Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Wiki...not only pedia

We all know what Wikipedia is. I guess a lot of us know that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, mostly…because it has some privacy policies. But did you know what a wiki is? Because Wikipedia is the largest wiki. I personally didn’t know what wiki was before I had to do a presentation related to this subject.

I found a definition, on Wikipedia, which says that wiki is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. I have no idea what the last part means, so I thought of embedding this explanation in plain English…


The first Wiki was developed by Ward Cunninghan in 1995, as he wanted to build a software for collective work where you can track changes.

Nowadays, wiki is a spread tool for internal communication. Companies are using wikis for project management, as a replacement of emails, phones, case in which you can easily forget where you took the information from and it takes you ages to find it again. There are a lot of advantages. A wiki can be adapted to suit your project, it reduces meetings time, you can track the changes made to the wiki by ‘watching’ – receiving email notifications when someone changes something, you can upload documents, photos, videos etc. Me and my classmate used a wiki to do our presentation. The only thing we couldn’t do online was the Powerpoint presentation. But who knows…there’s always room for improvement in ICTs.

Ok, so the use of wikis internally is huge, and from a public relations perspective, we can say that it contributes to the relationship with internal publics. But what happens when you want to go externally with your wiki…that is where the debate begins.

Some people suggest that wiki can be a very useful tool for in public relations, as it fits into the Grunigian paradigm of two-way symmetrical communication. And that it has the advantage of being trustworthy, as it can be edited by the publics. But what happens when people take advantage of this, as we are not all people who believe constructive collaboration. An example like this is the Los Angeles Times Wikitorial, a feature related to the withdrawal of troupes in Iraq. After three days they took it off, as the content was becoming more like porn website.

There are some controversial issues on which people are keen to express their anger, extreme opinions etc. Let’s take Coca-Cola, for example, which is a symbol of capitalism, corporatism and all the derived concepts. If we look at Coca-Cola’s page on Wikipedia, we can notice that is secured. Imagine if all the people could edit their page.

In general, companies are not using wikis for external communication, as they are afraid of vandalism. Sure, one can argue that you can control to some extent the content, like Wikipedia does with its privacy policy. But when it comes to companies, where is the argument of trustworthiness if they are controlling the content?

So, personally, I think an organization should think very carefully about the issues they want to expose to public debate, and after analyzing all the channels they can use for reaching the audience and what they imply, they might as well choose wiki as an alternative.


  1. A good summary of our presentation. As we found out wikis do have their limitations – they are not very good for putting together a PowerPoint presentation and when there is no facility for comments there can be confusion – as happened with our different interpretations of ‘where are the joneses?’. I still can’t believe I thought it was a genuine video and wiki about a woman attempting to track down her sperm donor brothers and sisters!

  2. I thought companies couldn't restrict anyone from making additions or corrections on their Wikipedia articles. Isn't that wikis are all about?
    Nevertheless, wikis like Wikipedia are really good for small companies, because of the exposure it provides. Especially since Wikipedia articles are predominantly top of the list of search engines sites like Yahoo and Google.

  3. Good job in trying to explain what is a Wiki! (the name doesn't inspire nothing really serious though...) Anyways, I don't clearly see how useful it can be for a PR campaign, except specific cases as the examples you gave; however, it is just another tool not just for the overall campaign but also for the online planning. It's a simple tool and I find quite funny and creative how some organizations used it as a "work team", to engage people with certain projects and campaigns.

    In any case, thanks for sharing it with us, I will definitely use it in the future for my own purposes!