A wiki, or WikiWikiWeb, is an "open-editing" system where the emphasis is on the authoring and collaboration of documents rather than the simple browsing or viewing of them. The name "wiki" is based on the Hawaiian term "wiki wiki", meaning "quick" or "super-fast." The original wiki was written by Ward Cunningham. See the links at the end of this page for more information.
The basic concept of a WikiWikiWeb (or "wiki") is that (almost) anyone can edit any page. While at first this sounds like a recipe for complete anarchy, the truth is that sites using this system have developed surprisingly complex and rich communities for online collaboration and communication. Yes, it's possible for someone to go and destroy everything on a page, but it doesn't seem to happen often. And, many systems (including this one) have built-in mechanisms to restore content that has been defaced or destroyed.
The point of the system is to simply make it as quick, easy and rewarding as possible to create or edit online content.
Using any standard Web browser, a person can edit (almost) any page on the system using relatively simple text formatting rules. Creating a link to a new or existing page simply involves putting the word or phrase that will be your link text inside of [[double square brackets]] to reference and serve as a title for the target page. In the process of creating the link you're creating the new page, if it doesn't already exist. On some sites, a link can also be created by entering a WikiWord--a word consisting of two or more capitalized words joined together.
It's not even necessary to learn all of the formatting rules; others will often come in and reformat things for you. After all, anyone can edit! You can see some of the recent changes that others have posted to this site.
There are many versions of wiki software available on the Internet. Most are free. For our web site, we use PmWiki, which is free, open source software written by Patrick Michaud. If you have questions about PmWiki, go to the web site or send email to Patrick Michaud at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to learn more about the WikiWikiWeb concept, try some of these Web sites:
- Wiki:WikiWikiWeb -- The original WikiWikiWeb by Ward Cunningham. See the page Wiki:WikiHistory for his description of how it all came about.
- Wiki -- the Wikipedia (which is a wiki itself) article about wikis.
- Wikitravel:WikiWiki -- another introduction to wikis, on another exemplary site
- What Is a Wiki? -- great article on what you can do with wikis.
- Personal wiki -- if a wiki sounds like a great place to keep your notes and info, but you don't have a personal web site, take a look at this one which runs on your own personal computer.
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