Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Lab web site/wiki

In the comments to my earlier post on information management, Nat Blair wrote:

Here's another question though: what software do you use to store the tacit knowledge of the lab? Do you use a lab website to store some of that stuff? A lab wiki? Mostly just curious.

My answer at the time was that I wasn't using anything, but that I was considering implementing a wiki. There are a number of reasons why I hadn't implemented something. One was the draconian approach the administration here at Big State U. takes to any kind of web site created and maintained by faculty. A second was that implementing a wiki would require a substantial commitment of time on my part to get the software installed and running, plus an ongoing commitment to maintaining the software. I'm quite capable of doing this - I have a background in computational biology, although my lab is almost purely experiment-based now - but I'm not sure I can devote the time required. Nat's question did however spur me to spend some time looking for a simple solution. And I found one.

Google Sites.

There you can create a free web site with up to 100MB storage space. And, importantly, you can limit who can view and alter the site (e.g. upload or download stuff). Google (typically) provides a bunch of easy to use web-based tools for creating a site. So, with about two hours work I set up an intra-lab web site. I've uploaded many of our protocols and pdf's of some useful papers. There's a section including links to the web sites of the various vendors we commonly use. I've included a list gadget where any lab member can type in things that need to be ordered. Soon I hope to include a calendar gadget that will display everyone's schedules, including mine. It's a work in progress, but I think we're finally moving out of the dark ages with regard to lab information management.

7 comments:

Nat Blair said...

Hey, thanks for posting in that it finally made me go check out Google Sites. I had read about it earlier, concluded it wasn't terribly useful, but then I think the gadgets are pretty damn cool.

And these kind of web based apps to seem great for getting around the reluctance of local IT peeps to get a real web presence easily editable and going.

JollyRgr said...

Well I'm impressed....I'm not sure I understand it all but I get the general concept and I'm impressed!

Odyssey said...

Google Sites is dead easy to use and anyone can sign up for a web site, even a salty old pirate.

Liam said...

great idea. I have started my google sites page already...

Goose said...

Yay for organization!

Nat Blair said...

And here's the other question I have pondered with this kind of lab wiki, is how do you encourage people to actually contribute things to it?

That's where it always seems to break down in the small group wikis I've set up. THe best I can come up with is a cashmoney prize to the highest contributors. Hopefully in a small enough group there wouldn't be worries about gaming the system.

Odyssey said...

Well, I have just three people in the lab right now, so it's certainly a small group. It will be interesting to see if they actually contribute anything. Only time will tell.