Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How a Wiki could help your martial arts club.

Yesterday, I uploaded the section on Wikis from my TSD Tech paper. I wanted to add a little more information on how a Wiki could be beneficial to a small martial arts club. A wiki can give your club a centrally located and flexible document that outlines all of your clubs processes, requirements, yearly activities, responsibilities and more.

The flexibility of the wiki comes into play especially when different roles are delegated to club officers, such as at BTSD. Unlike the traditional martial arts school, where I would call all of the shots, a good deal of day-to-day operations are managed entirely by students. While I held many offices years ago, a great deal has changed since then. It is very difficult for me keep track of everyone's responsibilities.

Many clubs deal with this by employing a paper solution. Every officer (indeed, BTSD has done this for some time) recieves a notebook that outlines their job responsibilities. In theory, each officer is responsible for updating this notebook to reflect any changes over the last year. The notebook then becomes a torch that is passed to the next officer.

A wiki is a nice way to create a centrally located notebook, that all users can make updates to as needed. It does a good job of preventing the notebook from being lost or damaged, I can view the wiki year round and suggest changes as needed, and more. This is much easier than tracking down a student who "disappears" mid-year and takes their notebook with them!

It also helps to prevent the "hit by a bus" scenario that could easily damage any organization: a key player is suddenly taken out of the equation unpredictably (i.e. hitten by a bus) and takes all of their knowledge with them. While most of this knowledge can be replicated, it is also a potentially time-consuming and frustrating process for all involved as processes are re-discovered, contacts are lost, etc.

Luckily, wikis are available to any group, even those lacking the technical savy to create their own website and install the necessary back-end materials (databases, language libraries and all that other stuff that makes non-tech people want to stop reading.) One particularly useful website is called wikispaces. Wikispaces allows groups to create their own, well, spaces online. The software is extremely flexible, allowing you to upload files, create sections, add users with varying levels of permissions, and - importantly -- to back up your work. Version control and page discussion are also present, allowing you to discuss the flow of a page rather than battling over edits as well as being able to revive previously saved versions should an officer go crazy and try to delete all of their content.

Currently, I am developing a wikispace for my club to experiment with. Like any other tool, it is only useful if you and your staff see the advantages are dedicated to using it for getting things done.
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