Thursday, August 14, 2008

So, what is a Wiki anyway?

It has not escaped my attention that, despite the name of my other blog, there has been not a single entry about wikis since I started writing two weeks ago. Part of the reason is that I was spending an awful lot of time creating a movie for the Ashfield Film Festival, but the most important reason is that I wasn't sure how to start. Perhaps an introduction will do the job.

Readers, meet wikis, wikis, meet readers.

Let me tell you a little about wikis. The name is the most intimidating part, but has the best story. The guy who developed the first wiki software, Ward Cunningham, named his invention after the Wiki Wiki shuttle bus at Honolulu Airport. Wiki is Hawaiian for "fast". But fast only tells part of the story. There are two more things about wikis that make them really valuable tools.

First, wikis can be used to create web pages collaboratively. Wikipedia is a prime example. You, me, and the postman can go on to Wikipedia and add or edit the web pages that are there, thanks to the wiki software that Wikipedia runs on.

But wikis don't have to be a joint effort. I've been using them to create Web sites for friends and family members, like, for example, my Dad's painting site. The advantage is that a wiki is incredibly easy to edit, which means that once it's designed and set up, it's easy for the Web site owner, like my Dad, to update the information on his own Web site, create new pages and links between pages, and more, without knowing HTML, and without having to upload pages through FTP.

So, again, what is a wiki? It's a web site generated with wiki software (like MediaWiki or PmWiki) that can be edited collaboratively. Once the web site (often called a wiki) is set up, pages can be created and/or edited without any knowledge of HTML or FTP.

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