1. Perry, William MA, RN

Article Content

The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


A colleague at Kettering Medical Center asked me a while ago if I had ever used a wiki. He wanted to establish a collaborative area on our intranet for a departmental project. I knew a wiki was an application that allowed multiple authors to work on the same document, but I was not really sure how that differed from a Web-based discussion board, where multiple members had editing capability. Probably, the most famous site with wiki in its name is Wikipedia. Wikipedia ( describes itself as "an encyclopedia written collaboratively by many of its readers. It uses a special type of Web site, called a wiki, that makes collaboration easy. Lots of people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making thousands of changes an hour, all of which are recorded on article histories and recent changes." The key element is the ability to go back to previous versions and see both the authors and the content of each change to the document.


There are many wiki applications that can be downloaded and installed on personal or corporate Web sites for free. Many are open source and are being constantly improved by a global community of users. Tikiwiki (, WikiWikiWeb ( can all be downloaded and installed for free.


At the 24th Annual International Nursing Computer and Technology Conference in Toronto (, I copresented a postconference workshop with Peter Murray from the United Kingdom. Our planning sessions were conducted via the Internet, with the final tweaks and trimmings done face-to-face. We have collaborated on presentations before and sent e-mail messages and files back and forth until we had a version that was worthy of presentation. We took a different approach this time and did most of our planning using Writeboard ( Thanks to GoogleTalk, we were also able to have trans-Atlantic, computer-to-computer audio conversations for free.


Writeboard is a Web-based tool for creating collaborative documents. Like a wiki, it allows multiple authors, preserves an editing history, and provides the ability to roll back to a previous version. Writeboard is a hosted application and is completely free. It seems an ideal area for a group working on the same project such as policies and procedures, minutes, or any collaborative endeavor. Students might find it useful for class projects. Instructors monitoring those projects can see the amount of participation from each student. In addition to collaborative content creation, comments can be added, documents created can be exported as either text or HTML, and it produces an RSS for subscription.


Not too long after being introduced to Writeboard by Peter Murray, I found Jot (, another wiki offering versions that are both free and with fee depending on the number of users, pages, and the size of attachments you plan to upload to the application. It differs from Writeboard in that it has multiple document capabilities and a WYSIWYG editor and serves as a base platform for other plug-in applications such as a project manager, group calendar, photo gallery, and more.


Numbler ( and iRows ( are collaborative spreadsheets. Both are Web based and free and offer an alternative to sending spreadsheets back and forth between members of a group. Editing is done in real time, and the results are immediately viewable by others. iRows has the ability to generate graphs.


These applications represent a change in the way people are using the Web. Tim O'Reilly ( coined the term "Web 2.0" in 2005 to describe the evolution of Internet use from static publishing to a collaborative publishing environment and interactive applications. It is a view that uses phrases such as "harnessing collective intelligence" and "trusting users as codevelopers" to describe the changes both in the types of applications and the capabilities of the Web. I can hardly wait to see what is next!


Contributed by


William A. Perry, MA, RN