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My Experience Creating a Medical Wiki

WetpaintImage via Wikipediawiki.efficientmd.com

Wikis — collaborative websites to which anyone can contribute — are powerful tools for education. The most popular Wiki is Wikipedia.org, a public encyclopedia, which as of this writing has 2,377,813 English articles.

One potential problem with Wikipedia is that medical articles aren't peer reviewed by authorities with a medical background. (Some might argue that this is actually an important feature of Wikipedia, and allowing anyone to comment on any topic is essential to Wikipedia's egalitarian nature.) The best known medical wiki, Ask Dr. Wiki, solves this problem by requiring all contributors to prove they have a medical degree before they can contribute.

I recently decided to start a new medical wiki — The Efficient MD Wiki, focused on productivity tips for doctors — and I took this opportunity to review some of the available wiki platforms and hosting services. It was a daunting task. I'll share my experiences here for those interested in starting their own wiki.

(Please note these experiences are my own, and I encourage anyone to comment and argue for/against the various wiki platforms.)

I narrowed my choices down to four platforms/hosting services:
  • Wikia. This platform is a free hosting service for wikis based on the MediaWiki software package, which is also the foundation for Wikipedia. The familiar MediaWiki package, however, also had certain disadvantages. Chief among them was the likelihood that the nonintuitive wiki markup language would discourage users unfamiliar with it from contributing.
  • Google Sites. The newest entry to the world of wikis, Google Sites initially looked promising. After setting up a site and experimenting, however, it was clear that the Google Sites was too new and lacked too many features to be usable. For example, the invitation and signin process was cumbersome, and anonymous edits of the wiki weren't allowed. (Knowing Google, I expect later version to be more polished.)
  • PBWiki. PBwiki also initially looked promising. PBWiki 2.0 was released as I was creating a test wiki. The new version didn't allow anonymous editing, however, and I had some criticisms of the wiki's layout, so I eventually decided not to use it.
  • Wetpaint. Wetpaint was first suggested when I asked for wiki recommendations on Twitter. I hadn't heard of it before. The Wetpaint platform has numerous advantages. The services are free, the layout is readable, anonymous posting is allowed, and — most importantly — its social networking features are more developed than any other wiki I tested. A major disadvantage was the disruptive presence of Google ads in the sidebar, but the ads can be disabled for educational wikis (if you ask).
The Efficient MD wiki is at wiki.efficientmd.com. Thanks for your contributions, and please let me know what you think.

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.