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What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a web page that anyone can edit. A wiki is a web application designed to allow multiple authors to add, remove, and edit content. The multiple author capability of a wiki makes it an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring. The wiki can be used for a community to review definitions or documents and collaborate on revisions or changes, such as developing the wording around directives, standards, or guidelines.

The word wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning "quick". Wikis and the software supporting them are designed so that content can be made available quickly and easily.

Visibility and versioning problems with e-mail collaboration

"Many people collaborate on projects via email. But e-mail threads can be cumbersome, attached documents can get lost, and who has the latest version anyway? Wikis solve all that by allowing everyone who has access to a page to read and change it." Joe Kraus, CEO, JOTSPOT

Wiki stats

  • Wikipedia serves 10 billion pages each month with peak traffic of 50,000 requests a second (reference: ars technica, October 2008)
  • Wikipedia has 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10 million articles in 250 languages (reference: ars technica, October 2008)
  • Wikipedia attracts more than 684 million visitors per year. (reference: ars technica, October 2008)

Wiki Features

Collaborative Content Environment

The wiki exists as a tool for collaborative content creation. Similar to a Blog, it allows writing of content directly to a public space on the web or intranet. However, unlike a blog, rather than just commenting on the content the audience can modify and contribute directly to the content. By its very nature a wiki sees the author and the audience participant as the same thing, and it is the exception rather than the rule that an audience member will only have read access to the wiki. Wikis have been a dominant web based collaboration tool for a number of years, and have seen service in many environments and have been customised for many tasks. In recent times they have been the tool of choice for online reference stores, the best example being Wikipedia, the ubiquitous online encyclopaedia.

Version History

Wikis allow anyone to edit pages, but keep a complete track of version history. As such it is easy to compare differences across versions and to roll back changes. While it seems counterintuitive, this opening up of editing capability to everyone typically allows the best possible quality content to emerge. Where people spot something they believe to be incorrect they can fix it immediately, rather than going through a lengthy editorial process.

Wiki Markup

Generally wikis are seen as a fast and easy to use collaborative tool, however new users can find them frustrating due to wiki formatting. Content displayed in a wiki is formatted using a type of markup; users are expected to mark up portions of text using patterns of punctuation marks inline with content. The purpose of this markup is supposed to make wikis more accessible to people not familiar with HTML. The popular solution is training and good documentation, however some more recent wiki implementations provide editor interfaces that emulate word processors. See: Help:Basic editing

What can a Wiki be used for?

Button ok.png What are the advantages/opportunities?

  • Articles are created by the community through collaboration and people are attributable for their changes
  • Transcend silos: Wikis promote knowledge sharing through an open, flexible and rapid collaboration in the context where people are seperated geographically and relationship-building is important.
  • Broaden participation and reach
  • Builds horizontal community
  • Capture, share and build knowledge. This allows skilled resources to be retained.
  • Collaborative Tool, knowledge management tool. By linking together stakeholders that would not otherwise connect and communicate, it becomes possible to harness learning and knowledge in ways that surface and diffuse best practices, which leads to a greater capacity for innovation and organizational agility.
  • Content appears instantaneously
  • Contributions could, for example, be recognized in the performance appraisal.
  • Develop new ideas
  • Dynamic (new articles added continuously)
  • Enable whole system participation. With hurdles like travel costs and time zone issues greatly lessened through technology, bringing the whole organizational system into the room is made possible. Ideas, opinions and issues from all stakeholder groups can be shared and considered in a collective forum. (broad coverage)
  • Encourages collaborative document creation and sharing
  • Facilitates the creation of a shared knowledge base
  • Facilitates culture change. Wiki can bring a change in mentality of the department.
  • Find expertise
  • Fosters innovation
  • Improve communications. People can discuss topics, using the discussion tab
  • Promote best practices
  • Reduce email volume/Cut down on email. Back-and-forth emails are time consuming and can lead to potential document version conflicts. A corporate wiki reduces reliance on email for certain projects and serves as version manager, keeping track of changes and individual contributions.
  • Streamlines business processes
  • This is a learning opportunity
  • Unique content - Content is typically not the type to be found on intranets/websites
  • Wiki syntax is easy to learn. And, if you want to revert to a previous version of a wiki page, it's easy to revert changes

Button cancel.png What are the disadvantages/risks?

  • All members can add or edit the work of others and disputes may arise
  • Difficult to cite as an "authoritative source"
  • It is a challenge to keep content and links current (similar to websites and blogs)


This video is a good introduction.

See Also

External links