This is part of series of reflections on what I am learning about working wikily through the WeAreMedia wiki. In my last reflection, I talked about balancing participation on home base and outposts. In this post, I'm going to take a deeper dive into the actual work tasks of a wiki gardener - it is a bit more than simply weeding.
I created a 4 minute screencast with Jingproject that will give you a sense of the workflow. I started to think about the gardening tasks using the metaphor of, well, gardening.
1. Prepare your garden bed: The garden bed is the actual page or section on the wiki where you want to get people to contribute content or where you'll place it after you scoop it from the outposts. I create a page and it is a balancing act. You need to avoid filling it up with too much content because people will think the page is complete and they have nothing to contribute or get overwhelmed. On the other hand, if you give them a "naked" page - they won't have enough context to contribute easily - unless they are subject matter experts on the topic, have lots of time, and are highly motivated to contribute.
I'm still learning that balance. But I usually start with a very short paragraph for context and leave questions or tables for people to fill-in. The stuff that people like to contribute are: their own links and brief descriptions, resources, and quick tips. (Earlier in the project, I wrote about the different levels of contributions and engagement)
2. Plant your seeds: This is asking people to contribute. I do this in several ways. First, on the wiki's top page, I have include a "What We're Working On Right Now" (see here). This stays fluid and try to point people to specific holes in the context or highlight good contributions. In addition, this is how we let people know about new places to contribute:
- Blog Posts: I do an overview post giving context and the questions. I may follow up with a summary of what's been posted and point to specific holes. The NTEN Blog also does a post. In addition, folks who have signed onto the "Expertise Map" may also contribute a blog post to the module - which has turned out to be a superb way to build original content for the curriculum.
- Twitter: I also use twitter to asks for specifics content chunks. For example, yesterday, I asked for nonprofit examples of telling stories social media style. I don't just ask questions, but eat my own dog food - engage people in conversations about it. Take for example this, this, and that.
- Community Outreach: We have over 100 people involved between wiki registered members(77), google group (82), Swarm Lists (49), and Expertise Map (50).
3. Tend To Your Garden - Water, Fertilize, and Weed: After you do the first two steps, your content will start to grow and not very neatly. You need to spend time in the garden walking the rows and observing. So, for example after I asked for examples, I went back to the page and looked at it:
- I added "you can add more than one example" because someone asked me
- I noticed that the simple structure I created was not the right container and reorganized it.
- I noticed that people may be having trouble knowing how to add rows to the table, so I made a screencast.
4. Harvest and Enjoy: The next step with this is to summarize the content that has been added on my blog - as reward and ask for more - but try to get people to add it in the right spot and fill in the description. Also, I flesh out the examples suggested via twitter. This might be good candidates for case studies. So, I put them on a separate page and am trying to get folks to add their stories.
So, that's a sneak peek into the secret life of a wiki gardener. What's your best wiki gardening tip? How do you make this work flow more efficient?
See also Social Media Classroom