of Rats and Parasites

January 23, 2010

This week I spent more time with my IT gurus at CEIT. Bursting with pride about the fact that I’d now set up my UQ blackboard site, set up discussion spaces,  begun to electronically link all my readings, posted a video, and created a blog – I felt like I was in geek girl land for sure.  But no, turns out I’ve only just begun. This week it was on-line collaborative writing tools and Wikis. In my last post I confessed that I thought a Wiki was a tropical parasite. Since then I’ve discovered that I wasn’t far off. Apparently it’s a Hawaiian word for something annoying that gets under your skin and sucks the time out of your day.

A Wiki, I have learned,  is a fast website (Wiki adopted from a Hawaiian expression for ‘quick’). Unlike a blog, it enables multiple authors and is excellent for collaborative projects: think Wikipedia or Google docs.  In fact, in my case, the interest in Wikis is that it would enable me to tie a whole heap of blogs to a central point¹. Like Blogs you can set them up for free, via various hosts which offer a whole range of different features. So far so good.

What’s not so good is that Wikis are, well, boring.

I don’t mean their functionality. I’m sure they are full of all sorts of bells and whistles that I haven’t even begun to explore. But visually they are very dull – or at least the public site ones are. There are a very limited number of shells and they all seem very text heavy. What I really want is a visual experience: a gallery of objects, or even avatars; something that makes you think: wow – that looks really interesting, I’ll click on that and something that might give you a helicoptor view. I’m afraid that seeing http://processinpractice.wikispaces.com/  just doesn’t do that for me. But hopefully some Wiki expert will come along and tell me how it’s possible. I’ll keep playing. Although at the functionality level it will serve a useful purpose for this project, I just hate having to sacrifice image for substance!

PS: Oh yeah, I wasted my Thursday night drawing a snail logo for my site in a desperate effort to give my wiki site SOMETHING of interest. This is the result.

¹ unfortunately at this point I get stomach churning flashes of The Rat King mythology, which, if you’re really interested and have a strong constitution, you can read about in a scientific study of the Rat Kings of Estonia: http://www.kirj.ee/public/Ecology/2007/issue_1/bio-2007-1-7.pdf). 

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