Collaborators: A Wikipedia for the Third Sector

Training organisation ladder4learning has devised a jargon-busting website.

Do you know your Bassac from your BTEG, or your CTRG from your CPAG?

If not, perhaps you should visit the voluntary sector's first jargon-busting 'wiki'. If that sounds like jargon too, a wiki is a website, like Wikipedia, that allows any visitor to add or change content.

The voluntary sector wiki, available at http://vcsjargonbuster.wikispaces.com, was set up by south-east voluntary sector training organisation ladder4learning. Project manager Amanda Bowens explains: "A range of online and paper-based jargon busters exists, but they are rarely updated and become obsolete almost as soon as they are produced. The jargon-buster wiki is a collaborative project that aims to use the expertise of everybody working or volunteering in the sector. It is for the sector and by the sector."

It is also cheap to run: the site is hosted free of charge by group website provider Wikispaces; the only costs relate to monitoring and resolving any disputes.

Users can search for definitions, words or acronyms. If the word or acronym is not found, they are free to add it and a definition will be included by a later visitor or the ladder4learning office. Enquiries can be made anonymously, so people don't have to reveal their ignorance.

The decision to make the wiki entirely open to all was made early in the project, which forms a case study in the NCVO publication ICT Tools to Support Collaborative Working. There is no membership fee and no requirement for a user name or password. "This decision was based on the desire to attract as many users as possible," says Bowens. "Research shows that user names and passwords can be significant barriers to engagement with such technologies.

The downside to the free and open access is that we are not able to see who is making changes to the site - only the changes that have been made."

So far, 469 definitions and acronyms have been added to the site, which attracts an average of 30 unique users a day. The free and open nature of the endeavour means 'wiki-arguments' could easily arise between users who disagree on definitions. Bowens says this has yet to be a problem, but hopes any antagonists will contact the ladder4learning office and resolve disputes offline.

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