Author: Jérôme Delacroix
Price: 20 euros
Format: 15 x 21
Nb of pages: 200
ISBN : 2-9520514-4-5
Zones of collective intelligence
Wikis bring the Internet into a new era of mass cooperation and collective intelligence, as demonstrated by the leading online encyclopedia, WikipediA. Just what is a wiki? What are their uses? What caused this Internet revolution? You’ll find the answers in this book, which offers the first 360-degree look at the wiki phenomenon. The author analyzes why wikis have become so popular, how they are being used today, and their future potential. At the same time, he explains how to set up and maintain your own wiki.
First clue: Wkis are wide open to modification by anyone—no technical expertise required. Their many applications range from encyclopedias to corporate intranets, from associations to education. Using a wiki, any user becomes the co-author of a common creation. Social links emerge, and the individual’s relationship to knowledge evolves toward the collective utilization of intelligence.
This is the first new book about wikis since the original developer’s initial technical book, published in 2001.
Jérôme Delacroix earned a graduate degree in technology management, then spent several years with Accenture as a management and marketing consultant on projects for multinational companies. He writes and consults on the use of collaborative technologies to enhance efficiency in corporate environments. He is an active participant in a number of wikis and blogs, including the reference site on wikis: www.leswikis.com, which is devoted to the growing field of wikis and to continuing discussion of topics presented in this book. He is fluent in French and English.
Table of Contents
1. Discovering wikis
2. Wikipedia and how it grows
3. Wikis in the enterprise
4. Ways to use a wiki
5. Learning by the books
6. Spreading the word
7. Wiki Gold: the unwiki?
8. How to set up a wiki
9. Installation and maintenance
10. Wikis of the future
Read an excerpt:
The book you are holding is unfinished. In fact, it is meant to be, and I count on your contributions to enhance it. You are invited to become a co-author, even if the topic is already explained. Wikis, or collaborative websites, are increasingly popular on the Internet, yet their dynamics are still enigmatic for most users. The goal here is to help you know, understand, use and make friends with them.
A wiki is a unique type of Internet site that eliminates the distance between the reader and the producer of information. When you visit a Wiki, you can respond to its content at any time by clicking on the "Edit this page" link or a button on the page. That will open the page in edit mode, where you can modify or complete the text however you wish. When you’re finished, click on "Save changes." The new version of the page will be immediately saved and displayed. You will have instantly, autonomously updated the page you just read. In the process, you will have changed your role from visitor to contributor.
The main novelty of wikis derives from this total freedom of authorship and from the a priori trust granted to any Net user. The underlying rationale is to eliminate any type of censorship. The gamble is that goodwill is widespread throughout the Internet, far exceeding malice or stupidity. Wiki supporters contend that it is feasible to develop a collective intelligence that will functions along the lines of a colony of honeybees or ants. Hence, it should be possible collectively to produce content or attain process excellence in ways we could only dream of in the past. In other words: The more, the smarter.
The rise of wikis was not accidental. Their development can be traced through a precise timeline. It began with the development of the Internet in the early 1990s. Databases that had long reserved to experts or researchers became available to everyone. Suddenly, it was possible for anyone to access a virtual Library of Alexandria without even leaving your chair. More recently, broadband connections have transformed the Internet into a commodity as available as electricity or tap water, at least in the developed world. The most complex knowledge, as well as the myriad of daily occurrences, have been put within reach of anyone, anytime. A new community was born, comprised of Internet surfers operating in a new, virtual medium called Cyberspace. It wasn’t just hyperlinks that were created, but also human links, sometimes strong ones. Ideas, and to some extent emotions, have been able to travel along the information highways using sophisticated technological vehicles like browsers, instant messengers, and webcams.
As the Internet was adopted by a broad audience, computer specialists clustered together in smaller communities to share their knowledge about topics that were often highly complex. Ward Cunningham, a programmer from the Portland area, was one of them. He envisioned and invented the first wiki to collect and share experiences within his research field of Extreme Programming. For some time, the wiki remained a collaborative tool used only by a small group of geeks. But recently, other groups have begun to experiment, including foundations and associations, corporations, schools, universities, and others. They have already realized a broad scope of useful applications.
