Wiki World

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By Meredith Gorran Farkas
Distance Learning Librarian
Norwich University
Northfield, VT
Contact me by e-mail
AIM & MSN Messenger: librarianmer


Contents

What is a Wiki?

A wiki allows a group of people to collaboratively develop a Web site with no knowledge of HTML or other markup languages. Anyone can add to or edit pages in a wiki -- it is completely egalitarian. Anyone can create new wiki pages simply by creating a new link with the name of the page. Pages are connected not hierarchically, but by hyperlinks between pages.

According to the creator of Wiki, Ward Cunningham, wikis can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • "A wiki invites all users to edit any page or to create new pages within the wiki Web site, using only a plain-vanilla Web browser without any extra add-ons."
  • "Wiki promotes meaningful topic associations between different pages by making page link creation almost intuitively easy and by showing whether an intended target page exists or not."
  • "A wiki is not a carefully crafted site for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the Web site landscape."

(From Leuf, Bo and Ward Cunningham. The Wiki Way: Quick Collaboration on the Web. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson, 2001: 16.)


Why Wiki?

  • Easy to use
    • Web-based
    • Simple syntax (don't need to know HTML)
  • Anyone can make changes -- no more waiting for the Webmaster to get around to your requested changes.
  • Many free and open source options
  • Flexible and extensible


Why Not?

  • Too open -- "I don't want someone changing my writing!"
  • Vandalism and spam
  • No "credit"
  • Intellectual property issues


How Libraries Can Use Wikis With Their Patrons

  • Wikify the OPAC
    • Patrons annotating the catalog -- see Open WorldCat for an example.


How Librarians Can Use Wikis for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

  • Collective Knowledge Base
    • Stop reinventing the wheel!
    • Benefit from the experiences of others
    • Examples:
  • Planning Space for Conferences, Meetings, etc.
  • Group Projects
    • Collaboratively editing a document.


So You Want To Build a Wiki: Important Considerations

Where Will Your Wiki Live?

DIY Wikis (hosted on your server, installed by you)

Check out the Wiki Matrix to compare wikis side-by-side.

Hosted Wikis/Wiki Farms (your wiki on another company's servers)

Check out the List of wiki farms in the Wikipedia.


Important Things to Consider When Choosing Wiki Software

  • Programming language
  • Ease of installation
  • Ease of use
  • Cost
  • Syntax
  • Version control
  • Ability to hold discussions
  • RSS
  • Ability to change look
  • Security
    • Permissioning
    • Spam prevention


Getting People On Board

  • Have a specific purpose
  • To structure or not to structure?
  • Be explicit.
  • Actively prevent spam.

See my advice for building a successfull wiki at ALA Wiki: What I learned and what Iā€™m doing with it (on my blog) and So You Want to Build a Wiki? (from WebJunction).

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