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What is Wiki?

by: Sharon Housley
Copyright 2005 Sharon Housley

Wiki is web server software that allows users to contribute content. Collaboration is the key to Wiki, which is designed as a powerful system for online communities to build web pages and web sites. Unlike blogs and forums, all users are allowed to contribute and edit existing content. Wiki is derived from the Hawaiian term "wiki wiki" meaning "quick". The concept behind a Wiki is that collaboration on projects will move it along quicker.

Wikis generally allow web pages to be written, edited and created collectively in a web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and simple text. Most Wikis are open, and allow any user the ability to edit the contents of a Wiki web page. While some say this opens the concept to abuse, Wiki moderators and self-policing in the Wiki sector appear to be taking hold. Wiki supporters generally feel that it is generally easier to correct mistakes than create the content from scratch. Wikipedia is a standing symbol of what many would consider a succesful Wiki.

Wikipedia - Wikipedia is a popular content encyclopedia that anyone can edit. http://www.wikipedia.com

Other topic-specific Wikis like Robin Good's RSS Wiki are proving that collaborative efforts in niche markets can work.

RSS Wiki - http://www.masternewmedia.org/reports/newsmasterstoolkit/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

It is true that Wikis are open to abuse, but by design, it is very easy for a Wiki moderator or other editor to revert the Wiki to how it appeared prior to edits, essentially rolling back the Wiki and removing any content deemed inappropriate or unrelated. Many Wikis track the IP address of visitors and editors, making it easy to track changes and roll back any edits from individuals that appear to be abusing their privileges. In rare cases Wiki operators can protect pages, making them read-only, which restricts any edits from occurring. While such actions are against the true Wiki philosophy, restrictions can be used to preserve the structure of fully-developed Wikis and protect pages from abuse.

What can Wikis be used for?
Wikis have spawned some interesting uses, including the development of knowledge bases on both intranets and the Internet. Product documentation, tutorials and online FAQs are increasingly created using Wiki collaboration. Other collaborative Wiki projects that have been spawned include a Wiki dictionary and directory of famous quotes.

Wikitionary - Wikitionary, a collaborative project to produce a free multilingual dictionary in every language, with definitions, etymologies, pronunciations and quotations. - http://en.wiktionary.org

Wiki Quote - Wikiquote, a free online compendium of quotations in every language, including sources (where known), and translations of non-English quotes. - http://en.wikiquote.org

Ultimately, Wikis are ideally suited for internal corporate projects or committee groups, when all individuals participating have the same goals in mind. Potential exists for significant abuse when Wikis remain open in competitive areas.

Overall, Wikis are influential, shaping collaborative online content development, and are likely to become increasingly popular. Sadly, as a Wiki's popularity grows, it is likely Wiki abuse will grow.


About the author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.comsoftware for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage http://www.notepage.neta wireless text messaging software company.


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