University of Canberra/RCC2010/Wiki community and usability

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Challenges to new users of wikipedia:

  • lots of ppl have one attempt at writing something, it gets deleted, and they give up. People have trouble understanding what an acceptable standard is and then get scared off when they don't meet the standard.
  • the codes that you have to use to write things also puts ppl off.
  • in tasmania people liked wikispaces cos there were widgets that would allow them to do things easily. People have gotten used to standard editing wysiwyg and expect that.
  • you can use platorms and templates to ameliorate that but you then run into other problems. This is particularly an issue in wikimedia where tables can be diabolical.
  • new proposed editor is being built - when you click edit it shows you the article and you can change a specific sentence. All the things people want to do will be quite intuitive and will be built on smaller bites.
  • problem is that majority of users know word and will know those conventions immediately.
  • open office has a plugin that Sun has developed that allows you to point at wikipage, download to open office and then upload.
  • discussion system isn't intuitive or usable by human beings. Liquid threads is currently being trialled and may solve this eg "start new post", "reply" etc. Should be changed in next 12 months.
  • current system has alot of flexibility.
  • there's no one size fits all - there are different functions eg contributing information (eg page about trout fishing) or making a comment (which doesn't need the complex structure). We might need two different interfaces.
  • Drupal has the same thing - "views" - you need someone to get the comments in - eg tagging comments might bring it together.
  • in the future comments might be integrated and referencing conventions are being discussed/looked at.
  • feedback - does anyone get back to you?
  • interesting that Google Wave got dropped - couldn't get ppl to collaborate. COmplete novice users wouldn't know how to contribute, whether they're going to break things, how safe they are etc etc - you need to help users get over that hurdle. Then once they find the "edit" button they're overwhelmed by all the formatting text.
  • one person here is using moodle wiki - range of staff in the org - total newbies/nervous, others who are sure they know what to do, etc - amount of damage they can potentially do is an issue and time fixing their mistakes can be an issue.
  • Academics can go to conferences and show others "work arounds" that aren't good practice - this is also an issue. If they have control of the staff support site you can run into all sorts of problems.
  • you need a critical mass of people who can do it well and creatively so that the "good" users outnumber the "we're still learning" group.
  • content also needs to be there - people are better at collaborating with content rather than creating from scratch.
  • is it important to have a manager and a set of rules around it? Yes. An editor is a good idea.
  • giving ppl a blank page is really scary to staff and students - prefilling a page with suggestions, assessment documentation, chunks of learning and links has created 10 times the engagement with students.
  • with staff, one on one buddy work also works well. This saves you doing remedial work later.
  • get ppl to have a user page - that gives them ownership and a sandbox environment to get started. Also show them the help area.
  • headings, bulleted lists, numbered lists, underline, bold, create new page, links.
  • privacy, permissions and security issues are often an issue especially for under 18 or orgs with a duty of care.
  • network literacies is an issue that underpins all this. THings like editing is not just a technical thing, it's also a conceptual one.
  • ppl don't start editing wikipedia by writing long articles - they start by fixing a typo. How wikipedia got ppl to write articles, they created red links which went to "whoops - this article doesn't exist" which motivated ppl to go write the article.
  • how do outputs get measured? Paul Evans Peters - "write only journal"

General discussion:

  • group work - history of contributions creates record of activity
  • hard copy material can be pointed to, held. Ephemeral "chunks" of data are more difficult to reference.
  • "wikitrust" is being worked on at the moment - in real time analysis of log files - click a button and the text will colour code based on who contributed.
  • ppl need to be acknowledged on the wiki
  • cardiac trials - citations have list of authors that might be 300 long.
  • pedia press from germany havea program that allows you to send wikipedia articles to them and they turn it into a book - $10 - 20 euros and they'll post you a hard copy of your book.
  • wikipedia allows you to create chapters - "create a book" link in sidebar.
  • discussion around credit for online publications and universities recognising this - assigning ISBNs - other conventions and strategies to overcome this issue
  • wiki model - not top down or serialised - chunks of stuff is networked together. Process flow might include 50000 articles that go through review process, commented on, written about. Someone then writes one line to summarise (eg in sun cancer example the recommendation is "don't stay in the sun too long".)
  • cancer council melaoma guidelines has working party 30 or 40 people.
  • is a small user base better than a large one? worse?
  • maybe one needs to coordinate a range of processes rather than trying to build one wiki to rule them all... :-)