Wikis, Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and Collaborative Writing

24 10 2010

John S. Brown (2010) explains the benefits of working in groups in his closing keynote presentation about “A new culture of learning.”( He states that collaborative study groups improve people’s critical thinking and creativity, and with emerging technologies, study groups can also work virtually. Wikipedia is an example of a larger type of study group with the participation of everybody. In Wikipedia people are developing their own content and change others’ content virtually. Brown also states that there is no better way to learn than explaining to others. In Wikipedia people are explaining what they know, and they learn.

I think the motivation behind the Wikipedia is the relation between the master and the apprentice. When people create content in the Wikipedia, the expert writers start changing the content to improve its quality. Thus, apprentices start learning from the master. Another motivation is sharing. People like expressing their thought and knowledge.

The limitation of the Wikipedia is the evaluation of the quality of the knowledge. There is no professional organization checking the quality and reliability of the content in this environment. There are hundreds/thousands of pages incomplete waiting for people to develop. Another thing is the dominance of some languages. In order to have a global collaborative environment, we have to support the use of different languages in Wikipedia.

Reference: John Seely Brown (2010, June). Closing Keynote at the New Media Consortium 2010 in Anaheim, CA. A Culture of Learning. Gardner Campbell’s reflective blog post:; Video of keynote:




One response

1 12 2010

Yes, Wikipedia is the best example of collaborative writing and perhaps is the one that made wikis famous as collaborative tools. I guess nobody expected the amazing success of Wikipedia, especially because it depends on the time and effort of volunteers and probably nobody thought that there were going to be that many people willing to contribute to this project. I think that an important feature that Wikipedia and wikis in general have is the ability to keep a history of all of the changes made to the document, so it is very easy to revert any act of vandalism and to monitor the progress of contributions to the document. Another feature is the ability to see who added what. This can be an incentive for those who want everybody else to know that they have authored or contributed in many Wikipedia entries.

I do agree with your comments about the dominance of some languages. Indeed, whenever I check something I always use English because even if what I’m searching for is specifically related to my country ironically there is more information in English than in Spanish most of the time. I’m not sure what this means, but it might indicate that some countries still don’t see the value of sharing time and effort to add general knowledge to benefit others.

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