Sunday, September 28, 2008
Everybody knows about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, but not everyone has tried a (lowercase) wiki for group composition and editing. Law.com recently reported on lawyers in firms and legal departments who "have begun testing the wiki waters over the last two years."
One notable advantage of a wiki for multi-person editing is that it keeps a history of each alteration of the posted document, making it easy to track back if needed, and easy to contact the contributor who suggested the change.
Others like wikis because they help reduce the need to e-mail drafts to all concerned. Instead, those who wish to view (or edit) a draft simply go to the single collaborative document on the web.
I've begun using wikis in the last year in a couple of different contexts--(1) working with authors at two other law schools on a collaborative manuscript (fun!) and (2) letting my students do small group drafting projects in class (a positive way to engage laptop users) (also fun, as long as our Internet connection is not bogged down). So far I've been pleased with the utility of the approach. The online environment has its limitations--less-sophisticated word processing, for one--but overall, it's worked the way I expected it to.
I like this Youtube explanation of wikis for those who are new to the concept:
Wikis can be public or private. Publicly accessible wikis are typically provided to users for free. Some popular (and free) wiki spaces and software include Google Docs (here's a nice tour of that site), Wikispaces, Wetpaint, and PBwiki. [Updated to add Acrobat.com Buzzword, a Flash-based word processor that exports documents in all standard word processing formats, plus Adobe PDF]
Leave a comment if you have thoughts on using wikis in the legal writing classroom or in law practice.
hat tip: Law School Innovation blog