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Previous Wiki Experience: I (Michael) have had some small experience as a contributor to wikis in the past, mostly involving one of my favorite hobbies of the past few years: Online Multiplayer Role-Playing Games, or MMORPGs. Long before taking this class, my experiences with the MMORPG wiki community convinced me that wikis could serve as a great resource for academics, particularly scholarly communication about developing areas. To explain this, though, I have to give a little background.
One of the most salient features of major-market MMORPGS like the ones I play is that they are absolutely huge in terms of content. There are really very few individual games of any genre that can come close to the stupefying levels of content present in major industry leaders like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI Online, EverQuest, and the like. EverQuest, in particular, calls attention to the paradigm in its title; the game is designed for you to literally never stop playing. Much has been made of wheter this is healthy, but one cannot deny that successful MMORPG developers go to great lengths to constantly introduce new and fresh content for their playerbase.
this is where the fan-made wikis come in, such as FFXIclopedia for Final Fantasy XI or WoWWiki for World of Warcraft, both of which I have submitted to. With major influxes of new items, crafting recipes (these games generally have player-dirven internal economies run by player-crafted items), monsters, dungeons, and other content coming every few months, no central editorial authority could possibly keep up and be truly authoritative. Wikis give the players themselves an opportunity to submit information and strategies, which self-compiles into an easily searchable database. As of right now, the wiki format is absolutely dominant for MMORPG information, and it's owed to the speed with which players from around the world can update.
These benefits can easily translate into an academic setting, and it shouldn't be hard to see why: it brings peer review to a whole new level, for one thing, and it allows scholars to submit new developments for discussion and information even faster than the editorial process of a journal, though perhaps without the prestige (and rightly so).
Message Boards: I can't lie, I absoultely love message boards as a medium for thoughtful discussion. The reason for this is pretty simple; you can't talk over one another on a message board (try as some people might). The medium gives people plenty of time to construct their best arguments on a given subject, and although it doesn't happen often, when you actually manage to assemble a large number of witty, educated, thoughtful, and articulate people on the Internet, the discussions that result are absolutely fascinating and have led to some of the most eye-opening points I've ever seen on a variety of topics.
A particular favorite message board of mine is the news site of a web portal called the Portal of Evil, though discussion there is frequently as vulgar as Internet forums get. The reason for this is that, well, for the genuinely thoughtful and successful offline, message boards really are the best place to blow off steam. In my experience, the more abrasive the posters, the more interesting the legitimate discussion, but I still don't recommend PoE if you're at work.
Chat Programs: I don't really have very much experience with chat programs beyond simple IRC, but I don't think they would add very much to academic discourse, at least not over message boards. The advantage of message boards is that they give you time to construct well thought-out responses; that advantage seems to be gone in the chat room.