FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, January 28, 2005

How Wikis Could Change Business Communications

Public relations expert Steve Rubel blogs on how wikis have the potential to revolutionize the PR industry by providing a new tool for creating media directories. For those not familiar with the industry, media directories are used by advertising and PR agencies to locate media outlets such as newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations so they can purchase ad space/time or pitch stories. Directories are also extremely expensive, and must be updated frequently as personnel change and outlets come and go. As an example, Rubel cites TheNewPR Wiki, which aggregates business blogs and other PR resources.

Wikis are collaborative knowledge environments in which items can be freely added and edited. Perhaps the best-known wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit and contribue to. Aside from the open-editing capability, wikis are in one respect a throwback to the early days of the Web, when the emphasis was on hyperlinking of content.

Terry Heaton says this about wikis:

Wikis are a much bigger deal than most people realize. They are yet another visible sign of Postmodernism in our culture — a rejection of the idea that knowledge should be controlled for profit. Wikis are anarchical, and that terrifies command and control, top-down thinkers (Modernists). Wikis are a very efficient method of building massive databases of searchable and organized information. It confounds Modernists that they actually work.

Wikis can certainly be used by any enterprise that needs to share and manage information... which is to say, any enterprise. If widely-used and reliable wikis emerge for media and other business directories, however, they will "bubble up" from below, developed by smart people for the benefit of other smart people. Don't expect the existing players in the directory industry to jump on this... although somebody could surprise us.

There's a parallel between wikis (which are human-friendly) and XML-based web services (which are machine-friendly) that can connect disparate systems from across business lines to create industry consortia. However, wikis may have the jump on web services, as they are easy and cheap to set up, can be created and managed with little IT overhead, and can be edited on the fly by anyone with the appropriate access.

Sources: Micro Persuasion, POMO Blog