Friday, 21 March 2008

Useful tips for new Wikis

I've read some really useful tips this morning on a forum recommended in a comment on one of my posts made by my colleague Sian yesterday. The forum's called Will Wikis Work? It's intended for users of Wikia Wikis but it still applies to others as well. So a big thank you to Sian for pointing me in that direction.

To summarise some of the points I found particularly useful:
1. 'The three factors that determine contributors to a Wiki project are Confidence, Interest and Awareness'. It's common sense really but they point out that confident users are those who are willing and able to contribute to a Wiki. In Wikipedia, which is so broad in scope, all of these confident users are likely to have some subject of interest that they can contribute to. In smaller, subject specialist Wikis like ours, however, the likelihood of finding people who are both confident, but also interested (or knowledgeable) in our subject is harder. Add to this the fact that many people who fall into these two categories may not yet know about our Wiki, and you start to understand the full scale of the work that we need to do to get people on there. As I say, it's not rocket science, but I thought the way that they explained and argued it was very clear and accessible.
2. They point out that the key to increasing the number of people who are interested, but also confident, is to train them. I've been thinking that I need to write a kind of user guide but this has confirmed me in that decision. They recommend 'a really easy user friendly introduction to Wiki editing.'
3. In terms of marketing, they recommend first marketing to those who are both interested and confident. Once the critical number of contributors is reached, you can then move on to really pushing the Wiki to people who are just interested but not yet confident.
4. I liked their equation to work out the likely number of contributors:

No. of interested x aware proportion x confident and passionate proportion = Potential contributors

The confident and passionate proportion can be assumed to be about 1% based on Wikipedia and other web 2.0 communities.

The number of people interested in postal history/philately is surprisingly large, but at the moment the number of them who are aware of our Wiki is very small. So that's where the work lies!

5. Again, it's common sense really, but they stress the importance of not trying to compete with Wikipedia, simply because it's pointless. They're always going to be bigger! To avoid this competition you can allow people to go into more depth and detail than a Wikipedia entry, which is encyclopedic, can allow. People don't need to have a neutral point of view. And people can contribute their own experience on a subject.

They then move on to how to attract contributions.
Useful tips here include:
1. 'you must identify places where the sort of people your project wishes to attract are common and talk about it there'...'you should consider the audience and the sort of visitors you want to encourage when composing it.'
2. Good tips on how to make people feel comfortable, welcome and motivated: stress that the wiki 'is a common effort', 'be welcoming to visitors and encourage them', 'keep posting regular updates describing the general progress and specific advancements', 'try contracting people that might be interested in contributing to your wiki in ,.... forums, blog, other websites'. I'm going to have a trawl in a minute to see if there are any postal history type blogs out there! There's certainly some interested groups on Flickr. They also advocate 'emphasising community involvement'
3. They suggest that personal invitations are much better than a general email/advert - so that's encouraging - I've been doing that a bit this week, hopefully it will pay off!
4. They preach caution when trying to promote your Wiki on Wikipedia or any Wikimedia projects as the administrators will quickly clamp down.

There's some interesting stuff on building trust with your community in the 'Building a community' section. We don't have 'talk' pages on the BPMA Wiki but I might set up a mailing list and start trying to chat to people by email. It won't necessarily build a community that are talking to each other but at least they'll be talking to me.

There's a slightly gloomy, but probably quite realistic stuff about the length of time it will take to build a community who actively contribute in the Improving your Wikia bit:

They warn that you may need to spend 'three, four or more months adding content all by yourself'. That you (I/BPMA) will have to create 'at least 95% if not 98% of all content.' and that 'That requires about 1-2 years of 1-2 hours of daily work.' 'Do not kid yourself. Only a dozen people will actively contribute to the wiki in the beginnings.' - so, anyone else want to do the rest of my work for the next two years? I've got to spend at least 2 hours everyday creating Wiki content! :-)

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Blogger Sian said...

I don't know if you've had a look at the Powerhouse museum blog by Seb Chan, but there's some good stuff over there. Here's something you might find useful: Applying a new social media framework from Forrester to the cultural sector

2 April 2008 at 16:34  

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