There are a whole bunch of different ways of structuring a Wiki. This came as something of a surprise to me when I first got involved with a Wiki, because I was used to Wikipedia – on there, there is basically nominal structuring, in that it is sub-divided by language, but thereafter you just type a query into a search box and away you go.
When I started creating and contributing to a Wiki for another online community, I realised there was no way a relatively small group of users could create enough entries for a purely key-word search methodology to work; people wouldn’t know what to search for, and if they just typed anything in there might not be a corresponding entry (not a problem with Wikipedia, obviously, as there is an entry for pretty much anything and everything). So we had to create some kind of structure, by creating an entry for each letter of the alphabet and listing all the sub-entries that began with that letter, so people could see relatively what articles were available. We also drew attention to specific content with a ‘Featured Article’ section on the homepage, linking to a different entry each week.
I would not want to repeat the ‘alphabetical’ structure again, as it was basically rubbish. Far too limiting, not particularly reliable, and all but useless unless you already knew roughly what you were looking for. There was no real categorisation or themes for entries. So the Digitisation in HE Wiki needs to do better than that.
A Wiki homepage has to serve many functions. Obviously it anchors the entire site, so it needs to clearly brand the Wiki and outline its purpose. A more detailed explanation can created as a separate entry, because people judge whether they are going to stay on website based on less than 10 seconds’ skim-reading and they don’t want lengthy prose at this stage. As the legendary Jakob Nielsen says in this classic article:
If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave.
The homepage for this type of Wiki also needs instructions on how to sign up, how to join the community, and at least a link to a guide on creating and editing entries. And it needs to offer an indication of how the content is structured.
My intention with the Digitisation Wiki is to use a classic hierarchical parent-child relationship between subjects, with the Homepage at the very top, and then a small number of broader categories, all of which will subdivide into subjects (themselves able to sub-divide again as appropriate). I am, it must be reiterated, completely open to suggestion on this and indeed any other aspect of the Wiki. The goal is to end up with a resource fit for everyone’s purposes. But a rough outline might look something like this:
Those bottom categories would splinter off in to as many different sub-sub-sections as people wanted. So the Homepage can provide links to each of the four (or how ever many we end up with) major themes, and from there you would find further links to the sub-categories, and then from there you’d find the list of articles relevant to that topic, case-studies, etc etc.
I would also like to build in some kind of Question & Answer platform, although I’m yet to look into how that could be done. But if people have queries not covered by the existing content of the Wiki at any given time, a Q&A section would be a good way to build the online community, and flag-up entries which it would be beneficial to create.
In the very long-term, if the Wiki expands beyond its original remit to include other types of digitisation beyond scanning from print (digitising various multimedia platforms such as audio, or images for archiving purposes, or slides, etc etc) then all the categories below the Homepage could move down one, and the new meta-categories could be slotted in.
I’d be interested in your views on all of this, even if you’re an Information Professional with no connection to digitisation but who does use or have experience with Wikis. Let me know what you think.