Week 2: wikis

In this second week we’ll be looking at wikis.

What is a wiki?

Wiki is taken from the Hawaiian word ‘wiki wiki’ meaning quick or swift. In Web 2.0 terms a wiki is a website in which content can be added, edited and changed by a group of members which means a wiki is great way of people working together and collaborating online.

The daddy of all wikis is of course Wikipedia. This free encyclopaedia allows anyone to edit or create new ‘pages’. So, for example, if you had information you wanted to contribute to the Wikipedia Web 2.0 page you could do so very quickly and easily and everyone viewing that page would be able to see you what you’d added.

How do wikis work?

Rather like the blogs we looked at last week one of the benefits of wikis is that you don’t need any special techie skills to create or use them. Wiki software is designed to be intuitive and employs a WYSIWYG interface so no need to learn HTML – although some wiki software allows you to do extra whizzy stuff in a form of HTML called Wikitext or Wiki Markup. Wiki software can either be downloaded onto your PC, or is hosted on the web (like your blogs) and you just log in and start working.

As well as being able to create and edit your own pages, you can also do this to content added by other users. Tracking tools in wikis also allow you to see the ‘history’ of a page; who edited it, what changes/additions they made etc. There is usually a ‘revert’ feature where you can reinstate a previous version of a page if it’s better than the new one!

How do you start a wiki?

There are lots of companies offering free wikis out there. The one we’ll be using for this weeks activity is called WetPaint but there are loads of others. Some offer specific features and functionality and if you’d like to explore other wikis and see what they offer then go on over to the WikiMatrix which has a long list of wikis and what they can do.

Are all wikis open to everyone?

No, the ethos of sites like Wikipedia is to be open and allow anyone to contribute – a wonderful idea, but this can cause problems. However, in most cases you will only want certain people to be able to contribute or even to see your wiki, especially if you’re using it in a work context.

Generally wiki software has levels of privacy and security which you can set according to your needs. For example, in our Learning 2.0 wiki you’ll be invited to join and become a writer/contributor – if you’re not on the list, you’re not getting in! The College has its own wiki software which has very strict privacy controls and is only open to College members.

How is the library using wikis?

IRD have now put their procedures onto a wiki (N.B. the wiki is on the staff intranet so you need to log in to see it) as it allows all members of the team to update information for staff in this fast moving sector.

The Learning 2.0 team have a wiki which helps us with the admin and organisation of the programme – although this hasn’t weaned us off email!

During the IRMAP last year the Natural Sciences team created wiki for sharing all those many versions of spreadsheets and organising workflows – we really found it useful.

Many other libraries and organisations are starting to use wikis in projects which require collaboration and document sharing.

Ready to start this week wiki activities? They are just a click away.

Further reading/watching

Library success wiki – created by Meredith Farkas (she’s a bit of a Library 2.0 guru) as a space for librarians to promote all the great things they are doing in their libraries and for others to pick up ideas and inspiration.

Wiki Wiki Webs: new ways to communicate in a web environment by Brenda Chawner and Paul Lewis – a paper which discusses the merits of different wiki software and how libraries are implementing wikis.

Wikis in plain English from the Common Craft Show – another great little film from Common Craft which tells you all you need to know about wikis in under 4 minutes.



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