Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What is a wiki?

Seth Godin blogged recently about a shortage of digital coaches. While I'm not a digital coach, I've been told I do a good job of boiling down a lot of information to explain complicated topics to non-experts. I maintain a website for my church, which includes a wiki, where other parishioners contribute content without any direct involvement from me. I received an email earlier this week from someone in the parish asking me, "what is a wiki?" After a quick search of the web- including wikipedia, I thought this would be a good topic for a blog.

The term wiki derives from the Hawaiian word for "fast." A wiki enables web pages and documents to be written collaboratively using a web browser without any specialized training or software. A single page in a wiki is referred to as a "wiki page", while the entire collection of pages, which are usually well interconnected by hyperlinks, is "the wiki". A wiki is essentially a database for creating, maintaining, browsing, and searching through information. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted.

Wikis allow visitors to create, modify or delete the content of a web page from their browser, and usually record the history of who changed what. Wikis enable creation of collaborative community websites, and are trending toward eliminating the need for specialized skills and software to create and edit content on a web page.

The administrator of the Wiki decides who is allowed to modify the site. Some wikis are open to changes by anyone, others limit modifications to trusted members, and some use moderators to arbitrate disagreements. The Wikipedia free encyclopedia is the best known Wiki, where hundreds of thousands of users add to the collective knowledge. where hundreds of thousands of users add to the collective knowledge. On Wikipedia, an entry started by one person is often iteratively refined by other contributors who collaborate to produce a consensus.


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