by Eliza Kuźnik

by Eliza Kuźnik
What is a Wiki?
Wiki is in Ward's original description:
simplest online database that could possibly work.”
Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web
page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple
text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.
Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the
organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.
Like many simple concepts, "open editing" has some profound and subtle effects
on Wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is
exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content
composition by nontechnical users.
What’s so special about it?
With a wiki, creating and
maintaining a website is trivial - You
don’t need to know HTML, nor FTP,
nor anything else.
A wiki is great if you want to
enable other people to help and
contribute. The wiki just helps them
to start contributing faster, since it is
so easy to use.
It great for:
-document management
-knowledge management
How it works?
People visit the wiki, reading the pages.
When a visitor sees something that’s wrong
or needs fixing, they can just go ahead and
fix it. Anybody can edit the pages of the wiki.
Each change is recorded. The wiki records
the difference between the old and the new
revision of the page, and lists the change on
a special page, traditionally called
RecentChanges. This is where regular
visitors check for new recent changes. If they
see something they disagree with, they can
discuss it, move it, or undo it. That’s how
spam is reverted, too.
Not only can existing pages be edited
easily, new pages can be added just as
easily. Edit an existing page, add a link to a
new page, and save. The link to the new page
will allow you to edit the new page. Thus, all
pages are automatically linked and the web
of pages grows organically. At the top of the
image you see that this results in a maze of
pages, all alike.
Since editing pages is so easy, it’s is easy
for people to reorganize wikis, too. Create
index pages, title pages, sections, categories
– if you can write it on a page, anybody can
do it.
Technical background
Oddmuse is a wiki engine – a CGI script that runs on
some server, and it produces web pages from a page
database. The pages can be edited, and the script saves
these edits back to the page database. The pages use
very simple text formatting rules, so that you do not need
to know HTML in order to edit pages.
There are alot of other wiki engines. Some use CVS for
storage, others use a database, and they exist in nearly
every programming language there is.
The most popular Wikis
Wikipedia – all-favorite, biggest online encyclopedia
WikiTravel– world-wide travel guide, covers destination guides, hotels and
WikiHow – ‘How-To’ manuals for the problems of everyday life.
WikiBooks– huge collection of user-edited, open-content textbooks and
guides. (Textbooks: Chess guide, Learn French … )
CookBookWiki – recipes and cooking related wiki. Sections include: dishes,
recipes, cuisines and channels
WikiSummaries – short, quick summaries for thousands of books.
(Summaries: Freakonomics, Getting Things Done, …, see other bestsellers)
WikiMapia – cool mashup between Google Maps and wiki-style editing. Lets
you browse, view, search and add descriptive notes to any location on the
Wiktionary – multilingual, comprehensive, user-edited dictionary. Provides word
definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, sample quotations, synonyms,
antonyms and translations.
Uncyclopedia – extremely entertaining wikipedia clone, that is filled with funny
and not-necessarily correct articles. Check out: Colonel, Britney Spears, Donald
Trump, …or an image pulled from an article about Women. (No offense ladies,
it’s just funny…)
What is Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is a freely licensed encyclopedia written by thousands of
volunteers in many languages.
Written using wikisoftware, meaning that anyone can join and edit.
Managed by virtually all-volunteer staff.
The site was launched in early 2001 and has since grown to
include millions of articles in dozens of languages. Despite concerns
about the quality of openly editable information, Wikipedia
has become one of the most popular online resources—statistics
put Wikipedia as the eighth most-visited Web site in the United
States, behind sites such as Yahoo, Google, MySpace, and eBay.
Article topics range from the very broad to the highly specific, and
the site offers tools to organize information into various content
areas—such as “academic disciplines” and “glossaries”—with
numerous topic breakdowns within each category. Each article
contains any number of links to other Wikipedia articles or to external
Who’s doing it?
Use of the site is pervasive, both within and outside the
academic community. Wikipedia has become a primary
research tool of college students—many students begin
researching a topic at Google, and Wikipedia articles are
often one of the first search results. At the same time, faculty
and researchers increasingly turn to the site, though
perhaps with a more critical eye. At some institutions, steps
have been taken to limit the use of the site—after several
students repeated the same inaccurate data from a Wikipedia
article, history department at Middlebury College banned
Wikipedia citations in papers or on tests. Meanwhile, some
academics have embraced the site as an educational tool.
Faculty at Oberlin College and Columbia University, among
others, have created assignments in which students create
or edit Wikipedia articles to learn how to write neutral,
expository text and to experience the process of peer review
and revision.
What are the significants?
-Wikipedia puts control into the hands of users, who
decide what
topics are covered and at what depth.
-Wikipedia is an example of what can be
accomplished by a disparate group of individuals,
with a shared
interest in a topic, working on such a foundation.
-Wikipedia offers extremely timely and always
changing information—the site can
reflect the current scholarship on a topic or, as in the
case of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, can present a
nearly up-to-the-minute
account of an unfolding event.
-In higher education, wikis have been put to use in
courses ranging
from humanities to science to business.
-Wikipedia provides a considerable measure of
transparency about the provenance of information,
allowing students to witness and take part in this
What are the downsides?
Every article is only as good as
those who have taken the time
to write or edit it, and quality
across the site is uneven.
Topic selection and coverage
more accurately reflect
community interest than
academic value.
Although Wikipedia’s ability to
evolve as information changes
is beneficial on one level, it also
means that even if an articleis
deemed reliable, citing it as a
source is problematic becauseit
could change at any time.
Where is it going?
Unlike any medium that preceded it, the Internet facilitates
usercreated content, and Wikipedia demonstrates that such
content has the potential to be substantive and valuable to the
community at large. Due at least in part to the success of
Wikipedia, numerous other wiki-based projects have appeared,
reflecting burgeoning demand among creators and consumers for
user-created content. At the same time, even as Wikipedia’s
content and usage grow, organizers of the site continue to address
questions about accuracy and neutrality. Concerns about the
quality of content prompted Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia’s
cofounders, to launch Citizendium, designed, according to the site,
to “improve on the Wikipedia model by adding ‘gentle expert
oversight’ and requiring contributors to use their real names.”