Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thoughts on a Department Wiki

Brian and I spent the morning thinking about the potential English Department Wiki. Here are some thoughts:

Why Wiki?
A Wiki would put not static like the department website. Grad students and faculty could have access to make changes and update putting less pressure on administrative staff to update information, and keep up with us and what we’ve been doing.

Goal of the Department Wiki?
To promote community conversation regarding events, resources, procedure in an easily accessible medium. The Wiki would allow people to update this information keeping it relevant and timely (always with the option of archiving old information).

What purpose(s) would the Wiki serve? (in no particular order)
Events - Listserv only addresses people on list – wiki would be better place to advertise
Pedagogy – Use for individual classes (e.g Rushe 205)
Teaching – Place to post all things related to pedagogy
Recruitment – Shows interest in technology, collegiality and communication, gives less formal place to advertise ourselves to prospective students
Alumni – information, location, publications, etc to keep up to date with those who have gone before us
Loose Canons-like information on who’s doing what where etc.
Grad Student and Faculty Profiles – available for easy update
Job placement – resources, information, handouts, etc.
New books – Sandra Still can post
Grad Student Handbook Information – existing information with UPDATES as to changes in procedures (see this "survival guide" - )
Fellowship and Grant information – Resource for both internal and external funding opportunities

Any other thoughts?


Blogger rachel said...

These are great ideas. It seems that especially goals related to information circulation - events, alumni, procedures, et al - are well-suited to this. I feel like we could really use a centralized space/device for this, and the potential freshness of it would immediately up the efficacy with which info is circulated. I also think (and this is more speculative) that there is something to be said for a site you go to [as opposed to listserv emails that come to you] and the investment/agency in place there that contributes to better retention of the data contained.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Michael Elliott said...

I don't think this is a strong argument against a wiki, but I don't see a foreseeable future in which the listserv traffic diminishes because of a wiki. (At least not appreciably.) That doesn't mean that a wiki wouldn't be a great place to store information about events, but the listserv isn't going anywhere.

12:55 PM  
Blogger rachel said...

right; i was thinking not so much that a wiki woudl replace the listserv, so much as it might serve as an effective supplement for those of us whose eyes start to glaze over GSENG emails .... but their might not be that many of "us"

4:02 PM  
Blogger Michael Elliott said...

Looking at this again, I can't help but noticed UPDATED in all caps. My sense is that the problems with updating on the department website do not emanate from the administrative bottleneck of a single web administrator, but because faculty and staff rarely provide updated content.

I'd like to hear a case made for why this would change with a wiki.

9:08 PM  
Blogger rachel said...

i wasn't around when the caps where capped, so this is speculative, but i do feel like a lot of the information that circulates about dept. procedures re: coursework, distribution thereof, orals, funding, committees, letters, fellowships, speakers, TAing, health insurance, and various others often emanates from well-informed, well-traveled and well-meaning grad students, as opposed to official channels. It's possible that this information and attendant changes in it could be more effectively distributed through a wiki.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I agree that a wiki would not replace a listserv. Sarah and I were thinking that a wiki, however, is one more place to advertise and it is a place in which people who are not on the listserv can find the information they are looking for. It's essentially an advertising venue.

I don't know that we need updates to things like the Grad Student Handbook. On the other hand, it would be great to be able to update, say, our profiles as grad students rather quickly.

I agree that perhaps it is not an admin bottleneck that is slowing things down as knowing: Okay, I want to change something. What do I want to change? Who do I email to have it changed? How do I phrase it so I know what they mean? etc...

10:34 PM  
Blogger Michael Elliott said...

The advertising argument is interesting to me, and I'd like to hear more about it. Why would a wiki be better advertising (by which I think you mean a host of different kinds of 'advertising')? Would graduate students really update their information more often?

One of the things I'm trying to get at is whether what we shouldn't be doing is just trying to get the dept. to dedicate more resources to the web site -- so that updating process could be streamlined, etc., and more information actively sought.

Or, maybe the wiki should try to take over some functions of the dept web site?

I'd like to hear more.

11:19 PM  
Blogger sarah p said...

I spoke with Shannon a bit about this yesterday as I had a similar concern about the website vs. wiki debate. Her sense was the wiki is designed for this kind of constant update in a way that websites just aren't. While I do agree this still relies on people taking initiative, I think wikis are a bit more inviting because the changes are less onerous and the format feels less formal. At least for graduate students, I think this will be more appealing.
That said, I didn't mean to point fingers in my use of all caps to signal a need for updating. I just feel there is often information I want that I feel is not available or not current on the website. I am not sure why it is this way, I just think the wiki could help.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Well, I think a wiki is an addition to the listserv for advertising because it can be accessible to those who aren't subscribed to the listserv (the general Atlanta community, potential students, etc.). As we build an archive of events that the department has been involved in during the year, someone could turn up and say: "Hey, the had Josh Miller in. What lucky stiffs those people at Emory are!"

I think the wiki works well for advertising because whoever is in charge of an event--or anyone else that has a mind to do so--can post the event to the site. It doesn't require layers of bureacracy (no matter how efficient) to get it onto a website.

Of course, our website doesn't currently do any of these things.

I do think that the wiki could take over some functions of the department website where we are willing to sacrifice a little bit of polished appearance for more accurate and up to date information.

I also agree with Sarah that making changes to a wiki is much less onerous than doing so to a website. And it really gives a sense of accomplishment to go in, add something, and see it appear instantly.

I don't know if grad students would be updating their information all that often. After all, it doesn't frequently change. However, people would start to do so gradually.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Michael Elliott said...

Two quick things:

1) The direction of this conversation suggests to me that it might be better to think of this is a graduate program wiki rather than a dept. wiki. I realize that to you all, that might seem like a small distinction, but it's not. If we start with the premise that this is really for the graduate program, do we re-write the original SP/BC list?

2) I am still awfully concerned that we are talking about something that no one would use enough to make it worth the effort. For what it's worth -- and I don't know why -- the most (read: only) enthusiasm I hear is from people who are going to be, I hope, moving to other pastures. Your "official channel" will be moving out of the DGS office in 17 months as well. How can we ensure that this will be something that will be useful and vibrant beyond that?

2:41 PM  

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