Wikis: Tools for information work and collaboration

Wikis: Tools for information work and collaboration 

Jane Klobas 

Oxford: Chandos Publishing | 2006 | 229pp | ?39.95 (SB) | ISBN 1843341786 

Reviewed by Martin Walker

A wiki is a website that any user can edit, ideal for collaborations to document knowledge. Wikis such as Wikipedia are beginning to change how the web operates, and chemistry wikis are beginning to appear, so publication of this book is timely. 

The text gives a good overview of the topic, covering all of the main aspects at a level suitable for someone with very limited expertise. Technical topics like this don’t always make an exciting read, but Klobas’s style is accessible and engaging. Some chapters are written by other contributors, and in these I noted a range of quality and style. The publisher aims the book at librarians, but much of the content would be useful for setting up and operating a wiki.  

In a rapidly changing field such as this, a book may seem dated before publication, but this text remains current, with most links still active. Although some of the material such as site descriptions will age, the book contains general principles that will remain valuable for several years.  

There are three general areas covered in the book: description, application and operation. Klobas herself describes many of the technical and social aspects, and then provides many examples of working wikis. These examples vary in value; the best example is in her revelation that the book itself was written collaboratively on a wiki. I very much enjoyed the chapter on business applications by S?bastien Paquet, which provides some great principles illustrated by powerful examples, such as, ’’s use of the wiki brought group email down from a volume of 100 per day .... to less than one a week.’ Angela Beesley’s hands-on experience of wikis comes across well in the final chapter, Managing a wiki, which covers issues such as site planning and copyright in a practical way. 

It is quite pricey, but if you want to learn about setting up a wiki, to collaborate online or just to find out more about the field, this book will provide much of what you need.