Jump to: navigation, search
Content deleted. (11 Occurances)
Content stucture deleted. (7 Occurances)
Content inserted. (85 Occurances)
Content structure inserted. (114 Occurances)
Content changed. (13 Occurances)
Content moved. (2 Occurances)
Content NEED DESCRIPTION. (1 Occurances)
Content NEED DESCRIPTION. (1 Occurances)


Amy Dyrbye
Presented September 16, 2010


What is a Wiki?

A wiki is, at its heart, a website optimized to display, createand edit interlinked web pages. It functions as a database ofknowledge that can be updated, cross-referenced and searched asneeded. Ward Cunningham, the developer of the WikiWikiWeb, describes a wiki as ???the simplest online database that could possibly work???.

Linking is fundamental to a wiki page ??? a single sentence maybe studded with hyperlinks, inviting the reader to explore othertopics that may be only of the most tangential relation. One maythus move via embedded links from the Wikipedia page on Wikis to the History of Wikis to a description of a theoretical device called a Memex, to the page on Charles Stross??? The Atrocity Archives. In addition to the links within the body of text, a page may be backlinked to all the pages that link to that page. Links to related topics may also be provided.

Wikis are deliberately designed to allow for community contentaddition and editing, which in turn allows them to become arepository for community knowledge. While one can read a given pagepassively, they are designed to encourage the active participationof the reader with prominent edit functions and hyperlinks to pagesthat don???t exist yet. As wikis are intellectual works, it iscommon for projects such as the Wikipedia to make use of Creative Commons licensing.

The resultant pages are as comprehensive as the community wantsto make them, and are conversely as accurate as the communitymembers creating and fact checking them. This is both theirgreatest strength and most damning weakness, as a wiki???sperception as authoritative can permit the dissemination of badinformation. In addition to innocent inaccuracies, the open natureof a wiki makes it easy to vandalize a page by deliberatelyinserting false or pejorative content.


Post 1994

The first wiki was Ward Cunningham???s WikiWikiWeb, which launched in 1995 as part of the Portland Pattern Repository. The site arose fromthe need for easy exchange of ideas between programmers. It wasnamed after the Wiki Wiki shuttle that runs between the HonoluluInternational Airport???s terminals; ???wiki??? means ???fast??? inHawaiian. Cunningham encouraged public usage of the source code byreleasing a version of the software called ???Wiki Base???.

The concept of user-editable pages underlying the WikiWikiWebproved appealing and soon inspired others to create their own wikiengines. By 1999, there were numerous other people building wikiwebsites. Notably, a site dedicated to the game Go called Sensei???s Library launched in 2000 and was the largest and most active wiki on the web prior to the Wikipedia; it has continued to be a close second in the current day.

2007 is considered the year that wikis went mainstream. Thatyear, ???wiki??? entered the Oxford English Dictionary, released a product-review wiki called the Amapedia, and the Wikipedia became one of the most popular websites in the world.

Notable developments prior to 1994


  • Memex - Vannevar Bush published a 1945 essay in Atlantic Monthly detailing a theoretical microfilm reader dubbed a memex. He envisioned the memex as an indexed storage device for an individual???s records, books and communications that would permit linkages to be made between documents for quick recall.
  • ZOGZOG ??? ZOG was a multi-user database system developed in 1972 that featured frames with links leading to other frames. An improved version renamed Knowledge Management System (KMS) was released in 1981. KMS permitted database users to directly edit and link frames, which could be immediately viewed from any workstation connected to a network. - ZOG was a multi-user database system developed in 1972 that featured frames with links leading to other frames. An improved version renamed Knowledge Management System (KMS) was released in 1981. KMS permitted database users to directly edit and link frames, which could be immediately viewed from any workstation connected to a network.
  • HyperCard - Ward Cunningham has gone on recordciting his experience with HyperCard, a hypertext-based system of???stacked??? virtual ???cards??? released in 1987, as a directinfluence to his development of WikiWikiWeb. Each card held data,and multiple cards could be grouped by giving each the samebackground layer. This enabled the user to construct a localdatabase by defining groups of cards.


