Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Will a Wiki Work for WebPA

I have to confess that I am not one of the worlds most avid fan of Wiki’s. Although there are some very well used Wiki’s out there , for example Wikipedia, we have all seen the headlines related to information reliability issues. My other experiences of Wiki’s have been looking at a lot of information, spread all over the place, not linked up, time consuming to read and full of one individuals opinions. So when I was asked to look into developing a Wiki for WebPA I was not all that convinced.

I have tried to go into this open minded and think about this from a community, and knowledge base perspective. From this I do have concerns that it will need to be policed. I know that this is not the best term to use, but look at it from my point of view, some one has to manage the wiki. Also who is our community and what exactly will the wiki be used for?

From the discussion that has lead to this point; the user of the wiki will be an academic who will be documenting something about WebPA. This is where the policing begins, what happens if something negative is written about the project that is either unfounded or unjustified. But hang on, what is this something. I think that before any more talk or discussion of producing a wiki continues we need to define what will the something be.

At the moment the only something that I can think of is case studies about using WebPA in teaching. If this is correct maybe there are better ways in which this information can be conveyed. Also there are other considerations, such as, do we want anyone in the community to be able to change this information. My immediate reaction to this is that we would not want changes to be made. Therefore a wiki is not the right place for this to happen.

Other examples of wikis that I have seen have been used for conversation. But again as a project is this where we want discussion to take place. Again a wiki is not the correct tool for discussion to be carried out on. We have a mailing list, which anyone can join and the achieves are openly available. Hence the mailing list is the correct tool and a wiki an incorrect tool.

As you can tell I am really struggling to justify having a WebPA wiki. My last shot at why one might be used is in the development of project documentation and decision making. But again I have trouble with this. Open source project definitely need to be open on decision making, but from advice received this should be facilitated through discussion, and as I have said, discussion should be on the mailing list. As for a documentation location. I’m still not convinced. I have lost countless hour searching sites trying to find the documentation I want with no avail. I also worry that it will become a dumping ground for unintelligible information. There are other routes through which the documentation can be conveyed in a more controlled and usable method. At the moment the documentation for WebPA is within the ‘project resources’ section of this website as many of the documents are related to the deliverables that the project must produce. There are also other tools for holding the documentation related to the projects open source area.

As this open source area is developed over the course of the project then I will blog about what is happening and how I get on. But for now, I don’t think investing my project time in implementing and policing a wiki is the best for the project. However, I am still willing to be convinced other wise, but it will have to be a well justified reason and not just because someone thinks it is a good idea or that other projects are using one.

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