By Meredith Gorran Farkas
Distance Learning Librarian
Contact me by e-mail
AIM & MSN Messenger: librarianmer
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.)
- Easy to use
- 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
- Too open -- "I don't want someone changing my writing!"
- Vandalism and spam
- Intellectual property issues
How Libraries Can Use Wikis With Their Patrons
- Community Wiki
- Subject Guide Wiki
- Wikify the OPAC
- Patrons annotating the catalog -- see Open WorldCat for an example.
- Wiki as Courseware
How Librarians Can Use Wikis for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration
- Staff Intranet
- Collaborative Document Development
- Reference Wiki
- Collective Knowledge Base
- Stop reinventing the wheel!
- Benefit from the experiences of others
- Library Success Wiki -- space for collecting success stories about providing services in libraries
- Library Instruction Wiki -- space for collecting Web links, hand-outs, and success stories about providing information literacy instruction.
- LISWiki -- general library science knowledge base
- DigiWik -- all about digitization
- The Teachers' Lounge -- collective knowledge base for teachers
- Planning Space for Conferences, Meetings, etc.
- Example: HigherEd BlogCon planning wiki
- 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)
- PBWiki (free)
- Schtuff (free)
- SeedWiki (free)
- Wikispaces (free)
- SocialText (enterprise wiki)
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
- Version control
- Ability to hold discussions
- Ability to change look
- 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 I’m doing with it (on my blog) and So You Want to Build a Wiki? (from WebJunction).