What is a Wiki?

An Introduction to Wiki

Put simply, a wiki consists of web pages where everyone has rights to edit everything, and editing is not discouraged but encouraged. They provide a means to develop collaborative web pages by allowing users to freely edit both the content AND the structure and organisation of that content. As such it is a collaboration tool where everybody gets an edit button and anyone can create new pages.

Wiki can be viewed as a shared workspace. A businessman at lunch might communicate an idea to a colleague by sketching something on a napkin. The colleague might then reply by altering the napkin to relay their own idea. The restaurant napkin is providing a shared medium through which the two people work. Wiki provides a medium through which people work in the same way as the napkin, except here your collaborators do not need to be in the same place. They don't even need to be collaborating at the same time.

The idea might at first sound like a recipe for chaos however. Multiple users editing, amending, adding, deleting, reformatting and refactoring. How can this possibly work? and what about trouble makers and vandalism?

Because a history of all wiki changes is maintained in a database, any change deemed unfit can be reversed at the click of a button. Plus, as users are able to change all content, the system should be essentially self-regulating. Since errors can be corrected easily and vandalism can be reversed in minutes, the content that ultimately survives should represent the content that everyone has agreed is best.

Why wiki?

Organisations in today's fast paced environment are increasingly relying on their employees to generate creative solutions to business problems. Furthermore, as organisations rely more and more on geographically dispersed workforces there is an increasing need to collaborate on projects that span distributed teams. As a result, arranging meetings, both in terms of time and location, becomes increasingly impractical. Wiki overcomes these limitations while also providing an easy to use and cost effective environment for knowledge sharing and idea generation.

How to wiki

The best way to familiarise yourself with a wiki is to have a play in the "sandbox". The sandbox is a wiki page designed for getting accustomed to wiki (where the content history is not stored in the database). It is just for playing in and not for adding permanent content. Please use this while getting used to wiki to avoid adding unnecessary data to the database.

Edit a page (Use the sandbox until you are ready to add real content):

  1. Click on the 'edit' button.
  2. Make changes to the page.
  3. Add comments if appropriate*
  4. Click the 'preview' button to check your changes.
  5. When you are happy with your edits click the 'save' button to save your changes.

Add a Page:

Links are made by smashing capitalised words together LikeThis (a format known as CamelCase). Words written in this format form a link to a new page (in this case a page titled "LikeThis") or, if a page with this title has been created previously, they form a new link to that page. While editing a page:

  1. Type link text in CamelCase format
  2. lick the 'save' button to save your changes.
  3. On saving your changes, a question mark will appear next to a new link (LikeThis?). Click on the question mark to create the new page.
  4. Edit the page by clicking on the 'edit' button as before.

Navigation:

Page navigation is can be done using the usual browser buttons, but you can also use the 'backlinks' button on wiki pages. This allows you to quickly move to any page that links to the current page.

Expert wiki:

While complex markup knowledge is not required for wiki, there are conventions for the more complex text formatting like adding external links or text boxes. Details are often provided within a specific wiki site. Sometimes within the wiki page while in 'edit' mode.

Wiki links and references

Wikipedia - a collaborative wiki-based encyclopedia where anyone can edit any article.

Wikipedia - Wiki Definition - where better to find out about wiki!

WikiWikiWeb - a wiki-based wealth of wiki knowledge.

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