Wikis have become commonplace. Collaborative websites such asthe Wikipedia are the best known, but wikis are also valuable topersonal note taking, to corporate intranets and to organizationalknowledge management systems. Mobile wiki applications, optimizedfor accessing wikis through devices such as the Blackberry oriPhone are also available, and vary from strictly permittingviewing to optimization for submissions from the device.

On the public front, wikis function as encyclopedias ofknowledge, and are often rallying points for communities withspecific interests. They may, like the Wikipedia, have stringentstandards and conventions that users are expected to adhere to.Others, such as TV Tropes, are more relaxed in philosophy and do not require much more of a contribution than originality and relevance.

Wikis have also been applied successfully outside the public sphere. Numerous single-user wiki applications are available that utilize the wiki concept to provide personal journaling or data management functions. Proprietary wiki software has been developed for use in the business world as an alternative to an intranet, as they have the advantage of allowing for the effective spread of organizational knowledge, wisdom and culture between both existing and new employees.

Hybrid software is also available. Such applications take the wiki concept and adapt them to allow users to create wiki-style blogs, discussion forums, spreadsheets and more.

The openness of a public wiki has led to concerns aboutinformation accuracy and deliberate vandalism. Undesirable contentcan vary from poor formatting to incorrect information to linksleading to malware. The strategies used to combat this problem willvary based on the intended use and audience of the wiki. A historyof all changes may be kept, allowing for the restoration of aprevious version of a page. A well-trafficked page may haveconstant changes and thus constant corrections to any erroneousinformation inserted. Many prefer to make it easy to correct damagerather than focusing on prevention, though methods such as botsprogrammed to recognize vandalism might be used to supplement humanintervention. Pages dedicated to accuracy-sensitive subjects suchas medicine may rely on the monitoring of a group of subject-matterexperts, who may require peer review before a piece of informationis retained. A user within the community may also volunteer tomaintain a page and monitor changes to maintain the page???squality. A wiki may require a user to create a profile andauthenticate before permitting them to create or edit pages, thuslimiting who can effect changes and enhancing tracking. Someapplications are designed allow an administrator to lock a wikipage from further changes, which is useful where users arecompeting to maintain their favored version of a page.


As a tool, wikis are primarily focused on content. There isn???tusually much control over aspects such as layout. Ward Cunninghamdeveloped the WikiWikiWeb directly in Perl, though pre-built software is most often used now. In keeping with the collaborative philosophy of a wiki project, many commonly used wiki applications are free and open-source.

*These web applications will store data in either databases or flat files. Java, PHP and Perl are the most common programming languages utilized in the creation of wiki applications.

*Within a given application, wikis are typically constructed using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. Wikitext, or wiki markup, has no common language between applications, though projects such as Creole have attempted to develop a standard. One element common to wiki applications is the use of a simple way of hyperlinking to other internal wiki pages. Practices such as CamelCase (joining compound words or phrases without spaces) may be used to demark links. Sets of HTML elements may be supported by the wiki application.

*Annoki uses MediaWiki, the same wiki software utilized by the Wikipedia.


Wikis are an unusual class of web pages. Most sites you visit are intended for a one-way transfer of information, from the creator to the visitor. They are, in one way or another, pushing a product, be it a video game walkthrough, a movie or a politician. Wikis throw such passive consumption right out the window in favor of a dialogue. Instead of the web page standing as a rigid pillar of authority, with the visitor strictly as a consumer, wikis allow for direct interaction between the visitor, the page developer, and other visitors. Wiki participants are encouraged to question, not expected to accept.

This model allows for a swift dispersal and collation of knowledge previously unheard of. It allows for inquiry and discovery on a level not possible from a static document, to provide the next best thing to a roomful of subject-matter experts and an instant transcriber. While less personal than, say, a message board, the information is far more accessible. This strength has been used successfully to great advantage by special interest groups and businesses. As such, it???s proven to be an incredible tool for the communication of a population???s wisdom.

Further Reading

Personal tools