Qwiki – First Impressions

I was attracted to this new service just by its name.  I’m a real fan of wikis and the q in front sent me a message that perhaps this was a “quicker” wiki.  How could you make it quicker?  Instead, though, the developers call it an “information experience”.  It delivers on this promise in an interesting manner.

First, you need to get an account.  Qwiki is still in Alpha development so you’ll need to apply for an account.  I did and expected to wait a couple of weeks as is per the norm.  I was pleasantly surprised to get my invite within a couple of hours of the application and I immediately logged in.

The first impression is that it sure doesn’t look under construction.  The layout is very attractive and there’s no question as to what you’re about to do.  I took a quick tour of some of the Qwikis that are already done and it’s an interesting first look.  We’ve all seen search engines where you get the results from your search appearing in order.  Depending upon the search engine, you can refine the results to get video or sounds or results but you’ve got to make the determination of what you want.  With Qwiki, you get the whole package which includes all of the above, thereby giving you the “information experience”.

Qwiki claims that it knows millions of things and it really does appear to!  It’s in the presentation where it shines.  The results are presented as a video combining images, text, and Qwiki reads the results for you.  After playing with a couple of the Qwikis that are presented as featured, I decided to put Qwiki to the test and see what it knew about “Windsor”.  I was pleased to view a short overview of the city that was pretty interesting.

Complete with great images, I did get an overview of the city.  When it was done, my first impression was that it was just that – an overview and not terribly deep.  However, it did encourage me to dig deeper with a number of additional suggested Qwikis.

Now, there I was really impressed.  First, with the spelling of “neighbourhood” but more importantly the topics that spring from the original search.  The buttons on the bottom aren’t operational yet but the share button would lead me to believe that students could embed any resulting video in a project.  For further research, there are links already to go to head to Google or Wikipedia for further results.  Consistent with the message of “information experience”, there are also links to YouTube and fotopedia.

In the classroom, though, I could see an immediate uptake on a product like this.  It opens the window truly to a level of differentiation that I haven’t seen in other products.  For many students, this multimedia exposure to the topic could nicely serve as a launchpad to deeper exploration on a topic.

For an Alpha product, it hits the streets nicely and appears to have great potential.  Like all search services, your success will depend upon your ability to frame a proper search.  I look forward to seeing this product develop and take off.

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