Using Wikis to Document the Event
Wikis are free-form web sites which allow collective editing of page content by all users. For a complete introduction to wikis, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki.
Wikis are superb for logging notes from sessions, allowing participants to introduce themselves, ask questions and share resources, and generally recording the proceedings of the day as well as subsequent outcomes.
The process which has been followed to date at Aspiration events is based on the following policies:
- "Everything" goes on the wiki. Organizers should populate the initial wiki with an agenda skeleton and some pre-fab pages for participants to populate; see the associated wiki page templates provided with this guide for more detail
- [need more here]
It is recommended the wiki used at most events be a "clean" wiki with minimal pre-existing content. This creates both a blank slate to capture the energy and creativity of the proceedings, and avoids any constraints imposed by existing structure and terms. It also provides a 'safe space' where people don't feel they are putting themselves on the line to an audience larger than those participating in the event. That said, existing wikis are an excellent resource; one way to mitigate concerns about their inclusion is to link to them prominently from the event wiki home page.
Several things are essential to acknowledge and factor in to the use of wikis:
- First, wikis are not the most user-friendly web tool; the syntax for editing wiki pages is usually rather arcane and varies from wiki to wiki, and even when editing toolbars are provided, they often offer limited support.
- In addition, many participants are not familiar with wikis, their use, and the conventions associated with editing pages.
- Finally, using and contributing to wikis is not an intuitive "next task", especially for those immersed in stimulating dialog and busy making new friends.
Event and session facilitators must be diligent in reminding and encouraging participants to contribute, and in particular frequently reiterate the message if you are confused or hesitant about using the wiki, many are glad to help and you only need to ask. This can be done in conjunction with asking those who feel able to help to raise their hands for easy identification; such pairings of participants offer additional opportunities for collaboration, shared learning and collective output.
Another particular subtlety involves anonymous access to wikis; some wikis require login before pages can be edited. It is strongly recommended that anonymous access be the norm during events, as that presents one less barrier to participation, and the distraction of administrating passwords is hard to justify. The larger the event and the more public the wiki access, the more likely it is that logins become advisable as a requirement for editing content.
We are still relatively new to incorporating wikis into events, and encourage those using this guide in conjunction with wiki-enabled events to innovate, experiment and share their learnings and observations.
A collection of sample wiki page templates is provided as a separate document.