Aloha! In the Hawaiian language, “wiki” means “quick.” So let's waste no time in discovering the world of wiki.
Most online content, like this article, for instance, is written by one person. Some sites allow readers to post their comments for others to read and react to. But imagine if online content could be created collectively by people with similar interests? What if anyone could then edit or add new content? This online collaboration exists in the form of wikis.
A wiki is a website that encourages and enables people to participate in the creation and editing of its content. The software makes it easy — all that's needed is a web browser and some non-technical know-how.
In the Beginning
In the Hawaiian language, “wiki” means “quick.”
Blogs, Forums, and Wikis
There are similarities between blogs, forums, and wikis. The primary differences between them is the extent to which users can manipulate content:
- Blogs display set articles, which users can add comments to.
- Forums allow users to start new topics and add to them, but once created, the topic cannot be changed.
- Wikis allow pages to be created and edited by everyone.
The most successful wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that launched in 2001; it's now become the largest reference site on the Web. The publication hosts millions of articles in dozens of languages, all written collaboratively by the public. While this experiment in content creation has sparked controversy due to inaccuracies within some of the articles, it has also fostered unprecedented global sharing of information.
How It Works
The most successful wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that launched in 2001; it’s now become the largest reference site on the Web.
You may be thinking that this isn't such a good idea. What if someone decides to delete portions of the text or add incorrect information? A few unique features of wikis address these issues:
- Wiki software allows earlier versions of content to be restored.
- The history of all the changes made to the content can be seen by everyone — who made edits and when — revealing how the content evolved. This transparency tends to keep wikis “honest,” because everyone knows who did what; community censure acts as a powerful force.
As with all online information, readers should be critical of the source and not accept information at face value. With wikis, older information tends to be more accurate as it has gone through community review, whereas newer material may not have received thorough scrutiny. For more on this, read our article, Online Information — Fact or Fiction?
Start Your Own
A wiki can be a useful communication tool for families, work groups, sports clubs, classes, or any group of people with similar interests. You can restrict access to your wiki to just the people you want to participate or open it up to the entire world — it's your choice.
What can you do with it? Here are just a few ideas:
- Create scrapbooks to share family photos, genealogy information, and gossip
- Plan trips with friends
- Collaborate on projects with colleagues
- Create online cookbooks
- Share class notes with fellow students
- Write reports with co-workers
Using a Service
Like many services on the Web, you can start your own wiki for free, even with limited technical skills. Choose a name for your wiki, select a password, then start writing, encouraging others to participate. It's that simple. Three services to consider are:
Hosting Your Own Wiki
Rather than using a service, you can start a wiki on your own site. Many sites have wikis as part of their offerings, but others consist only of the wiki. There are many reasons you might want to do this: better monetization, greater control, seamless integration with your other online activities. Most hosting packages offer automatic installation of wiki software such as MediaWiki and DokuWiki. But there are many options, all with their own advantages and specialties.
Start Your Own Wiki Today
Now go out there and start collaborating. Aloha!