What is a wiki? Well, if you don’t know, let’s look at what the most famous wiki, Wikipedia, has to say.

A wiki is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.[1][2] Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is one of the best-known wikis.[2] Wikis are used in business to provide intranets and Knowledge Management systems. Ward Cunningham, developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as “the simplest online database that could possibly work”.[3]

“Wiki” (/wiːkiː/) is originally a Hawaiian word for “fast”. It has been suggested that “wiki” means “What I Know Is”.[citation needed] However, this is a backronym. “Wiki Wiki” is a reduplication of the same word.

Seem simple enough? If not, here is one more great visual explanation:

It’s part of the Plain English Series:

Wikis in Plain English

If they are not already, wikis are the wave of the future in many settings because of their collaborative ability. While most organiziations (i.e. businesses, churches, etc.) are still only using email, many others have embraced the power of the wiki and are really harnessing it’s power in creative ways.

As I’m still fairly new to wikis (I have 2 that I have created, 1 that I’m a part of, and I joined Wikipedia as a user–though still too nervous to create content yet, or correct).

But let me give you just one example of where I didn’t use it, and how I wish I did and why.

On Sunday June 8, my former church Bel Air Presbyterian Church, had its annual Student Sunday service which I coordinated between Student Ministry staff, Middle School, High School and College students. Between all of us there were approximately 20-25 people involved in the service from worship music, speaking, sound, lighting, skits and more.

And I did what I always did to coordinate an event…..I used email. Big mistake. Email is terrible at coordinating stuff. By the time June 8 rolled around my inbox was filled with emails that I could hardly keep track of…”Who was doing what?” “Why?” If I had used a wiki and given every person access to that wiki, or at least specific supervisors in each department, the coordination would have been smooth, and there wouldln’t have been the need for me to continually follow up on tasks and micromanage at some degree.

I think it will take a long time before many people stop using emails for these things and use a wiki. Certainly I’m not saying to never use email, but when it comes to coordinating activities, ministries, tasks, etc. there is not better tool than a wiki.

I wish that when I was the college director of The Quest I had known more about wikis, and I would have gotten rid of those mass email lists that hardly anyone reads or responds to.

Some Reasons for Using Wikis:

Some of these have crossover value and are repetitive, but here is what I came up with.

  1. Promotes, encourages team work/participation.

  3. Decentralizes the hierarchy..now everyone is participating.

  5. Harnesses more creativity.

  7. Eliminates/reduces micromanaging by supervisors on tasks.

  9. Allows everyone to see what is happening/being accomplished.

  11. Levels the playing field (everyone’s work is valued).

  13. Eliminates/reduces the need for email.

  15. Encourages a team as everyone can view the achieving of a goal/job being done.

  17. Allows for multiple voices, therefore the best ideas rise to the top.

  19. Is a speedier tool than email chains going back and forth.  Quick correction, agreement, completion, etc.

This is what I could come up with.  How about you?  What can you add to the list?

I’ve been playing around with Wet Paint, Wikispaces, and I’m also registered with Wikipedia to edit, etc., but I don’t have a handle on that site yet.

Do you use a wiki? Which one? Do you like it?

How have you used a wiki in your ministry, or line of work, and was it effective? How?

A must read book on this topic is Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Awesome, awesome book.
Formulating an Online Strategy for College Ministry

DISCLAIMERS: 1)There are better technical people out there concerning the web. 2) Do as I suggest, not as I do. I’m trying to keep up myself, and our college website reflects almost nothing of what I talk about. That’s how fast things change. 3) There are a lot of college ministries out there, and there are a lot of online tools to use, but it doesn’t seem like many are thinking through how to best utilize the new media and Web 2.0 (and yikes, Web 3.0) in their groups. 4) Knowing that things change overnight in technology, I hope to somehow impart to you some of the things I have been learning and wrestling with in these areas. You don’t need to be an expert in this area, just know enough to think critically about the issue. 5) If you have feedback, suggestions, criticisms, please comment. This is by no means all encompassing.