Biz Wiki Update

Fall quarter starts at my university in two weeks, and I think the Biz Wiki should be ready for prime time by then. I had a test run two weeks ago when I introduced the wiki to a class of business communication students. In looking at the most popular pages in the Biz Wiki, many of the resources for that particular class were in the top 25. It’s nice to see that at first glance, the Biz Wiki is being used. Usage should grow when school starts, as I generally talk to about 120 business students during the first two weeks of school. I plan on introducing the Biz Wiki in every one of my business classes.

With the Media Wiki software, usage is easy to measure, as hits are automatically counted for each page. I find the ranking of the popular pages in the wiki software particularly useful, as I will be able to measure what resources are being looked at the most. While I certainly cannot assume that the user has read all of the content of each wiki article, I can assume from the statistics that the article has at least been viewed. This was something that was not possible with my old static html subject guides. While I could measure (from server logs) how often the research guides were hit, I could not measure what the user actually read (or if they read). Now, with the wiki, I can at least see which reference books or resource listings are being viewed. Perhaps an interesting study could be done by comparing the wiki article hits to the shelf activity of business reference books. While it would be impossible to measure each reference book usage, one could measure each time a reference book was re-shelved.

The Biz Wiki currently has 63 articles and is still growing. The 63 articles are mostly about business reference books, with a few articles about business terms and research help. I am continuing to add more content as time permits, but adding content becomes more difficult as the resources become more specific. Most of the 63 articles in the Biz Wiki were obvious for me to add, because they are about the reference resources that I recommend and use the most. My old subject guides mentioned a lot of resources that, to be honest, I almost never used. So now, as I add more content to the wiki, I am being a little more discriminating about what goes in. I will also be weeding the business reference collection this summer/fall, and in doing so I should discover additional resources.

New content ideas should come pretty easily when classes start back. I find it very easy to overlook some key reference resources in the middle of the summer, as my brain has gone to sleep from the lack of reference questions. However, once the students start requesting the swot of this and the market share of that, I am sure I’ll find those resources that I forgot about and add them to the wiki. I’ll also have the opportunity to add more content to the Research How-To’s category as I encounter more business reference questions. Their questions will also help me to identify gaps in the subject coverage of the wiki. One of the real strengths of using a wiki for a research guide is that it is so easy to quickly add new content, so adding or updating things on the fly will be a breeze.

I also hope to expand the Industry Information category of the wiki to include subcategories for specific industries. This specificity may take a little more work, but I can add to it gradually. In doing so, I hope to highlight some of the more specific (and occasionally very expensive) reference works, such as Wards Automotive Yearbook and Kagan’s The Business of Baseball. This could also be a good way to highlight industry forecasts and overviews found in databases like Business Source Premier and Business & Industry.

One of the issues that I will have to deal with as usage grows is how users will edit the wiki. I will be telling students in each of my library instruction classes that they are free to add or edit content. After all, I hope the strength of the resource will grow as more users contribute. Now I don’t have any illusions that it will grow into the perfect collaborative utopia, but I do not want to be the barrier for any potential Biz Wiki user community that may develop. Naturally, some may question this idea as it could potentially be problematic. However, in the wiki’s disclaimer I mention that I will reserve the right to edit or remove any questionable content.

While there is no question that the Biz Wiki will be open to community editing, I am not so clear on how to allow editing. With the default installation of the Media Wiki software, any user can edit content whether they have a user account or not. Therefore, users could edit content anonymously, and the only identifying mark of the editor is the user’s IP address. I am wondering if it might be a good idea to limit editing to only registered users. I would not set any limits on who could register, but only require contributors to set up an account. Currently, the Wikipedia allows anonymous edits, but I imagine most of the frequent contributors have user accounts. My primary reason for limiting edits to registered users is to discourage spam and would-be vandals. Granted, any spammer or vandal could register for an account to do their dirty work, but registering requires an extra step in order for them to commit malevolent acts.

For those of you with wikis or wiki experience, what are your thoughts on limiting edit rights to registered users? Do you think it discourages spam and vandalism? Do you also think that requiring user accounts will foster or hinder the growth of a wiki community? I really would appreciate any comments or input on this issue. If you have any ideas, please feel free to use the comment form, or send me an email at cfboeninger {at} yahoo dot com. Also, I would encourage any general thoughts about wikis and their applications in libraries. Is your library doing something cool with wikis? Please share what you are doing. I am sure I (and others) could learn a great deal from the experiences of others. As fall quarter starts, I should be able observe how the Biz Wiki is used, and I’ll be sure to talk my experiences here on my blog. Stay tuned!

One thought on “Biz Wiki Update

  1. have you looked into porting usernames and passwords from the student computer accounts? I’m not entirely sure, but I imagine that the username\password is a single table in the database that you can probably add to programatically. That way your students can simply use their university login stuff on your wiki. Good luck! It seems exciting.

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