Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Wiki’s Worst Nightmare

Recently, the Health Library wiki team discussed the implications of creating a wiki for the health sciences. Is it useful? Who will use it? Why? How? While we were all excited of the implications of what we were doing, we were really walking on unchartered waters. Either we are stumbling onto something great, or we are wasting our time experimenting with something that's not going to be used other than the few people whom we send out the link to.

One question that we debated about was how to monitor the postings. As Stephen Colbert's now infamous Wikiality monologue reveals, not everyone appreciates the power of wiki. Not everyone will have the faith of a democratic wiki. According to Wikipedia, astroturfing:
consist[s] of a few people discreetly posing as mass numbers of activists advocating a specific cause. Supporters or employees will manipulate the degree of interest through letters to the editor, e-mails, blog posts, crossposts, trackbacks, etc. They are instructed on what to say, how to say it, where to send it, and how to make it appear that their indignation, appreciation, joy, or hate is entirely spontaneous and independent; thus being "real" emotions and concerns rather than the product of an orchestrated campaign.

There have been cases reported of astroturfing. It's a serious matter, particularly for a Health Libray Wiki which relies on both updated and accurate information. It should be taken into consideration, particularly if there are a few unruly who want to leave a legacy by giving false information to hurt the many. Can a few wiki masters constantly monitor such a wide net? That will be a challenge that we will face as we move into the information grassroots democracy. With open access, open collaboration, open authoring, open platforming, and open searching in Web 2.0 comes hurdles which we have to face bravely and heads-on.


Dean Giustini said...

Hi Allan,

Of all the social software technologies, the wiki will be the most challenging for the reasons you stated. However, the transfer from an older technology to another new one is difficult - but, in this case, we didn't have any platform for the sharing of information among health librarians (other than listservs and websites).

But with listservs, conversations get lost; with websites, they are not collaborative.

At this point, we are still building the content in the health library wiki. Finding the time to write entries has been the difficult part, but Greg and I have developed content for LIBR534 - so, we have merely loaded that content.

I look forward to you and your classmates' contributions. Dean

Dean Giustini said...

Allan -

Do you know danah boyd, liz lawley or clay shirky?

If not, you should. I think you're ready for them:

This is blogging by collectives, many minds (sharp ones)