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Posts Tagged ‘online collaboration’

It’s been several months already, since I started working on a new green tech project. And I want to share my excitement about our most favorite tool, our team wiki. Short and sweet, here are ten reasons why we could not do without our wiki:

  1. It’s free. Not all wikis are, but we found one that does not cost us a dime. We are planning to upgrade as we expand and need a more robust version.
  2. It’s easy to set up. All you need is a name, and you can start inviting your teammates to be co-administrators of your wiki.
  3. It’s easy to use. Don’t listen to all the scary wiki stories. While it’s true that some wikis can be a bit hard to learn – I never warmed up to SocialText for instance – , others, like PB Wiki, are a breeze.
  4. It’s oh so forgiving. No need to worry about messing up. You can always edit, rename, or delete a page. And if you change your mind, you can revert to earlier versions on your page history.
  5. It’s a virtual structure. The front page is a good place to list all the main areas of work for your project, with all the relevant pages underneath each area.
  6. It’s a task organizer. We are using the side bar to keep track of individual tasks. Nothing like seeing one’s name next to projects, to deliver.
  7. It’s a repository of  knowledge. We can each contribute our knowledge as we go, without having to worry about it ever getting lost.
  8. It’s a search tool. Type any keyword into the wiki search box, and you get a list of all the pages within your wiki with mentions of that keyword. Very,  very useful feature.
  9. It’s a safe box. No danger of Powerpoint presentations, Word documents, images, pdfs, disappearing. They’re all stored in the wiki ‘cloud’.
  10. It’s a playground. Uniquely fit for the creative needs of  startups. You can play alone, writing pages on your own. Or you can edit, or comment on each other’s pages.

And, no I don’t work for PB Wiki or any other wiki company.

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Sustainability wikis such as Wikia Green or Appropedia have an important role to play, in the gathering of solutions for a sustainable future. The big challenge of course, is how to engage contributors into volunteering free content. As a content creator in the sustainability field, with hundreds of articles to my credit, all on blogs, I yet have to contribute to a collaborative platform. I started sharing some of my reasons in previous posts, here and here. In a nutshell:

  • I am comfortable with blogging. It is what I know, and past the initial hurdle of setting up a blog, which by the way is very low, it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
  • I like the feeling of being in control, and of having all my stuff in one place.
  • When I contribute to other blogs, it is usually a boost for my recognition and helps enlarge my audience.
  • Contributing to other blogs is a no brainer; hardly any setup is required, and I usually do a slight rewrite to address issue of duplicate content.
  • I love the creative freedom of writing whatever I want whenever I want.
  • My blog is also a social place to meet cyberfriends I have made along the way, and who keep coming back for more discussions.
  • I get tremendous satisfaction from direct feedback from readers, particularly when something they read on my blog, either from me or other readers, is making an impact on their thinking or behaviors.
  • There is lots of reciprocity going on amongst bloggers, thanks to linking, trackbacks, and pingbacks. As a result, the give and take feels very fair.
  • Although I am very familiar with wikis, have consulted for wiki startups, and have started several private wikis of my own, I find making the move from blogging to contributing to public wiki platforms a huge step.
  • First, there is the issue of time. If I could somehow export content that’s already on my blog, automatically, I would consider it.
  • Second, is the problem of attribution, and ownership of content. Although, I am not one to hang on to my creative product with steel claws, it is very important to me that I be given credit for it.
  • Third, is the issue of duplicate content, and how that might affect ranking of original content with search engines.  If content is going to be exported automatically, and frequently, I would not have the time to do rewrites to avoid duplicate content problem.
  • My blog is not my only source of content either. There are quite a few projects I have been working on, that are sitting either in some files on my desktop, or in Google groups discussions, and that I wouldn’t mind sharing, if I could just turn those over with one click.

The bottom line is, if you want my content, make it super easy for me, and make sure I get credit for it.

There is a huge pool of potential content providers like myself, scattered all over the Internet, and elsewhere, who could share their knowledge, under the right conditions:

Marguerite Manteau-Rao)

Sustainability Wikis - Contributors' Engagement Map (Marguerite Manteau-Rao)

I will end by sharing my dream of the perfect sustainability wiki. Imagine a place where you can find nearly all that has been published about sustainable solutions all over the world. Imagine that contributors would not have to worry about adapting their content to the specific wiki requirements. Wiki editors could take care of that chore. Imagine that contributors could get credited each time, with ample linkage back to their original websites. Imagine a widget that would allow contributors to send their content automatically to the wiki in one click. Imagine that getting my content on the wiki would be all benefit for me, in addition to the reward from helping the greater community. Imagine . . .

Maybe this discussion can be continued at the upcoming Open Sustainability Network Camp that will take place in October, in San Francisco?

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