Friday, 2 September 2011

Thing 13 - Wikis, Google Docs, Dropbox

I've used each of these tools before but I haven't really explored wikis to any major extent so I focused on wikis for the practical element of this thing, and I've included a brief description of my use of Google Docs and Dropbox.


I have had a PBworks account for a few years now and the main wiki I use is the UK library blogs wiki which I help administer (which I've just realised I haven't added this 23 Things blog to!).

I'm hoping to use a personal wiki to collect evidence for my CILIP Chartership which I'm planning to start next year, so I did a bit of exploring on an existing wiki to check out some of the more advanced features. We have a committee wiki for CILIP West Midlands which was set up last year by Katharine with the aim of recording what is involved in each of the committee roles to help new (and existing) committee members understand each other's roles and responsibilities. I completed the basics last year but was aware that I needed to add more explanation about the role, so I spent some time adding information about my different areas of responsibility as Marketing Officer.

Marketing Officer wiki page (click for larger image)
I set up a template for each of the different web tools I am responsible for (the hyperlinked bullet points under online marketing) so each page had certain sections:

  • Description
  • Responsibility
  • Content
  • Frequency
  • Promotion
To set up a template just create a page with the headings (or whatever else you want in your page template) and then tag it with the word template (all lower case). Then when you next create a new page you can choose to create it from that template. Nifty trick and definitely something I'll be using in future.

User permissions
I also had a look at different user permissions - there are lots of options but for some page specific options (e.g. hiding pages from all but admins) you need a paid account. The different user levels (administrators, editors, writers and users) are useful to enable people access whilst preventing loss of pages or crucial information, but it doesn't seem possible to have information only viewable to certain people on the free account. Please let me know if you found a way to do this as it's something I'm interested in discovering.

The one thing I do struggle a little with on wikis is the structuring - it's often not so easy to navigate I find, so I think a bit of extra work is needed to make either a site map style page or add the main areas onto the front page of the wiki. I was also a little disappointed to discover that if you change the title of a page, it will lose all the links to that page (I was hoping it would be clever enough to update them or to link to a static identifier but sadly not).

My exploration has reminded me how useful wikis are - I definitely think they will be a good way to record my evidence for my Chartership as I can set up a defined template for reflecting on each activity, and it should be easy to share with my mentor.

Google Docs

I've used Google Docs occasionally over the last few years. I used it whilst I was studying so that I could work on my assignments from wherever, though the formatting options aren't great so I only tended to use it in the early drafting stages. I've used it collaboratively which I do find very useful, particularly when lots of people are working on the same document. I like the fact that you can chat alongside the document too - that's been great for CPD23 planning as I'm not able to make the face to face meetings but can join in online and make amendments to the document and join in the conversation (thanks to kind people at the meeting who write in the chat to let me know what's happening!).

The forms options are also really useful for populating survey information - great for quick and dirty fact finding surveys.


I'm a massive fan of Dropbox and save most of my documents on there. I used it during my dissertation and I use it for any reports/documents I'm working on - for work documents once they are complete I add it to Sharepoint (though I often keep a copy on Dropbox as I'm nowhere near my limit yet). I love the fact that I can get access to my documents from wherever I am and on whatever device - I use it to share work documents and meeting notes between my computers and iPad. I haven't used the sharing options often - this is probably something I should look into doing more of for ad hoc sharing rather than emailing static documents.


I've been glad to use this CPD23 thing as an excuse to spend time exploring some of the more advanced options I keep meaning to do but never get round to. It's been really useful to dedicate some time to looking into the PBworks options and finally completing my section of the CILIP West Midlands committee wiki. It's reminded me to mention it to others on the committee to get it populated as I think it could be an invaluable tool for helping new committee members - so I've added it to my things to bring up at the next committee meeting.

I'll probably be using PBworks to help me collect evidence for my CILIP Chartership portfolio, although I am disappointed that there is currently no way to edit on iPad (again, this is an Apple restriction). I really like writing on iPad and can see not being able to update the wiki on the go being a frustration; I guess I'll just have to save in a separate document or in the comments and add it to the wiki when I'm next at a computer. Hopefully in future there might be a way to update PBworks wikis via iPad (e.g. through an app).

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