UCISA WLF / UKOLN Workshop: Beyond Email - Annotation of discussion group on Wikis page

This page provides a local copy of the annotation of the annotations of the discussion on "Wikis". This copy was taken on 23 November 2004. The copy was made in case the main page is deleted, the service becomes unavailable or the content is overwritten.

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Please use this page for notes on the discussion group on Wikis.


Seems a bit recursive, but here we go... For a start - what is a 'Wiki'. Not necessarily widely known at the moment. Perhaps can be described as 'read/write' web pages. Good for collaborative working.

They can be open, or open to a restricted group.

Where it is restricted - who is making the decisions - doesn't this take away the 'democratic' nature of wikis?

How can Wikis be used? An example given on the use of a wiki for system admin documentation. Makes it indexed, searchable as well.

It has been pointed out that where there is a 'right' answer, it is much simpler. In cases where there is debate (e.g. Middle East section of wikipedia), it can become a 'flame war'

How do wikis relate to discussion forum? Perhaps it has to be used within a group of people who want to reach a consensus document.

So much more for 'publication' rather than discussion. But there is quite a bit of confusion about what a wiki is. They seem to vary quite a bit. There is a definite difference between 'discussion boards' and 'wikis' - but not sure how well we understand this yet?

The usefulness of a 'deadline' for publication seems to be a popular one - perhaps especially for a small student group, doing a piece of collaborative work.

Perhaps one approach would be to look at existing information on the web to see what could be wiki-fied.

Is there a use for them in a 'student handbook'?

Perhaps the problems are all social, not technical. How do you stop someone sabotaging a wiki?

How successful can an 'institutional' wiki be? If it isn't 'owned' by the people contributing, possibly it can't be successful?

In terms of collaboration - it requires a lot of trust. Would a typical student group, put together for an assignment, trust each other enought to publish via a wiki?

It sounds as if even the most often quoted wiki - wikipedia - has somekind of editorial control. Perhaps this is inevitable?

An interesting point is about Content Management. A wiki is just content management at a technical level. But perhaps there is something perhaps philosophical about a wiki - something about the collaborative nature of this type of publication?

There is a definite need for an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) - but not clear how it is enforced or controlled. Many institutions have AUPs as they already allow the publication of personal web pages

I think that the original idea of a wiki was that you could easily link documents by typing a word in CamelCase - but this seems to have really gone out of the window now. There certainly seems to be a feeling that wikis are pretty ill-defined, but that the 'democratic' aspect is important.

Green Group Discussion on Wikis


Does anyone have any experience of using Wikis?

Use has tended to be in research/support environments. Has there been much experience of use within teaching and learning?

Not in this group. Can see the opportunities e.g. virtual group study rooms. Perhaps it is going on and we don't know about it. Perhaps this is an area we should explore much more.

Possible Uses?

Could be used for virtual group study rooms.

Considering it for academic timetabling for students.

Research Groups and Shared Resources

User Support and Documentation

Possible Limitations?

Wiki's can have own markup language. Unless you are using it on a regular basis it is hard to remember how you posted the last item. More benefit from regular use. Because of the user interface is quite restricted to IT literate staff.

Information Architecture and structure. If something is growing organically, how to you control the usability. W3C have a notion that a "Wiki needs a gardener". Users put content in but useful to have someone responsible for shaping the structure of it.


Wiki's are good for collaboration, brainstorming, quick capturing of information for specific purposes.

On the threshold of being useful in other areas such as teaching and learning but at the moment seems quite overwhelming in the variety of offerings and usability even to IT staff.


Not entirely clear what a Wiki is? For example is Sharepoint like a Wiki? It is used for collaborative projects where you can share documents and have discussion.

Simple definition is a web page you can write to. A communal notebook Anyone can put content there. If it is rubbish then it tends to correct corrected. Fear is that content will get rubbished. In practice that doesn't seem to happen. There are now directory structures in a Wiki, just linked pages.

How do Wiki's relate to other technologies? e.b. blogging, CMS

Some experience that content is "locked up" within the Wiki and can't be as easily reused.

The media is very internal. Presentation isn't that sophisticated. Good for easily getting entry in, are there tools for publishing sections more formally. Some wiki tools allow you to export content. Some Wikis have RSS feeds which will allow content reuse.

What approaches to selection and deployment do you envisage?

Another institution has tried 6 different varieties. currently using 4 whilst try to find one that meets all needs. Some are better at easily producing content but they don't have such good access control. Don't want to restrict anyone but do want to know who is saying things.

Some easy to set up, some cryptic. The better ones are often more cryptic. Main difference is in how they look which is the least significant area of functionality. some of them do require knowledge of a different markup language. Some are WYSIWYG and therefore easy to use. Some allow you to specifiy access control lists, one allows links to external logins but that proved to be poor on content management. There is a growing proliferation of Wiki's and difficult to use. Best way to pick one will be find a site you like and use that engine.

AUP and Training?

Unacceptable use is more public than in other areas for a certain amount of time until that is changed by another user.

Data protection. Easy for information to creep in that shouldn't.

Has an anarchic element to it so it may be quite difficult to define acceptable use due to the nature of it. Without being able to track users how can you apply an AUP. There may be difficulties where there is a difference of opinion over what is right which is harder to set policy on than something that is overtly offensive.

Quite a lot of wikis have a discussion page associated with the public page so lots of the fighting can go on 'behind the scenes'.

This could be a valuable thing to watch for. More changes may indicate the hot areas for debate.

For institutions there may be concerns about the image they present. There is nothing to stop users setting up semi-offical wikis.

Should we be promoting/providing Wikis?

Yes. There could be real benefit and exciting possibilities in every area of institutional activities: teaching&learning, research, administration and user support. We need to get in there first and understand what users need and what they might do. We also need first make better use of wikis ourselves so we can full understand them and consider how we can then deploy them in an easy to use and manageable service.

AlisonPope (UCISA)