Friday, March 28, 2014

Wikispaces: a private Wikipedia or just blogging?

Reading this week's articles on Wikipedia and community-created content made me think about a wiki that I worked on as an undergrad, which was hosted by a site called Wikispaces. Wikispaces is a kind of compromise between Wikipedia and a single-author blog. It's free and open to the public, but, instead of having users edit entries in one massive encyclopedia, it allows users to create their own wikis on specific topics. It does require users to register and log-in in order to view content, but there is no registration fee. In many ways, this half of the site seems more similar to something like Wordpress or Blogger than to Wikipedia.

However, Wikispaces also hosts a private version of its site, called Wikispaces Private Label, which is neither free nor open to the public. Organizations can buy a license, which (for an annual fee of $1,000 per 100 users) allows them to set up their own Wikipedia-like system for their members' content. Members can still post and edit as they please, I believe, but the greater Wikispaces community is not permitted to edit (or even view) the content beyond the log-in barrier, unless the organization chooses to make the site publicly viewable. What I thought was interesting is that Wikispaces does not allow single users to buy access to the whole Private Label site. Also, every wiki can be held totally separate from the others; each one exists as a sort of compromise between private data and community-created content. It's like a gated-community version of Wikipedia, in a way. Thinking about how Wikispaces is organized makes me think about the difference between Wikipedia and a standard blog. Is Wikispaces really a "wiki", or is it just a collection of personal and multi-author blogs that, like most blogs, can be made private or public at the owner's whim?

On a more practical note, I thought this would be an interesting resource particularly for academic librarians, who might get great use out of Wikispaces Campus. However, Wikispaces also caters to K-12 schools (Wikispaces Classroom), corporations (Wikispaces Private Label for Business), and non-profits (Wikispaces Private Label for Non-Profits). The main problems I can see Wikispace facing is that they seem to be offering a paid service that sites like Blogger and Wordpress provide for free, and that the pricing doesn't seem to be attractive for large institutions. Thinking about UW-Madison buying a site license at $1,000 per 100 users and wanting to make it available to all students, for example, is a little mind-boggling, assuming that I'm understanding correctly how that pricing would work.

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