What is a wiki?

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Icon objectives.jpg Objectives
In this tutorial we will:
  • provide an overview of what wikis are,
  • and show some examples of their different uses.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using wikis to develop content
  • describe the main features of WikiEducator

What is a Wiki?

Wiki wiki sign outside Honolulu International Airport. (Image courtesy of A. Barataz)
The name "Wiki" was chosen by Ward Cunningham -- the creator of the first Wiki. It is a shortened form of "wiki-wiki", the Hawaiian word for quick.

A wiki is a web site that is generally editable by anyone with a computer, a web browser, and an internet connection. Wikis use a quick and easy syntax to allow users to apply formatting to text and create links between pages. This simple formatting syntax means that authors no longer need to learn the complexities of HTML to create content on the web.

The main strength of a wiki is that it gives people the ability to work collaboratively on the same document. The only software you need is an Internet browser. Consequently, wikis are used for a variety of purposes. If you make a mistake, it's easy to revert back to an earlier version of the document.

Examples of Wikis

Wikis are fun as attested by this WikiEducator user from Barbados

The largest and most talked about Wiki on the Internet is Wikipedia[1]

Wikipedia is, for the most part, editable by anyone in the world with a computer and an internet connection and, as of Nov 2008, contained over 10,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages. Two and a half million pages in English! There are also more than 250,000 articles in German, French, Polish, and Japanese; and more than 100,000 articles in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portugese, Russian, Swedish, and Chinese. While Wikipedia's mission is to create an encyclopedic resource of knowledge, wikis can be used for a variety of purposes and are quickly becoming the defacto technology for collaborative group work online. They can be great social tools for classrooms, teams, community groups, or can even be configured to provide easily updatable web sites for organisations.

The following wikis display a range of different applications of wiki technology:

There are literally thousands of wikis around the web on a diverse range of subjects and supporting many communities.

Icon activity.jpg
The purpose of this activity is to introduce you to a few examples of wiki projects. In this activity you are encouraged to visit at least two of Wikipedia's sister projects listed below.

For each of the Wikimedia project sites, you should:

  1. Identify the main purpose of the site and how this differs from Wikipedia
  2. Skim through at least two representative articles on the site to get a feel for contributions from the community
  3. Determine which content license is used for the site.

You can follow the links to Wikimedia projects below:

Many of Wikipedia's sister projects were initiated because the encyclopedia was being cluttered by entries that were not appropriate for an encyclopedia.

For a more in depth tutorial please visit the WikiEducator "What is a wiki?" tutorial.

URL links in this section

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org
  2. http://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page Wikitravel
  3. http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WelcomeVisitors WikiWikiWeb
  4. http://exelearning.org eXe Project
  5. http://cad.auckland.ac.nz/wiki/Physics_160 Physics for the Life Sciences Wiki
  6. http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Main_Page Scholarpedia
  7. http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Main_Page Wikinews
  8. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page Wikimedia Commons
  9. http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Main_Page Wikiversity
  10. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Main_Page Wikiquote
  11. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Main_Page Wiktionary
  12. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page Wikibooks