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).
I am a long-time Wikipedian, and as a construction PR professional and occasional public speaker on use of social media in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, I will talk about appropriate use of Wikipedia to share information about notable subjects. 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 is a complex issue much discussed in posts in my PR blog, covering notability, conflicts of interest, neutral point of view, independent references, etc, etc). However, particularly for subjects which may be too industry-specific or UK-centric for Wikipedia, there is an alternative.
Last November, I discovered DesigningBuildings (post), a UK-based open wiki established purely for the AEC and property sectors – and 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 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 did some Google searches for various keywords:
- “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 articles can also be sponsored so that a company’s name and hyperlink appears – in a similar way to Google Adwords – alongside the article. Moreover, authors of articles 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) with a link to a user page (here’s 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 promote businesses (and the 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 Wikimedia content management system as Wikipedia, but DesigningBuildings has been developing a more user-friendly editing interface. However, from talking to the team,* I know it adheres to some of the same principles as Wikipedia. Articles must not be promotional in tone or about companies, their 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).
* Disclosure: I am undertaking some paid consultancy work for DesigningBuildings.