Wikis for the Common Good

By Justin Seibert| 2 Min Read | November 5, 2006

The more tech-savvy among us have known about wikis for some time now. These sites, the most publicized of which is Wikipedia, take advantage of the collective knowledge of the masses and are also known as User Generated Content (UGC).

When you visit Wikipedia, you can do a search just like you would in a search engine. Click on the article you want to learn more about – the number of entries on this one site will amaze you – and start reading what your fellow net citizens have written.

There exists, of course, some danger that the information, whether of malicious intent or not, could be incorrect. If you’re an expert on the subject and you read something that doesn’t seem right, you can make a change to the content yourself. Some wiki sites use master editors, some don’t, but either way, if the traffic to the site is high enough, usually discrepancies will take care of themselves over time.

Not all of these wiki sites are as broad as Wikipedia. Many exist solely to inform about one very small subject. Now the United States is getting in on the action, trying to prevent some of the information sharing problems that led to 9-11.

The CIA and other US intelligence agencies now post to and read from a site called Intellipedia, which is not accesible by the public at large. Although the government is trying to figure out how much information can be shared by how many as it goes along, it already has procedures in place to protect some particularly sensitive information from being leaked to the press.

Although this intelligence wiki is meant to be kept from the public, creating wikis can be a very useful tool in drawing attention to your products and even Web site.

Be careful not to try to manipulate the information, though. While corporations typically try to control messages at a very high level, the whole purpose of a wiki is to let the public in on creating information.

If you’re not careful, you could end up receiving a lot of bad press for not presenting a “true” picture like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s found out in the past month for posting non-transparently controlled blogs as a source of online advertising.

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