Posts Tagged ‘wiki’

Thing 4: Wikis

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

What’s a wiki?

A wiki is software that one or more people use to write and edit documents on the Web. The

wikiwiki, CC License

software is designed to be easy to use, and easy for people to cooperate in preparing materials. The collection of information put together with this type of software is also called a wiki.

The first wiki was developed by Ward Cunningham. The story goes that he remembered a Honolulu International Airport counter employee telling him to take the “Wiki” shuttle bus that runs between the airport’s terminals. According to Cunningham, “I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for ‘quick’ and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web. ”

The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, a project started by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001. Wikipedia is easy to search, and the information in articles with references or citations can be checked for accuracy. The project has over 3 million articles contributed by people throughout the world. At the time of this writing it has been translated into over 200 languages. Take a look at “Wikipedia: Statistics” for details.

There are several other special-purpose wikis such as Travelerspoint, a traveler’s wiki, Jurispedia, dedicated to world-wide law, and the collection Entertainment Wikis

A public wiki is likely to be indexed by one of the major search engines so results from wikis often come up in searches using a general-purpose search engine.

Usually, each wiki page has a subject, and the entire collection of pages within a wiki can be searched by keyword. By contributing to a wiki you are adding your knowledge to the Web, which makes it a richer and more informative resource. In some wikis, editors need to register to obtain a login and password in order to edit it. In others, there is no such requirement. In Wikipedia, for example, most pages can be edited by anyone, but having an account makes it more likely that your contributions will not be deleted by someone else. Wikis can be private or public.

One of the most famous wikis is Wikipedia, a collaborative encyclopedia with millions of entries on a wide variety of topics. Thousands of people throughout the world continue to create and edit its content.

How do they work?

A wiki allows anyone to easily update and upload content on the site, typically providing a simplified interface allowing editing, page creation, and collaborative writing.

  • Most wikis allow you to see the history of page changes. This is useful when you’d like to go back and see what a page looked like before. The page history shows the name of the person who edited the page if they have a login name attached to the content update. It’s also a way for people to republish information that may have been deleted inappropriately or incorrectly.
  • Some wiki software is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) enabled. This means that a person can add information easily without knowing any special markup language. Other wiki software has markup language that one has to learn. Usually if there is markup language the wiki will provide a user guide to help you.
  • Some wikis software allows you to tag the wiki pages with subject keywords. These keywords can sometimes appear in tag clouds

There are many free, highly customizable platforms, including the popular Wikispaces

You can find many types of wiki software at WikiMatrix.  Some are hosted, while some require download to your computer. Wikimatrix provides a “Wiki Choice Wizard” that helps you pick and compare software packages that have features that you need.

Things to read and see


1. Explore Wikipedia. What is on the main page? Determine the copyright status of the material in Wikipedia.

2. In doing some research I came across the article “Unearthing the Truth About Organic Food,” by Dennis T. and Alex A. Avery, and it’s posted on a Web site produced by the Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI). Use Wikipedia to find information about CGFI. Then use Wikipedia to see who the major sponsors of the group that supports the projects of CGFI.

3. Try your hand at editing a Wiki page. I’ve sent each student an invitation (to their UMW email address) to join in the wiki  at Accept the invitation. Working with another person try your hand at one of these.

  • Things to do this summer
  • Improvements to UMW
  • Things that are done well at UMW
  • The future of the Internet.