PB Wiki – A Collaborative Effort

Simply put, a “wiki” is a website that is easy to use and edit without requiring an extensive knowledge of programming. Its purpose is to allow non-computer savvy people to post  and edit information on a webpage. In effect, wikis operate in the “open-source” environment that the Rosenzweig article deals with.

Secondly, unlike a private website which is a top-down experience (the “owner” posts, and the visitor reads) wikis are a collaborative effort in which all visitors can interact in a real-time environment. The most widespread wiki that all of us are most familiar with is “Wikipedia,” but wikis go beyond just that flagship product.

The easiest way to describe PB Wiki (Now called PBWorks) is that it is a hybrid between Wikipedia and Google Docs. PB Wiki is specifically geared towards businesses where teams of people need to collaboratively work on a joint-project. Placing all of the information on a single, easy to use webpage that can be edited by multiple people at once in real-time, ends the time consuming practice of sending endless emails and cc’s to keep everyone updated with project changes.

Aside from being strictly a business tool, wikis can also be used to foster creative collaboration across a wide spectrum of projects. For example, the Digital Research Tools site: https://digitalresearchtools.pbworks.com/w/page/17801672/FrontPage is a wiki that is publicly available. It serves as a database where people can post tools that help scholars conduct their research more efficiently. Unlike a “normal” website, on Digital Research Tools if you or I came across an effective tool and wanted to share it, we would be able to post our information on that wiki for all to see and interact with.

Some of the more common wikis I came across are not related to business or academia, but are run by hobbyists and enthusiasts. For example: http://corvette.wikia.com/wiki/Corvette_Wiki  is a wiki created by and for Corvette owners who can share tips and information on how to repair or upgrade their cars. If you own a Corvette and have discovered an easy way to fix a common problem with the car, you can post your instructions here to the benefit of all Corvette owners. This type of usage is exactly what wikis were built for – allowing for many different and otherwise unconnected people to come together and share common information.

2 Replies to “PB Wiki – A Collaborative Effort”

  1. You’ve done a nice job explaining wikis in general and giving us all a sense of how PB wiki works. I think your idea that it is a hybrid between google docs and wikipedia is a valuable one.

    I would love to hear more about when you think something like this might be appropriate for a digital history project. Specifically, when do you think a wiki is a good idea as opposed to other kinds of online platforms, like blogs, or some of the other sites we looked at last week. When is a wiki the way to go and when would it be better to use another tool?

    1. The power of wikis is that they are an inherently collaborative tool. Rather than having an author (or even group of authors) put information on a platform for another group to read, visitors to the site have the option of being readers, authors, or both. It also allows wiki utilizers to have an active dialogue. In this sense wikis are perfect for history projects on public or collective memory. They’re would also be great for collecting first hand accounts of certain events or eras that otherwise might prove difficult, such as gathering personal experiences related to civil rights protests, or particular cultural moments (personal accounts from when a city’s sports team won national titles). Wikis put users and authors on the same playing field, so to speak. The power dynamic of an authoritative source may be lacking in this format however. One could argue, though, that a well-regulated wiki can strike the balance between the benefits of open source collaboration with the site becoming a free-for-all of information that may not be trustworthy, accurate, or bias.

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