As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been interested in the potential use of wikis in the construction industry since the early 2000s, and have long regarded them as collaborative tools, with people collectively creating and improving content. Wikipedia is, of course, the most well-known wiki project (one of several from the Wikimedia Foundation), but I have also looked at other Wikis over the years.
I am a long-time Wikipedian, and as a construction PR professional and occasional public speaker on B2B use of social media in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, I will talk to businesses about using Wikipedia to share information. However, I am often confronted by individuals’ and companies’ frustration that they haven’t been able to get their content accepted by other Wikipedia editors (this challenge is discussed in posts elsewhere on this blog, covering notability, conflicts of interest, neutral point of view, independent references, etc – with many of the issues covered in the CIPR’s Wikipedia guidelines, published in June 2012; post). However, particularly for subjects which may be too industry-specific or UK-centric for Wikipedia, there is an alternative.
Last November, I wrote about DesigningBuildings , a UK-based open wiki established covering more than just the design process implied by the name; its backers hope it will detail all aspects of planning, design, construction and management of built assets. Launched in July 2012 and backed by the Chartered Institute of Building, property developer Development Securities, engineer Buro Happold, architect Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and the College of Estate Management, it aspires to be an “expert wiki”. It is encouraging UK AEC industry practitioners to create articles, perhaps reusing information produced for other purposes, so that they and their companies are promoted as authoritative sources of knowledge and expertise.
To date, the site has accumulated over 600 articles, with some achieving exceptionally high Google search engine results. Today, for example, I Googled:
- “management contractor” – first result
- “room data sheet” – first result
- “preliminaries” – second result
- “interim certificate” – first result
From a PR and marketing perspective, such search engine results are spectacular, particularly if I was, say, a management contractor or a quantity surveying practice looking to be be associated with a prominent article. DesigningBuildings is not a business directory, but a company’s name and hyperlink can also be advertised – in a similar way to Google Adwords – alongside the article. Moreover, article authors can append a signature to the page (eg: here’s an article I started on the Chief Construction Adviser – currently 9th in Google search engine results, by the way) with a discreet link to a user page (this is mine) with further links back to their website and showing other contact details.
With construction marketeers becoming increasingly keen on content marketing, DesigningBuildings could become a powerful platform for agencies and in-house teams to raise the profile of businesses (and certain key individuals in them) as experts or opinion leaders on key areas of the site’s content, which they create. Moreover, the content might also be shared via other social networks – since I first discovered the site, it has added ‘Share’ buttons at the bottom of articles.
The site uses the same content management system as Wikipedia, but DesigningBuildings has been developing a more user-friendly editing interface. However, from talking to the team,* I know they want to adhere to some of the same principles as Wikipedia. For example, articles must not be promotional in tone or about companies, branded products, services or projects. However, there remains considerable scope to write with authority and insight about generic subjects – architectural ironmongery, for example (I have spoken to two recent meetings of architectural ironmongers, and reckon GAI members could quickly create factual articles about door handles, locks, hinges, door-closers, fire-doors, electronic access systems and the like).
(This is an edited version of a post first published on my ExtranetEvolution tech blog.)
* Disclosure: I am undertaking some paid consultancy work for DesigningBuildings.