- What are blogs?
- What are wikis?
- What is social software?
- Why should I care about blogs and wikis?
- How can blogs and wikis benefit my business?
- What blog- or wiki-related challenges should I watch out for?
- What types of blog technologies should I know about?
- What types of wiki technologies should I know about?
- What blog terminology should I know?
- What wiki terminology should I know?
What are blogs?
"Blog" is a contraction of Web log, which is a website where users post journal-like entries that are displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent posting at the top of the page. Blogs can take the form of online diaries, personal chronicles, travel logs, newsy columns and reports from special events. They can include graphics, pictures, and even music and video clips. Blog postings often contain links to other blogs or websites. Blogs can be publicly viewable, or tucked safely behind the company firewall. Both public and internal blogs are often focused on a particular topic or issue. Virtually all blogs provide a vehicle for comments from readers, and the best ones-those that are most popular with readers, and therefore generate the most traffic-develop into a kind of conversation. And good blogs are frequently updated.
What are wikis?
A "wiki" is a website comprising text-based content that can be edited collectively by users at will. Unlike a blog, in which the authored posts remain unaltered, wiki documents can be modified by anyone with access to the website. It's a shared-authorship model; users can add new content and revise existing content without asking for permission to do so.
Typical wikis are based on a Web server, which can be left open to public access via the Internet, or restricted on a company's local area network. One of the largest and best-known examples of a wiki is the Wikipedia free online encyclopedia. In business, wikis are increasingly employed as a new type of collaboration tool.
The term "wiki" is derived from wiki wiki, which is Hawaiian for quick, which underscores one of the model's key benefits: Documents on a wiki can be edited very fast. Fans of the form claim that the whole of this kind of collaborative authorship is greater than the sum of its parts.
What is social software?
Both blogs and wikis are examples of social software, an emerging IT category currently being applied to a range of application and platform types or genres designed to facilitate personal interactions over computer networks. Blogs and wikis are types of social software, as are social networking websites, such as MySpace and Friendster.
For the moment, social software is a flexible category under which some industry watchers would include virtual worlds, such as Second Life, instant messaging and even e-mail. However, at the heart of all social software worthy of the label is a dynamic group environment that allows individuals to interact in a way that essentially combines their intelligence and/or capabilities. As pioneering blogger and social software expert Tom Coates has defined it, social software supports, extends or derives added value from human social behavior. The groups of individuals gathered in this environment have been called "smart mobs." Author James Surowiecki has described this kind of collective intelligence as "the wisdom of crowds."
The current flexibility of space is exemplified in the emergence of the wikiblog, a hybrid of the blog and the wiki. Also known as "wikiweblogs," "wikilogs," "blikis" and even "wogs," wikiblogs combine the features of the two models: The entries or articles are arranged in reverse chronological order on the main page like a blog, but the content can be edited like a wiki.
Within this context, blogs and wikis have been compared to e-mail in terms of their potential impact on the enterprise. Instant messaging, which was once thought of as irrelevant teeny-bopper tech, only to evolve into an essential business tool, also comes to mind. Each form provides nontechnical users with uniquely accessible platforms for fast and easy information publication, interpersonal communication and team collaboration.