327,534 Free Wikis! 5 Questions With Wikispaces

I just had a great meeting with Adam Frey and James Byers from Wikispaces. For those that aren’t familiar with Wikispaces, they’ve given away nearly 330,000 free, advertising-free, wikis to teachers. Here’s the recap of my conversation with Adam and James (note, I’m paraphrasing their responses, these are not direct quotes):

1. Why give away so many free, advertising-free, wikis when it clearly represents a loss of revenue for them?
When they started Wikispaces they weren’t sure who would use the tool. So they made the wikis free and eventually realized that a lot of teachers were using the service. Today, roughly 2/3 of wikis are education related. In the end they don’t look at giving away wikis as a loss of revenue. Rather they view giving away the wikis as grassroots marketing. If teachers like using Wikispaces and want more features such as greater privacy controls, they or their schools can purchase a premium plan, but Wikispaces isn’t going to give a “hard-sell” on that. A lot of teachers are content with the free education plans.

2. Do you have plans for adding real-time components to your service?
At this time they don’t have immediate plans for releasing a real-time component. Their focus is simplicity of use and making the features that they do offer, the best they can possibly be. They don’t want to fall into a situation where they create so many features that it becomes confusing for the first time user.

3. Yesterday, at Edubloggercon there was a session titled “Are Wikis Dead?” (I wasn’t able to attend that session) how do you, Wikispaces, respond to that question?
They look at the education market as having two groups of technology using teachers. A group of advanced users such as those people who have been using wikis and other web-based technologies for a relatively long time and want more features. The other group, a larger group, that wants a simple service for getting students creating content on the web. So from their perspective wikis aren’t dead.

4. Do you get a lot of calls from schools to have someone come to talk about using Wikispaces in the classroom? How do you handle that?
They don’t get calls for deployment of infrastructure, but they do get some calls for someone talk about the use of the wikis themselves. They do respond to those calls, but for the most part prefer to have someone like myself and other educators work with schools about the use of wikis in the classroom. In their minds its educators who are using wikis who can best help other educators leverage wikis for classroom use.

5. Do you offer webinars for people who want to learn more about using Wikispaces?
Yes, they offer monthly webinars. The webinars are conducted using Elluminate. The webinars are recorded and are available for free at http://wikiwebinars.wikispaces.com/

Thanks to Adam and James for taking time out of their very busy ISTE 2010 schedules to meet with me.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
How-to Week – Day 1 – Using Wikispaces
Intro to Wikis Created by Kids
How to Embed a Map into Wikis and Blogs


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