It was not that many years ago that many of us probably sneered at Wikipedia as being an unreliable source of information. While it’s actual reliability might or might not have changed, our willingness to use it has greatly increased. Recently, I noticed several of my customers sending out definitions of terms and other types of descriptions to their teams using Wikipedia links. Also, I’ve been seeing people in our industry doing the same thing more, too.
The issue of having many people editing and sharing the responsibility of keeping up these entries seemed unreliable and scary for those used to working with regulated industries. However, many of the Wikipedia entries are probably more reliable than the definitions we’d create for each project start, for example. More people have had input into it. And, if someone “damages” the entry, it’s not lost – the changes can be rolled-back if someone does something malicious to it.
What’s changed is merely our comfort level with it. It’s been around so long and been so consistent that we’ve merely gotten used to it. And we’ve learned where to use it, as well. Obviously, a company won’t look to Wikipedia to give a reliable account of drug product formulas, but to look up various terms to help new team members understand them is a good use of it. It’s definitely a place to start and then you can get specific learning in place for the team members later on to be more formal about their information.
Just as an aside, there turns out to be a LIMS developed on the same wiki as Wikipedia. If this sounds odd, think of the wiki rollback mechanism – it’s a lot like the auditing features that most LIMS comes with. The vendor demonstrated it to a Boston LIMS/Laboratory Informatics meeting and we couldn’t’ stop asking questions about it. It’s such a cool and ultra-techie concept, we were captivated by the idea.
But the model of Wikipedia is now encouraging more companies to try creating their own wikis for a variety of internal uses. We’re already starting to hear of some successes when the application is the right one for a wiki and properly implemented.