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Evaluating Web Content
Blogs and Wikis
How to tell them apart
Before addressing how to evaluate content on blogs and wikis, letís consider how to tell them apart. At times, it can be difficult to determine if you are viewing a blog or a wiki.
To determine which is which, consider the following:
- Blog content is organized around "news" postings about which readers can comment. Wiki content is organized around topic-based Web pages that are usually edited by groups.
- A blog usually features date-based postings on its main page, organized in reverse chronological order. A wiki looks like a typical Web site, and usually includes a link for logging in to the site for editors who wish to or are authorized to contribute.
- A blog usually allows readers to comment on its individual postings. Wikis offer comments or "talk" pages for discussion of the content on individual wiki pages.
- Blogs often focus on personal insight, anecdote, or opinion. Wiki content is usually less personal.
- A blog is typically maintained by a single individual, while wikis tend to have numerous contributors. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
- Blog postings are written by the administrator(s) of the blog, and not by the general public. Wikis can be edited by anyone, or by the invitation/authorization of the wiki administrator(s).
- Visible "edit" links are often available to anyone visiting the wiki. Blogs do not allow for public editing.
- The history of wiki page edits can be viewed by visitors. Blogs do not have this feature.
- It is generally easier to identify the name of the individual maintaining a blog. On wikis, the identity of authors/editors may be more difficult to determine as nicknames may be used.
A blog is a Web-based journal entry platform that can accept reader comments. Entries are usually presented in reverse chronological order.
To evaluate the content on a blog, look for these clues:
- Most blog postings focus on a discussion of issues rather than day-to-day personal or recreational activities.
- Blog postings are signed by an identifiable author.
- The author has expertise on the topic of the blog.
- Comments on blog postings emphasize substantive discussion of the issues.
- Blog postings are cited on other blogs. A blog search engine such as Technorati can help to determine this, and general search engines are also useful.
- Links to the blog or its individual postings are saved on social bookmarking sites such as Delicious.
- New blog postings appear fairly regularly Ė though archived blogs can contain useful material.
A wiki is a publishing platform on which many people can contribute new content and revise existing content. The content benefits from the collective knowledge base and the dynamic nature of the contributions.
To evaluate the content on a wiki, look for these clues:
- The sponsorship of the wiki. This may be explained on an "About" or similar page.
- The wiki, whether academic or popular, suits your needs.
- The identity of those who are able to edit or add content. If it is a select group, try to determine if they have expertise in the wikiís topic.
- Changes to the page appear reasonable.
- The material you are interested in cites sources that you can use to double-check the information.
- There are guidelines for contributors to follow.
- There is monitoring of content by those responsible for the wiki, and you can determine who these authors are (often you canít).
- The currency of the edits. Some wiki platforms offer a "History" or similar tab that allows you to view a sequential list of changes.
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