You see wikis almost everywhere you look online. They are being used for anything from encyclopedias (Wikipedia), to mock encyclopedias (uncyclopedia), to video games (World of Warcraft Wiki) to perhaps more useful, but boring, curriculum development, or project management applications.
Wikis by their very nature are collaborative. While some wikis restrict who can make edits, many are wide open. Open as in anybody can make a change. Those who host wikis are giving up control. They are asking anybody who wants to come by and help out on the project.
More and more this is putting you in the driver’s seat. Take for example Penguin Publishing’s recent project called a million penguins (why not a million monkeys?) They invited anybody who was interested to come and help them write a complete novel. The end result was…interesting to say the least.
Or what about Where are the Joneses, the new online comedy where viewers help write the script? Don’t like where the storyline is headed? Change it. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I could have done that in the last season of 24.
The power of wiki lies in the secret of open source software. Open source software spreads the workload over a large group instead of a group of 15 or 20 programmers, you potentially have thousands. Sure, there are the programs that are done by just a few people, but the really successful programs have a lot of help from a lot of people. The same holds true for wikis. The more skilled users, the more eyes looking for errors or weaknesses, the better the wiki will become.
So, the next time you come across a wiki, don’t hesitate to look for the edit button. The end result is a better page for everybody.