Thursday, September 21, 2006

Value of Wikis

While many people focus on Wikipedia as the ultimate wiki, niche wikis and enterprise will soon dominate the landscape. Why do I make this argument? Its simple.

Information communities have been evolving since the beginning of the industrialized revolution (at a minimum). People with a common interest seek to collaborate and share their information with others.

Enterprises are a perfect example of an information community. People working together and sharing communal information to make a tangible and in some cases an intangible products. Wikis lower the costs of communication and therefore ad value to an enterprise. Economics is on their side.

While enterprises seek profit, many other people are interested in developing and sharing niche information. For these communities, wikis when combined with other technologies offer an ideal way to share and catalog information useful to a given community.

Once (and if) a niche wiki reaches critical mass it will be difficult for massive media companies that cater to niche communities to keep up.

Think about it. What will better serve the interests of a niche community, let's say interested in botany, a magazine (or encyclopedia) that only releases 12 issues per year (updated at most once a year) and a limited amount of static information. Or, an information community which not only has encyclopedic information but also other articles on a given topic that can range from the common "How to?" to people expressing a passion for various aspects of botany.

Wikis can cover a greater range of information than a traditional media company. It might not be economical for a magazine or traditional encyclopedia to hire an expert to write about fringe topics on a given subject. Maybe the topic won't appeal to enough people. Maybe the magazine cannot find/hire a person to write on a given topic.

The best part: information will be available, on demand, to people with an interest in a given topic and it can be quickly a dynamically updated. Sure, some of the information might not be 100% perfect, but no information source is perfect.

Wikis dramatically lower the cost of producing information—even when considering error—and create searchable freely accessible databases of information. Considering that information has a tremendous value and wikis lower productions costs, owning one or multiple wikis will become extremely valuable.

The owner of a wiki will essentially own an information bank. As we increasingly move to an information economy, these banks will only increase in value.


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