Would you wiki?

Did you know…? Oh, you did?

It seems that Brexit has not sorted itself out over the Christmas break, so I’m still deep in people asking me to give my views (despite last week’s hopes). But I’m going to try to build some synergies with my L&T by using some new approaches to it all.

This week, I’m trying to get back into wikis. As you doubtless know – not least from your TurnItIn reports – wikis are webpages that can be edited and refreshed by multiple people. They are a good way of getting near-simultaneous input into building a collective output, coupled to clear tracking of who’s done what and when. As wikipedia regularly demonstrates, the results can be very impressive. We’ve used them before for our students, but never with a public audience.

Of course, there are challenges. Firstly, you need enough people inputting to make the exercise worthwhile: think of your jointly-authored journal article and whether that would have been any easier/pleasant if written on a wiki (hint: it wouldn’t, and someone would have been shamed by their contribution). Secondly, you need to keep watch to prevent willful destruction of the content, even if ‘restore text’ functions usually resolve any problems that do arise. Finally, you need the tech base to run it all.

And it’s the last of these that is currently most testing for me.

My plan is to run a wiki to draft an actual text of the agreement between the UK and the EU about the former leaving the latter. Given the many political and legal uncertainties involved, a wiki is a great option, because we can write text and provide explanations (and alternatives), with each new contribution adding more to the whole.

However, if you’re trying to do that on a zero budget (hi there, everyone), then options are a bit limited. Right now, I’m working with both wikidots and wikispaces to set up templates for sites, but I’m hampered by not knowing how many people are likely to get involved (a small number, if I’m realistic) nor how big a site we’ll get to build (potentially quite large).

As has so often been the leitmotif of my L&T practice, there’s not really anything to be done but to plunge in to trying things out and seeing what works. Obviously, in this case I’d really like to get the platform right first time, because I’d lose most contributors if we had to switch.

So let’s consider this my new year’s challenge. If you’ve got suggestions or ideas, then I am very much up for hearing them.