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Marshall's Web Tool Blog

Training and Consulting in New Tools for Effective Web Use

This site is an archive of posts that I hope you will find useful. Please visit my new site at Marshallk.com.

Wiki Training Talking Points

I'm going to do a training/presentation tomorrow night about the use of a wiki as an internal discussion tool between monthly meetings for a non-profit group's board of directors. The group's technical support guy/wiki administrator has decided to go with PmWiki, which I suggested. Below are some of the talking points I'm working on for the presentation. Please feel free to post comments with feedback, suggestions or other ideas of things I should discuss. These are just basic sketches, but they cover many of the ideas I plan to touch on.

drum roll please...

Wikis are simple to use, but there is still a learning curve to them. Once you make that turn, reading and posting to the wiki between meetings will seem easy to do – but please communicate to us any questions or concerns you have about its use so that you can be as comfortable as possible.

Different Degrees of Participation

Based on other peoples’ experiences using wikis in groups, out of the total number of participants -- less than everyone typically keeps up with reading the wiki content and a smaller number still tends to write in the wiki. One goal for maximizing the usefulness of the wiki is to try and make the percentage of readers and contributors as high as possible. We’ve made that central in our minds when laying out this wiki, and we hope that you will be thinking when you use it "what could help me move up to the next level of use?" That’s the perfect kind of thing to post to the help page.

Acknowledging different levels of use, though, the program we’ve selected allows a "print this page" option to be selected so that hard copies of pages can be brought to meetings for everyone to see.

Self-awareness Regarding Use

Wikis are intended to be very non-hierarchical, so questions posted to the help page can be of interest to anyone using the system. If you have suggestions for your fellow users around questions they’ve posted, edit that page and post what you’ve learned. Likewise, even if you post "I need help with this too," or "I can’t imagine using that feature myself" – that will increase the group’s self awareness about where everyone is at in terms of use and needs, and any post to the wiki will increase your familiarity with the process of editing a page.

Types of Content

The initial content in the wiki should lend itself to people jumping in to edit pages and contribute. The group’s mission statement is evolving, so the current text has a page. Edit that page and add feedback, thoughts, suggestions, concerns and possible alternative wording.

Meeting notes will also be added to the wiki. Instead of relying on one note taker’s memory and interpretation of discussions, you can edit the page and add your take on the notes to the text. Either an asterisk inside the body of the notes, followed by your contribution or a separate addition at the bottom of the page could work. The wiki is really like a pad of paper on the internet, you can jot down notes, erase things if you feel so inclined, copy and paste text from everywhere, and paperclip other files or documents on to particular pages as attachments.

Other things that could be developed on the wiki include agendas for upcoming meetings, project updates, questions, feedback or requests for help, and documents and templates under development.

Structure

Like a pad of paper, if you want to draw attention to a new page, or a new topic on a page, you can go back to the table of contents at the front and mark down where the new section is. Starting a subject of conversation is as easy as starting a new page, and linking to it from the table of contents. Your wiki administrator will also keep an eye on the "recent changes" page, to see if any new content could be linked or listed more than it has been.

You might start by just editing pages to add your own comments to text already there. Then you might start new topics on preexisting pages, maybe with a subhead title for a new section of that page. Finally, you may add entirely new pages and link them back to other relevant pages. The more comfortable you can be with each of these options, the more flexible your use of the wiki will be and the more you will get out of it.

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