Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Group participation - the power of wikis

I did my daily check of bloglines to see that several blogs have been exploring the themes of group participation and the power of social networking. In contrast, I have been involved in several activities at work that revolve around the use of technology to open up the forum to a staff which have had very little interaction. Although the little that has taken place has been of a high quality.

To start with, Tony Karrer’s blog reported on these books which evangelise the possibilities for the use of technology to network. These are Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowds, Tapscott’s Wikinomics, and Libert & Spector’s We Are Smarter Than Me. All good reads with a multitude of examples from industry, academia and the community of how social networks open up a myriad of opportunities for the average person to contribute, discuss, learn and disseminate ideas, information and philosophies. Derek Wenmouth’s blog provided news that the hallmark encyclopaedia Britannica is now also using the wiki concept to update the encyclopaedia. What will be next?

Last weekend, I read the book Wikipatterns by Stewart Mader which offers advise on how to set up a wiki community. A good practical book that puts into practice the ideas proposed in the other three books above. A website from which the book was constructed models the concepts described in the book. Of particular relevance to me was his analysis of ‘people and adoption’ patterns that help make a wiki community vibrant, organic and significant. On the reverse side, the ‘anti-people and anti-adoption’ patterns were also detailed. I will need to study the book more deeply this weekend to see why our staff forums (both CPIT wide & school based) have so few participants and report back next week on whether the wikipatterns proposed apply to the context at CPIT.

1 comment:

Stewart Mader said...

Hi Selena,
Great post & thanks for mentioning my book!

Regarding the small number of people participating in your online communities, this may be partly due to the fact that many others simply don't know about the communities, haven't paid attention to earlier announcements you've sent, etc.

So, I'd suggest you start by assessing how you've let people know that the communities are available. That small group that's already using the forums may be your key to building the community - are they telling their friends? Have you suggested that they tell their friends/colleagues/classmates and encourage them to use it too?

Just raising awareness of your online community, wiki, etc. is an ongoing task and something that will keep the community growing steadily. Also, keep in mind that a rapid buildup of the community can actually be detrimental to its success, since it creates scaling problems all around - for people supporting the software, training new users, and for the community members themselves.

As the community grows larger, it's necessary for it to go through a stepped, phased progression where periods of growth are followed by periods where peoples' roles & places in the community establish themselves based on how those people participate. That's why it's ok to push the growth for a bit, then pause a bit so people can get to know each other.

Good luck, and let me know if there's anything I can do to help!