Monday, 13 August 2012

Thing 13 - Wikis

I have used Dropbox in a personal capacity in the past (but only for a specific project) and found no need of it once that was completed. It is a useful tool when you need it - and easy to pick up again when a new need arises.

Editing wikis is new to me - we all know Wikipedia of course, but I have never been tempted to contribute to this particular resource. I find I am slowly finding my feet in my new post and my new organisation, and I have discovered that they have had two wiki's in the past. One is now defunct, and the second is currently being set up in its place. The aim behind both of the them (they held/hold the same information) was to be a "how to " guide for staff working in the two resource centres; in other words a procedures file that would assist new staff and remind existing staff how to do tasks that they don't carry out regularly. The old one became defunct because of changes to the computer systems used, and the "new" one contains the information for the old one, just re-entered as is.

The cons: 

The information was transferred over without any editing taking place, which means a number of the entries contain out of date information.

However up to the minute the software used to host the wiki is, if the data it contains is out of date or has been superseded then it is of little value to the user.

Information in the wiki needs to be edited and kept current, just as the information would need to be in any other format (e.g. paper file, index cards etc.)

Changes to company computer systems may mean moving to another wiki space in the future.

The Pros: 

A central resource accessible to all staff on whichever campus they may be, is held electronically, with no need to produce paper printouts to file.

Can be kept secure so only authorised staff can access it (so access to sensitive data can be more easily controlled).

Offers a central information point but one which can be edited by all staff from any campus, so should be quicker to keep current, and hence less of that "enormous task" feeling that updating procedures often is.


I feel the advantages outweigh the negatives here - often overhauling procedures is a mammoth task involving much consultation and thought, ultimately producing a paper file (maybe in multiple copies) which soon becomes outdated, tattered and with handwritten amendments in one copy, that are hard to transfer to other physical copies in other locations. An electronic system held centrally has enormous benefits for a multi-site set up, as does the ability to enable all staff to edit the wiki - a task shared is task halved (or quartered etc!)


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