Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Private or Protected Wiki Collaboration

When the fundamental wiki concept of open editing over a network is first shared, a look of shock appears on the faces of some as they try to fathom how the the benefits of high currency are to be balanced with the need for accuracy in the information. However, to say that someone can edit a page at any time, does not mean that anyone can edit or that the edits will remain. There are many levels of information control including notification of interested readers, version control, and access control. Further, sometimes what passes for accuracy is a matter of opinion and this in turn requires negotiation control methods such as voting.

Notification services are very important. A fundamental wiki concept is that developments which occur in the public eye have many eyes watching and therefore lead to better results. Democracy counts on the fourth estate (jounalism) to keep things out in the open and therefore honestly managed. Wiki sites can can count on the eyes of many interested readers. The reader/editor of a particular page can provide the wiki site with an email address and page identification. Almost anyone who edits a wiki page wants to know if someone else has changed it. Many request page change notification even if they never edit as a way to get the latest thinking on a topic. Those writers and readers most interested in the page become the wiki page watchdogs. Open access is, after all, an underlying principle of democracy.

Even wikis that run wide open and allow public editing by anyone also use version control and access control. With version control, a dated list of every change is maintained. One can return to an earlier version with two clicks in some wikis.

Access control can be implemented universally or page by page. The home page of a wiki might be locked but all other pages that descend from it may not be. A wiki site owner or multiple administrators make those decisions.

Universal access control means that there are passwords, attribution and validation. A university or a corporation might create a wiki for employees, but its use would require a login username and password. Once logged in, any comments or edit work has the editor's name attached, providing attribution. Some systems allow email to be sent to a wiki page using the CC field and will appear as a comment on the bottom page. Later editors can synthesize the collecting comments and revise the page. Notification of changes to interested employees or team members provides validation of the content.

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