Thursday, 13 March 2008

Ideas for getting people to use the BPMA Wiki

I want to start a page which I can gradually add to, and which others can make suggestions on, about ideas for increasing the amount of content on the BPMA Wiki. All suggestions are welcome.

Many of these ideas were prompted by an article I read called Wikis in Education: Is Public Better? by Sarah Guth. It made me look at the way I've been approaching trying to get content onto the BPMA Wiki from a different perspective. So far I think I've been concentrating on the principal of user-generated content and so have been offering opportunities for individual users to share their knowledge. This is still valid I think, but it is also worth exploiting the potential for collaboration that Wikis can provide. I want to explore the possibilities of co-authoring of pages.

The article also made me think that we need to offer opportunities that help people learn and improve themselves, as well as helping us out by posting on our Wiki! I had hoped that the opportunity to show off your own knowledge might be adequate but I wonder now whether this isn't enough. How can we offer opportunities that will leave people feeling enriched by their BPMA Wiki experience?

Here are some of the ideas I'm currently thinking about, some of them need some shaping and honing!

  • Someone, either a BPMA staff member, or a contact we have, writes a factual piece related to a postal topic. We then actively approach a particular group of people that we know to have knowledge on this subject, and encourage them to work together to improve the piece. We could even make sure there were a few intentional errors, either spelling/grammar or factual errors that needed correcting that might help them gain confidence.
  • I've been toying for a while with ideas involving getting a group of people into a room with a load of computers and helping them to write Wikis pages on the spot. This would hopefully spark the impetus needed to get some content on there in an environment where we were on hand to help and advise if the task seemed daunting.
  • Following on from the idea of having a captive group of people contributing to the Wiki, we could perhaps start the session with three groups and give each group a topic to write about. We could then rotate the groups so that the other two groups could edit what a first group had written. The result would be three jointly authored Wiki pages which would then be available for others to add to.
  • I'm wondering whether there is potential to work with other postal or communication museums and archives to co-author a number of pieces using the Wiki first as a collaborative tool between 'museum/archive authorities' but also leaving the pages open for other to add to/edit.
  • We could offer a service to budding stamp collectors who could upload images of stamps they wanted to know more about and ask questions about them which others could answer. This may at first mean a certain amount of BPMA staff/volunteer time, but we may be able to enlist the help of other philatelic organisations that we are in contact with to help us. This could link in with one of the aims of our London 2010: Festival of stamps initiative - to revivify interest in the hobby of stamp collecting. We could market it through philatelic societies around the country and maybe also through the Stamps in Schools initiative that BPMA sponsor.
  • Either BPMA or someone at the event could write an account of a BPMA event, and then flyer everyone who attends the event asking them to add to/edit what has been written. This would involve choosing the event quite carefully to make sure it was something worth writing about.
  • I have thought about offering prizes of some kind for the best entry in a group of entries produced by a project. The difficulty with that, unless it is people we can actually watch creating the pages, is that, without a login, we won't be able to prove which person has created what page.
  • I'm also pondering the possibilities of trying to build a community of remote Wiki users initially through our E-Newsletter facility. I could then perhaps create a mailing list simply for interested wiki users and contact them whenever new material that I thought might interest them was added to the Wiki, reminding them that they could contribute.
  • Royal Mail employees at Mount Pleasant sorting office in London (where the BPMA is based) could potentially provide a wealth of information about what it is like to work for the postal service. The computer suites available in the Mount, and the Work Time Learning sessions that all members of staff attend could also provide a good opportunity to test out some of the above ideas for using a captive group of people to spark some Wiki content.
I don't think there's any way that I'm going to be able to try all, or even many of these ideas during the time of my dissertation. Hopefully I'll be able to manage a couple though.

Any thought/suggestions/comments would be gratefully received!

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Anonymous Steeveegee said...

I thought most of these ideas were very sound indeed, whilst appreciating that to enact any of them would require some considerable time and effort, to get the ball rolling.

I think the best idea is a group of people in a room to learn ICT and literacy skills, which happen to involve working on a wiki i.e. your Royal Mail staff idea. They have SO much relevant knowledge, it's a great group to target. I also like your wrinkle that groups should rotate to edit each other's work - teaches a lot about literacy and also starts to encourage the notion that you don't have to know a subject in order to contribute - it's just as valid to correct a typo.

Several of your ideas overlap, but this one works really well and encompasses a lot of what you want to achieve. Selling it to RM as a an ICT Skills for Life opportunity may well work...

13 March 2008 at 23:43  
Blogger Sian said...

Can you build a wiki element into some of BPMA's outreach activities? Work with schools and other groups like Royal Mail employees could be recorded through the wiki, either during the sessions, or afterwards when they are back at school or work or wherever. It would be a good way to continue the work and collaboration.

14 March 2008 at 10:48  
Anonymous Chris said...

I think as you are after people to contribute to a postal history subject based wiki tapping into some of the specialist groups might be the way forward. Many of the groups, or individuals even, are keen to share their knowledge and might welcome such an opportunity. All of these groups have newsletters and often hold events, rallies and meetings, some of them at the Phoenix Centre and so getting a spot at these might well be a good way to get people contributing.

Using internal Royal Mail publications might also be a good approach.

15 March 2008 at 00:05  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

I've just had another thought myself that I wanted to just log:

I've been looking through other genealogy wikis which are making themselves repositories for genealogical information with a page for each individual. There's nothing to stop us doing the same thing, and we could get people doing Family History research in the Search Room to create a page for each of the people they were researching.

It would take time to build up, but eventually it could become a real repository of information about former postal workers

20 March 2008 at 14:53  
Blogger Sian said...

Have a look at this wikia wiki (yes, it's a wiki about wikis) Will My Wiki Work?

There are some interesting and useful ideas here about ingredients needed, setup attracting contributors, etc.

One of the most challenging aspects of this area of encouraging collaboration is something that I came across when I wrote my dissertation eight years ago, and that is to do with the technology itself. At that time, the focus was more on the physical interface - the devices being used - but the same issues apply to applications such as wikis. Technology is generally developed the 'wrong' way round; we write something or develop something that we then have to adapt our behaviour to use to its full potential.

Generally, things are getting better, especially as Web 2.0 demands interaction, and through interaction, people generally find ways to make things work the way they want them to work.

But how inclusive is the technology generally? Those of us posting here are probably reasonably proficient at using technology, and don't find it intimidating. But how many of the people we want to include feel the same way? Are we actually inadvertantly creating another barrier? Do we actually need to find out how the people we want to engage would like to collaborate, and make the technology work for them, rather than saying: 'to be involved, you must do it this way'?

Just a few things to ponder...

20 March 2008 at 22:28  

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