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Trust is an essential part of any collaboration strategy

In Risk and Opportunity: The Web 2.0 Challenge, [anonymous] writes that the best way to ensure that wikis are used appropriately in an organization is to trust people to use their common sense and act appropriately. I agree with the approach, and think it applies not only to wikis or web 2.0 technologies, but to all collaboration.

This is an issue I'm going to have to work through as I work with a group of students at SIS to get a wiki up and running. Issues of access and control are already starting to surface, and while there is little risk these concerns will scuttle our plans, we are going to have to address them if only to make sure everyone is clear on what is expected of them.

To put some of my thinking out there, what I'm leaning towards now is having the wiki open to everyone, but limiting editing access to members of the SIS community (which I will leave undefined for now). I'm hoping to be able to treat "access to information" and "access to editing" separately, if only to be able to get to the root of people's concerns.

The people who will be able to edit the wiki are not anonymous, unconnected people. The members of the SIS community are bound together both socially and professionally. In addition, there are policies already in place regarding student rights and responsibilities and web use at the university, for example, that guide or influence people's behaviour on the wiki.

One of the reasons I am comfortable trusting people using the wiki is because the social context of the wiki activity encourages people to behave responsibly if only because of potential consequences of inappropriate behaviour. I know that people are going to make mistakes, and that we're going to have at least a few 'situations' to deal with. We could put restrictions in place up front to control the interaction on the wiki, to minimize the risk of people behaving badly, but doing so would likely dampen participation to the point where we wouldn't realize any of the potential benefits of the wiki as a shared collaboration space.

While the thought of an open wiki may be very unsettling to some, to be honest I don't think we are risking too much in trusting students, faculty, and staff with the ability to edit pages on a wiki. In fact, I'm optimistic that the wiki will become over time an important and central resources to everyone in the SIS community.