You are here

The JOMA Developers' Area Wiki - Considerations in Choosing a Wiki

Daniel H. Steinberg

You have lots of choices when you decide to set up your web site. Why would you choose to set up a wiki? Wikis allow a great deal of interactivity. So do newsgroups and bulletin boards, but these are both organized by time and by topic. You need to know when an item was posted to a newsgroup or you might never find it. You need to look back through a bulletin board to follow a thread. With a wiki, the links are by topic. All of the items that belong on the same page tend to be co-located or can easily be linked. You, or any user, can add links or summarize a page and make it more navigable. In the classroom example above, the first week's assignment page soon grew out of hand. It took a couple of minutes to group all of the posts that had to do with the actual assignment and move them to another page, then to do the same with other identifiable sub-threads. Suddenly the site was more usable. In programming, this practice is known as refactoring.

Before you host a wiki, you've got to make sure that you can "let go." The content may start out being yours, but it can change over time. This is similar to open-sourcing your software. The choices made by the community may not be the same ones that you might have made. From time to time you may have to deal with the occasional badly behaved visitor. People don't have to sign their posts, so it's often not clear who contributed an entry. Anonymity can encourage contributions from community members who would ordinarily be reluctant to participate. Resist your temptation to log and lock everything. The spirit of the wiki is what makes it work.

Finally, before hosting your own wiki, participate in an existing one and see if you like it. We welcome your participation in the JOMA Developers' Area wiki, and we look forward to your signed or unsigned contributions.


Acknowledgment.Thanks to Gene Klotz for his contributions to this article and for his work getting our wiki up and going at the Math Forum. Although it isn't true, I'd like you to believe that any errors in this article are his.

Daniel H. Steinberg, "The JOMA Developers' Area Wiki - Considerations in Choosing a Wiki," Convergence (November 2004)