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World Wide ... Wiki?

Posted on 4.30.2007
Welcome to the Wisdom of the Crowd Age


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Owning or operating a website puts you control. It also puts you in charge of development and content management. Create insightful, meaningful and creative content and you’ll get people to your site — no surprises there. But creating and managing all of that cutting-edge
content can be a daunting task for you and your employees.

If there were a way to reduce the amount of content you and your team had to create while simultaneously attaining your business goals and better search engine rankings, it’s a good bet that you would make that investment. This is why many websites are employing wikis — collaborating with clients, prospects and their own Web management personnel.

Enter the Wiki
A wiki is a website that allows any user to add, remove and modify content while ideally supporting the overall mission of the online enterprise. Think of it as having a 24-hour watchdog for your industry that readily and voluntarily updates your site with the latest industry news, trends innovations in important to your community. An evolution of the discussion forum, a wiki has the ability to turn your website into an information hub.

What makes wikis different from a standard content management system (CMS) is that selected content on various pages making up the wiki are automatically linked. The result for users is a system that is easily created, modified and searched, and less time-consuming to maintain for the administrator. Today, common uses for wikis include project communication, intranets, and support documentation. Initially created for technical users, many companies are replacing their static sites and embracing the collaborative nature of wikis as both internal databases and customer-facing websites.

Lies and Perceived Truth
The problem many see with customer-facing wikis (at least the customer-facing variety) is the open nature that defines them. User-generated content inherently carries the risk of unreliable information. Wikipedia, the best-known wiki of them all, has encountered objections from the community about the validity of some of the information on the site. But this is not unique to Wikipedia alone. Information found in wikis is often trusted on a level equal to wellreviewed and established sources of reliable information. The result is that consumers may make decisions based misconceptions. For the website owner, hosting bogus information could result in irreparable damage to your business. When your company and brand reputation is on the line, that risk must be factored.

Newer systems such as Citizendium.com are beefing up the source and provenance side of wikis by adding “gentle expert oversight” while requiring contributors to use their real names. In the end, greater transparency about the source of information will lead to a more credible and trusted resource.

Is a Wiki Right For You?
When deciding whether a wiki is right for your online enterprise there are several important considerations. One of the biggest is a loss of control. By empowering your users, they suddenly become editors of your website. Ultimately, users may end up shaping the very nature of your site or even the products that you offer. So, being transparent about your organization’s mission is imperative to the success of your wiki. You could always edit and bar certain entries, but that is time consuming, somewhat self-defeating and, some could argue fraudulent. If you don’t want your users sharing information or simply are not willing to collaborate with others over the services you provide, then a wiki is only going to cause problems.

But, if you believe in the wisdom of the crowd and have the faith in your community to correct misconceptions and provide real value to others, then a wiki could do wonders for your site and your brand.

Top 10 Wikis: WikiMatrix.org
WikiMatrix is a site dedicated to helping users find and compare wiki software and engage other wiki users in its discussion forum. WikiMatrix is owned and operated by CosmoCode, a software company specializing in the planning and creation of Internet applications and information portals, especially content management systems and wikis. The following is a list of the top 10 wiki platforms as determined by most views at WikiMatrix.

1) DokuWiki, 2) TWiki, 3) MediaWiki, 4) PhpWiki, 5) bitweaver, 6) ErfurtWiki, 7) PmWiki, 8) MoinMoin, 9) DekiWiki, 10) TikiWiki

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