Chapter 5: The Tale of Three Wikis (Wherein We Go Wiki-hunting)

 Once upon a time a middle-aged librarian, woke up lost in cyberspace. She was adrift in a sea of information and needed a little organization. Organization  being part of compulsive librarianship — she set about looking for the best way to do this. Perhaps what she needed was her own wiki. That way she could share her endeavor with others.

She had tried contributing to a wiki before. It was  confusing. Did the creators intend for users to sdd text, create a page or add to  the discussion thread?  The text editor was kind of like a word processor, but more limited and the results often looked “messy”  She wasn’t sure she actually like wikis.Maybe she just needed a wiki “just right” for her.

  So the  intrepid librarian decided to go on a wiki service hunt.  She wanted her wiki site to have the following features:

  1. It would be free.
  2. It would be easy to edit.
  3. It would look neat and professional.
  4. It would be flexible.
  5. It would be “educator friendly”

She was inspired by some wikis that other people had created. 

She had three wiki services in her sights.  PbWorks (PBwiki at that time),  Wetpaint, and Wikispaces.

She stopped by Wetpaint first because it seemed to have more “fun features.”  It did not have the look of the old confusing wikis she didn’t like.  It did have very prominent advertising on its free version.  But the discussion threads were really cool and the themes were bright and inviting.  There was advertising saying educators could get free sites with no advertising.  She signed up and created a wiki called The Library Toolbox. But, then she realized that a free educational version was hard to obtain for an elementary educator.  These accounts were only for teachers working with students over 13 who could legally have there own accounts with WetPaint.  The ads were very prominent, as well.  They were full-color.   They flashed and moved.  It would not be a good site to share links with the teachers at her school.  It cost $19.95 per month to have the ads removed.  Once the wiki had been created, it could not be deleted.  Also, though it could be renamed, the URL would reflect the original name.  This was not the most  friendly policy for someone experimenting. 

Next, she visited Wikispaces.  Free personal wikis here, also, contained advertising.  However, these ads were discrete little text ads.  These could be turned off for a mere $5 per month or $50 per year. Also, ad-free wikis for K-12 educational use were free.  Wikis could easily be renamed and deleted.  She signed up for one of these.  There were several themes to choose from. She had a vision for how she would like the page to look, but soon found she had trouble getting lists to appear as “neat” as she wanted.  Sometimes, it was difficult to position inserted objects where she intended them to be.

Finally she checked out PBworks.   She found limited flexibility in the layout of her wiki or “collaborative workspace.”  However, the text editor was slightly more intuitive to her than the one at Wikispaces.  She could insert objects easily here, also.  (She did discover that no wiki allows you to move objects around like a MS Word document.)  There were no ads on a small, personal wiki with 100 or fewer users.  This could be used as a class wiki, also.  A special classroom wiki package with additional benefits was available for $100.  PBWorks pages, always had a clean, neat appearance,  The to-do lists and side-bar options were very appealing, as well.  The librarian chose this site for a personal workspace to house links, create to-do lists and experiment. 

So, now our curious and sometimes befuddled  librarian  had three wiki accounts on different services.  If the PBworks site was to be the home-base she desired, what would she do with the other two accounts?  The Wetpaint site could not be deleted or have its URL changed.   But it was flashy and invited membership and discussion more than the other two sites.  She turned it into a public site to invite other librarians to share experiences and examples in using web 2.0 tools in their libraries.  She kept the original name of all three of her wiki experiments The Library Toolbox. She would love to have you join this site.  The August topic of discussion is wikis.  Please share your wiki stories with others.

The Wikispaces site she renamed the Edison Wishwiki.  She attempted to create a collaborative environment for her school learning community to share requests and suggestions for learning resources needed in her library media center.  She, also, wanted all of her book requests on-line.  She had been trying to banish all little lost sticky notes from her professional life.  Though, our ever hopeful librarian was short on collaborators, during the past school year, the site improved her personal organization immensely!  The addition of a Google form will make it simpler to add requests for those shy about “joining” the wiki this fall. 

The PBworks wiki, The DJProject, became a bit neglected..  It was easier to simply bookmark links in Diigo or add them to her school website than go back to her original plan.  She is still in awe of Kelly Hines and Donna Baumbach in their abilities to organize and share  links with others.  Perhaps she should update her to-do list today.  She finally completed this blog post.  

The librarian  enjoyed her adventure with the three wikis,  learned more than she thought possible. and  developed three very different, useful websites.  Have you gone wiki-hunting yet ?