These user groups began to create wikis so they could engage in dialogue and exchange knowledge using means that are open and unstructured by design. Some have opted for members-only access; others opened the door wide to any and all Internet users, with no registration or login requirements.
Since wikis are becoming so popular, we need to ask ourselves a few new questions. The underlying philosophy is to give a voice to all contributors on an equal level in order to foster creativity. A wiki can be compared to an immense whiteboard on which anyone can write, draw, tag, comment or “erase." What is the significance of so much information, often from anonymous sources, that can be altered at any time?—keeping in mind that ‘altered’ as used here can mean not only ‘modified’ but also ‘damaged.’ Who would believe everything written on a communal wall anyway?
Imagine an infinite whiteboard, growing in length with each new contribution, on which anyone (and that really means anyone) could write whatever he liked. What would be the result? Would the outcome be an immense hodgepodge of disorganized graffiti tags, or a collective body of meaning that could never have been achieved through traditional modes of expression?
Besides that, can a wiki be trusted? Is it a reliable source of information, let alone knowledge? At the least, using a wiki requires vigilance and a critical mind. Let’s assume that you are ignorant about a given topic. You have already searched through traditional encyclopedias, libraries and trusted Internet sites, but you came up with nothing. Then you come across a wiki that extensively covers your topic of interest. You start reading, and as it happens, what you read appears to make perfect sense. Some sources are listed for further reference; part of those are accessible online, but others are not. In the end, this wiki has presented you with content that appears meaningful, citing partially available sources. It is signed by someone whose identity you cannot check, or maybe it isn’t signed at all.
What should you do? Will you simply ignore what you just read, or will you consider it credible? Will you use it to make whatever urgent decision or reasonable assumption you need to complete now, and then verify it against other sources later? With wikis, the credibility of the Internet once again comes into question in an entirely new way.
This has a inverse aspect. Wikis open a space of popular freedom, where everyone can have his say and contribute evidence from his immediate experience—the reality he directly perceives—unaltered by the media's prism. In today’s world, where the media can make or break political destinies, and media executives aspire to become Directors of Reality through so-called Reality TV, it feels reassuring to know that new public spaces are opening up where "really-real" people can express themselves. Wikis belong to the category of tools that allow all of us to share our feelings and thoughts.
In corporations, wikis can also be used as workspaces to structure teams, manage projects, organize brainstorming sessions and more. Yet, if everyone can talk all the time, some initial training will be needed in order to avoid mayhem, and to enjoy the benefits of liberty without its potential drawbacks. Wikis are fast, so they can help relieve a company from the burden of hierarchical bureaucracy. But then, how to convince managers who might worry about losing control?
The purpose of this book is to provide you with information that will help you find your own answers. In the process, I hope to start a dialogue with you about wikis that will become part of the reading experience. The main objective is to explain what a wiki is, with notable examples. The book will analyze the Wiki philosophy and how we can all participate in it. An entire chapter will be devoted to the creation and implementation of a wiki, using a step-by-step demonstration.
Secondly, the book will describe how wikis are already used in various cultural and economic environments such as associations, schools and businesses. In discussing these applications, we will attempt to understand how wikis change our approach to communication, information and group dynamics. Finally, we will examine the social implications. Wikis have a unique way of combining virtual communities and real world sociability, so it is intriguing to understand the forces that link people together around this unique work tool. We will also look at the potential legal issues concerning intellectual property rights and liabilities.
I hope you will enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. As with a wiki, you can add your own comments in the blank spaces on each page. You can also select your own entries for the index at the back of the book, and complement it using your own words. I have tried to make the physical book as close as possible to the experience of using a wiki. Feel free to share your comments, analyses and your experiences with me and other readers on the online wiki set up for that purpose at [www.thewikis.com.]
You’re now entering the Wikisphere, a world where cooperation is key. Enjoy the ride!