Roles People Play When Using Wikis

If you look at any successful wiki community, whether it be Wikipedia or an internal wiki inside a company, you will find many different people playing many roles. With a wiki, whatever your inclination, there is always a way for everyone to chip in and add his and her special talent or knowledge to the mix. Here are a few possibilities.

Reader/Researcher

The most common role that most of us play when interacting with wikis is that of a reader or researcher. We want to find out something, so we use our favorite search engine and are directed to a wiki. Much of the time, people who find information this way don't know that they're using a wiki. They just see a nicely formatted page with the information they seek.

Contributor

Contributors to wikis are those of us who have something to say or have knowledge that we're burning to share. Contributors read wiki pages and click that Edit button to make them better. Contributors start new pages and do their best to fill them out. Contributors make comments on pages in wikis that have discussions attached to pages.

Evangelist

The excitement of learning, sharing, and creating knowledge as well as collaborating to get work done often leads readers and contributors to want to spread the word — to become wiki evangelists. For public wikis, this can mean something as simple as linking from other Web sites or blogs to pages on the wikis. For wikis inside the boundaries of companies or other organizations, it can mean helping to make others aware of what is on the wiki and how that content can be used to help them do their work.

Editorial Quality Maven

In most successful wikis, a quality control patrol springs up. This patrol is staffed by people who care about the quality of the information on the wiki and who know how to use the Recent Changes button to good effect.

Administrator

When wikis get active, all sorts of maintenance tasks spring up. New users must be given accounts. Special tasks such as archiving old content or performing bulk changes must be performed. New wikis must be set up and old wikis must be taken down. Permissions to who can see which wiki must be changed. Administrators are the equivalent of the auto mechanics of wikis who make all this happen.

Operations and Hosting Engineer

Wiki engines run on servers. A slow wiki or one that is unreliable isn't likely to be successful. It's not uncommon for a wiki to fall into disuse after just one major outage shakes the confidence of the community of users. When a wiki becomes popular, the server should be enhanced to keep pace. Operations and hosting engineers —who keep the servers on wiki engines humming along — are key players in a wiki community.

Champion/Founder

The wiki champion or founder is the person who fought the battles needed to get the wiki up and running, recruited the initial participants, seeded the content, found servers to use, set up the software, and did whatever it took to get the wiki going. In almost every wiki community, the champion or founder plays a special role and provides the crucial energy to keep the community moving forward and the cool head to resolve disputes.

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