The Spoolcast and Thoughts On the Wiki-riculum

So, Jared Spool is podcasting. My first encounter with Jared Spool was when he gave a keynote at WebVisions. He’s local and was very entertaining, so I figured I’d check out his podcast. It was a roundtable discussion with a wide variety of guests and was quite solid. The first episode was titled “What Can Brown Do For You?”

One complaint about the podcast is that it was split into four parts. The parts didn’t break well and had way too much intro/outro music in between them to flow well when all you wanted to do was listen to the whole thing at once (Boston traffic allows me to do this). Part 4 contained some discussion that related directly to the site I am developing.

The UPA (Usability Professional’s Association) has a project called the Usability Body of Knowledge (BOK). The BOK, which has a preview posted, is a community-developed reference for usability. I talked about something similar for my site that I was calling the “wiki-riculum”. The BOK, I believe, is more reference than curriculum, but many points they made about it still apply.

The first question that Jared asked was why not just edit pages on Wikipedia? The response was that even though Wikipedia has a way of policiing content, the BOK is supported by an organization and therefore has an “official” feeling to it and an official content approval process. It is what the UPA agrees on as an association.

Wikipedia, though a great resource, is uncredentialed and you really never know who put the information in. The BOK is aiming to be a definitive reference from an esablished association. The BOK is the product of an organizational process.

It was brought up that efforts such as these are often better suited for something like Wikipedia because when professional associations try to take soemthing on like this it becomes difficult to sustain and is subsequently dropped. With Wikipedia, there are more people involved so it is more sustainable.

On the other hand, an “organization” like Wikipedia generally only goes so deep into the coverage of the information. UPA contributors could go deeper because the resource is about just one topic—not about EVERYTHING.

Lastly, the point was made that companies using information from the site might run into less trouble than if they said “I got it off Wikipedia.” The UPA brings credibility as it is a trusted organization.

Something about this was obviously still bothering Jared, and he finally let on what it was. How do you avoid having a “very UPA viewpoint” on all entries?

My wiki-riculum is similar in that it is a body of knowledge, but it is not coming from on specific source. My site is a professional community gathering, not an official site for an organization. So, it has some aspects of both Wikipedia and the BOK.

You won’t have any potential content bias based on an orgnanizations “official” point of view. The content will be a product of site visitors from many different groups. With that, there is some aspect of not knowing who actually crafted the information. To that, I’ll point to our user rating system and how a contributor is not “allowed” to modify the curriculum until the user’s rating reaches a certain level. The only way this level goes up is if the user is deemed a positive influence on the community by the community itself.

So, the first Spoolcast was a success for me, as it spoke directly to a problem I’m encountering right now. I look forward to more.

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