Why don’t we wiki?


At the end of my technology time line that I posted yesterday I wondered if I should have included more services, particularly in what seems like an innovation vacuum over the last six years. On reflection I think I know why I didn’t include many. Almost everything on the time line was something where I triumphed over adversity – a product came along, its concept was good, but it didn’t quite cut it, but after a bit of tweaking it was made to work – most importantly lessons were learned, and it was these lessons that in part shaped who I am and what I do. When I look at services though there has been no triumph, just continuous improvement. There still is adversity. Things haven’t yet been made to work as well as they should.

This brings me to wikis. Next week I’m looking forward to spending some time on the ski slopes and apres ski bars of the alps in the company of a bunch of people that I mostly don’t know (yet) who are all converging for a stag (bachelor) party. Co-ordinating the logistics of flights, hotels, mobile numbers etc. by email is a nightmare, and I was once again struck by the idea that this would be the perfect use of a wiki. The trouble is that getting everybody to the same wiki is probably just as hard as getting everybody to the same bar. The problems are:

  1. The signup hurdle – creating a wiki requires somebody to sign up as an administrator, and all of the users to create accounts (or associate OpenIDs if they have them). This is a lot harder than blasting out a list of email addresses. Perhaps there’s a good, free (at point of use) and secure wiki platform that lets you drop in a bunch of email addresses and it automagically configures accounts and sends invites – let me know if you’ve seen it?
  2. The compliance trolls – many of us spend our working days behind corporate firewalls with web filters designed to prevent nasty things like ‘data leakage’ and ‘use of non compliance collaboration platforms’ etc. This cuts off a lot of web 2.0 – not good when you want to communicate.
  3. Alerts and updates – ’email inboxes are like todo lists where other people get to add items’ (Chris Sacca), so when I send somebody an email I get their attention. Sadly I’ve not yet seen a good (in band) way of doing this with wikis. It should be possible to do something with RSS, but nobody seems to have done it right yet (and I suspect that there would also be security issues that would prevent popular online aggregators working properly). It may have been 3 years ago that he posted, but Jermey Zawodny is still right – Wiki RSS feeds suck.

I feel that the social networking applications could do something about this, and maybe there’s even a BatchelorPartyOrganiser app out there for the platform de jour (see 2 above for why we’re not using it), but even if we could herd all the participants inside a walled garden I’m not sure that all the needs would be satisfied. What we really need is an open, connected and participative experience of content aggregation and syndication.

For now I guess we’re stuck with an ugly torrent of emails. I’ll probably print mine out before I go in case my batteries run out.

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