WikiWikiWhat? (Chapter 8)

Posted on July 9, 2011


My experience with wikis has been pretty limited to this point.  During a recent grad school class discussion, the topic of Wikipedia came up.  Most of us admitted that we use Wikipedia when trying to find an answer about something online, but we wouldn’t cite it as a source in a paper or article.  Google just about anything and one of the first few results will be a Wikipedia page.  Although I’ve never found factually inaccurate information, I’ve never completely trusted the open-edit format of Wikipedia.  Would you use Wikipedia as an official source?

I was challenged in my thinking, though, when I read the book, Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky.  Shirky describes how quickly inaccurate articles are edited and corrected in Wikipedia.  According to Shirky, “Researchers at IBM who study Wikipedia have documented a number of contentious articles on subjects like abortion and Islam where complete deletions of the articles’ contents have been restored in less than two minutes. (Shirky, 137)”  The more people care about an article, the more likely it is to be read, and the more likely it is that people will correct errors.  I still may not quote Wikipedia in my thesis paper, but I have a little more faith in the process.

Using wikis for business purposes seems GENIUS.  What a great way for people to share information with colleagues about company-specific topics.  I was also intrigued by the use of MyGads.  My husband is coaching our son’s baseball team this summer and I’ve been coordinating snacks for the games.  I was so impressed by MyGads that I went straight to their website to start my own MyGads page for the team.  I left feeling completely inept.  I couldn’t even sign up.  I watched the tutorial, though, and I’m even more convinced that this is a website I would definitely find useful.  If only I could get past the first step…

WikiHow was another website that I knew little about before reading Safko’s book.  A quick perusal led me to the page on how to make people think you are immortal (  Perhaps not the most useful information, but entertaining for sure.  One of Safko’s two commandments for wikis was to experiment with editing wiki articles.  This idea is a little intimidating.  Although I claim to always be right, I’m not sure I feel like I have enough expertise in any one area to correct the world-wide web.  My expertise certainly isn’t in pretending to be immortal, so a little more time on WikiHow or other wikis is required.