Wikis, Web sites that allow users to contribute to or edit its content, are fully embracing the Web 2.0 approach, operating on the philosophy that the more users participate, the better the content. The collective intelligence empowers the community. The best known wiki is Wikipedia, which takes the number seven spot in traffic ranking on both the global as well as the United States list at Alexa.
Although wiki pages can make no guarantee of validity due to its open process (and vandalism frequently occurs), a large community polices, edits and cleans the pages at a remarkable rate. Employees of orchestras should tread carefully in the world of wikis and Wikipedia. After several scandals involving corporations and politicians favorably editing their own encyclopedic entry and even Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales messing with his entry, community members and users are very weary of edits by employees or affiliates.
Most orchestras will have a dedicated page on Wikipedia. (I started the NHK Symphony page after I was looking for information and discovered they did not have a page). But what to do if you see an apparent error on your orchestra’s page? Spelling and grammar mistakes, vandalism and spam or incorrect dates, titles or names can be fixed by employees or affiliates, but never anonymously! Transparency is key. Keep in mind that your IP number will be logged and it is easy to trace it back to your company (one such tool is WikiScanner). Simply create an account, work in full transparency and provide sources where needed.
But be careful. Do not try to insert favorable messaging; a neutral point of view is highly treasured in the community. If you see something you would like to portray in a different light, use the discussion page to put forth your argument and provide independent sources (for example a link to a newspaper article) that support your point. Read Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest page for more information.
As one member points out, you can help even more by offering your promotional materials, including publicity photos and press releases, with a free license, without copyright. I’ve mentioned Creative Commons before; consider providing sound samples, interviews, videos and images under a Creative Commons license, which covers the spectrum between full copyright and the public domain.
Wikipedia is the best known example, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of other wikis. There might be a niche market for classical music. Sequenza21, a contemporary music Web site, has its own wiki with performer and composer bios and multimedia sources. This wiki has new entries, but also complements existing Wikipedia entries. Another, somewhat different, example of a wiki is the We Are Media wiki by Beth Kanter. This wiki provides a collaborative look at social media and non-profits.
Just like blogs, one option orchestras can consider is using a wiki internally. Wikis are great for collaborative projects and can be as private as needed. Think of an archives project on the organization’s intranet with the orchestra’s history, complete with photos and audio, as an informational reference. Similar to internal blogs, internal wikis might encourage employee participation, free discussion of issues, collective intelligence and direct communication between various layers of an organization.