Jeremy Smith's blog

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Uses of Wiki Software

Looking at how a great many people use the Case Wiki System, I am struck with one common use-case scenario that happens — a collaborative scratch sheet. For example, take a look at Digital Library & Digital Case.

Using a wiki as a scratch sheet is certainly not unheard of, but I would be hesitant to say that a wiki is the right tool for the job in that scenario, especially if real-time collaboration is desired. There might be a better tool for the job.

Another use-case scenario that continually pops up on the wiki is the use of it like a personal or targetted wiki-space; for example, GRMN399 or Screen Saver. Again, these are very applicable uses of wiki software; though, they seem out of context for the Case Wiki... like there are better tools that would or could facilitate this.

Common uses for wiki and wiki-like software:

  1. Collection of user-created and democratically patrolled encyclopedic knowledge (examples: Baker Building, Master Plan
  2. Place to define and describe procedures, policies, and how-to's augmented by the user community (examples: Freedman Center, CaseBlog FAQ)
  3. Arena for collaborating on a document in real-time or near real-time (example: Digital Library & Digital Case)
  4. Personal, group-centered, or project-oriented work space and scratch sheet (examples: POJAX, Screen Saver)
  5. Arena to begin discussions and request for comments (examples: Econ102 Principles of Microeconomics with Prof. Murphy/Midterm Comments, Acceptable Use Policy)

Numbers 1 and 2 are what the Case Wiki was designed to do. In those scenarios, we want it to be the best tool for the job. Number 5 is what the Blog System is for. Numbers 3 and 4, however, are not adequately solved by any services on campus... at least I don't think so.

For number 4, what I think could be an interesting solution is a "meta-wiki" install. Basically, you go to a site (say and you sign up for a wiki space. You fill in a little form that asks the name of your wiki space, who can read it (anyone, only Case users, only my defined set of people), who can edit it (anyone, only Case users, only my defined set of people), and a wiki is automatically installed for you with the correct permissions and such at (Obviously, this could be made even cooler with well defined LDAP groupings for Course and Student Organizations in such a way that you could say "only let members of MIDS 480 read/edit this wiki space" or "let anyone read it but only members of the Ultimate Frisbee Club can edit it.") I am thinking wiki software like TiddlyWiki or even a more full-blown piece of wiki software like TWiki.

For number 3, software like SynchroEdit, a browser-based, real-time document collaboration piece of software like SubEthaEdit, seems a good fit. or something.

But, how would you make it all interoperate? Obviously, RSS use would abound which would enable all of these different pieces of software to display content amongst themselves via extensions like MTRSSFeed for displaying the information on one's blog, CaseWiki RSS Extension for displaying the info on wiki articles, or showing it in a portlet, or subscribing to it in a news aggregator. You could, also, have buttons within each work space on and that would read "send the contents of this to a Case Wiki article" or "post this to my blog."

I am just thinking outloud as I analyze the ways people are using the Case Wiki. Obviously, the wiki is still quite young and people are still probing its uses. It has to run for a longer period of time before we can ascertain nominal use-case scenarios and identify possibilities for other tools. If you have any comments, feel free to leave them.


  1. gravatar hnadles #4, at least for computer projects.

  2. gravatar provides a shared thinking/writing space with versioning. It's hosted and free. might be applicable.

  3. gravatar

    Oh, you already mentioned TiddlyWiki. Oops.

  4. gravatar

    Until there are better solutions out there, we shouldn't discourage using the Case Wiki in ways that are not optimally designed for wikis. Once better solutions are in place, migrating the content from the Case Wiki is just as simple as copying, pasing, and changing the wiki article to contain a short blurb and link to the new site.

    I still cling to the hope that one day the Case Wiki becomes a portal of sorts for information (not a portal of personal information-- that is My Case's job-- but instead reference information). Instead of doing a Google search or wandering around campus looking for answers or e-mailing people, you just go to the Case Wiki. It would act as a nexus of sorts (a nexus to itself, but a nexus nonetheless).

  5. gravatar
    we shouldn't discourage using the Case Wiki in ways that are not optimally designed for wikis.

    Oh, I agree. I don't mean to discourage use of the wiki. I was just thinking aloud about alternatives that could be put into place that would better serve some of the more common use-case scenarios.