it gives very detailed instructions on how to add content.

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