Wiki

Wiki: A wiki is a type of editable website that allows users to add, remove, or otherwise edit and change most content very quickly and easily, sometimes without the need for registration by using relatively easy to use wiki syntax. This means that everyone can edit, change or delete text in the wiki. Originally it is called as “Quickweb”. Wiki is a composition system; it's a discussion medium; it's a repository; it's a mail system; it's a tool for collaboration.

1. Definition: The Wiki is a collaboratively developed Open access / closed access repositories of information in a specific field or in a general field of interest whether the case may be. Any user can create or edit any page on the site using a simple web browser, and all information processing is done on the server side. Wiki is in Ward's original description “the simplest online database that could possibly work.” A single page in a wiki is referred to as a “wiki page”, whiles the entire body of pages, which are usually highly interconnected via hyperlinks is "the wiki".

The term wiki can also refer to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a website, or to certain specific wiki sites, including the computer science site, WikiWikiWeb, and the online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. The general public including many LIS professional consider the Wikis as online “encyclopaedia”. It may be noted here that Wikis are not actually “encyclopedia”, because on wiki site contain articles on the resource that have not been vouched for in any sense, and so if one wants to include it within the scope of encyclopaedia then definitely the definition of encyclopaedia itself need to be modified. Examples of wikis include the original Portland Pattern Repository wiki, MeatballWiki, CommunityWiki, Wikipedia, Wiktionary and Wikisource.

2. Origin of the Word Wiki: The first wiki, WikiWikiWeb (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki), is named after the “Wiki Wiki” line of “Chance RT-52 shuttle buses” in Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii by Ward Cunningham. Cunningham named WikiWikiWeb that way because he remembered a Honolulu International Airport counter employee telling him to take the so-called “Wiki Wiki” Chance RT-52 shuttle bus line that runs between the airport’s terminals. The Wiki Wiki Shuttle is a free shuttle one can take to specific locations in the Honolulu International Airport. According to Cunningham, "I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for “quick” and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web”.  “Wiki Wiki” is a reduplication of “wiki”, a Hawaiian-language word for fast. The word wiki is a shorter form of wiki wiki.  The word is sometimes interpreted as the backronym for “What I know is”, which describes the knowledge contribution, storage and exchange function.

3. Development of Wiki: Each and every body more or less is a scholar in his / her specific field of interest, and every one of this World has the capabilities to write or create an article on his topic. This is the main fact under the development of wikis.

According to Cunningham, ideas of wiki can be traced back to a HyperCard stack he wrote in the late 1980s. In the late 1990s, wikis were increasingly recognized as a promising way to develop private- and public-knowledge bases, and this potential inspired the founders of the Nupedia encyclopedia project (http://nupedia.8media.org/), Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, to use wiki technology as a basis for an electronic encyclopedia, resulted the launch of  Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/) in January 2001; it originally was based upon UseMod software, but later switched to its own, open source codebase, now adopted by many other wikis.

In the early 2000s, wikis were increasingly adopted in the enterprise as collaborative software. Common uses included project communication, intranets and documentation, initially for technical users.

In December 2002, Socialtext (http://www.socialtext.com/) launched the first commercial open source wiki solution. Open source wikis such as MediaWiki, Kwiki and TWiki grew to over 1 million downloads on the Sourceforge repository by 2004. Today some companies use wikis as their only collaborative software and as a replacement for static intranets. There is arguably greater use of wikis behind firewalls than on the public Internet.

In 2005, the Los Angeles Times experimented with using a wiki in the editorial section of its web site. The Wikitorial project was soon shut down as vandals defaced it.

During last part of 2006, Larry Sanger is experimenting on a new wiki project, Citizendium (http://www.citizendium.org/) where he expected to combine public participation with gentle expert. It is hope that this project will challenged the usefulness of our most popular traditional paper based encyclopedia such as Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana.

It is hoped that the future wiki will offer the ability to present XML based information in a variety of forms dependent on the needs and stylistic preferences of users. Presently most wikis are developed and presented by programmers and follow a rigid procedural mentality. The future wiki also hopes to help in online peer review of Journal Articles because it has immense capacity to compare, the different edited version of a single article in a very effective way.

4. Characteristic of Wiki: Wikis are composed of web pages one can write on; enabling fast and easy collaboration and it is a group-editable website. Some of the most common characteristic of wikis are as follows.

a) Any Web Browser can Edit: Wiki looks and feels like a normal Intranet or Internet web site. However it also has an Edit link at the bottom of every topic (web page). Everybody can change a topic or add content by just using any web browser. There is no need for ftp or http to upload pages.

b) Written Collaboratively: A wiki enables documents to be written collectively in a very simple markup language by any one.

c)  Instantaneous Generation: Many edits, however, can be made in real-time, and appear almost instantaneously online. Some recent wiki engines use a different method: they allow “WYSIWYG” editing.

d)  Text Formatting: Simple, powerful and easy to learn text formatting rules. Basically one can write text like they are writing an e-mail.

e) Templates and Skins: A flexible template system separates program logic and presentation. Skins overwrite template headers and footers; page content is unaffected.

f) Auto Link: Wikis are a true hypertext medium, with non-linear navigational structures. Each page typically contains a large number of links to other pages. Hierarchical navigation pages also often exist in larger wikis. Web pages are linked automatically and user does not need to learn HTML commands to link pages.

g) File Attachments: One can Upload and download any file as an attachment to a page by using their browser. This is similar to file attachments in e-mail, but it happens on web pages.

h) Structured Content: Wiki forms to classify and categorize unstructured web pages and to create simple workflow systems.

i)  Unrestricted Access: Many wikis allow completely unrestricted access so that people from all over the world can contribute to the site without necessarily having to undergo a process of “registration”. Sometimes session login is requested to acquire a “wiki-signature” cookie for auto signing edits. More private wiki servers require user authentication.

j) Searching Facility: Most wikis offer at least a title search, and sometimes a Full text search with / without regular expressions. The scalability of the search depends on whether the wiki engine uses a database or not. Indexed database access is necessary for high-speed searches on large wikis.

k) Revision Control: Wiki is combined with a system that records each change that occurs over time, so that at any time, a page can be reverted to any of its previous states. One can retrieve previous page revisions and differences thereof. One can also find out that changed what and when.

l) Managing Pages: Individual pages can be renamed, moved and deleted through the browser.

m) Managing Users:  Provision of web based user registration and change of password.

n) Statistics: It automatically create statistics of Wiki webs. One can find out most popular pages and top contributors.

o) Topic Locking: Users are warned if another person is editing a page. This is to prevent contention, e.g. simultaneous page editing.

p) Latest Article: Wikis are generally designed with the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them. Thus while wikis are very open, they provide a means to verify the validity of recent additions to the body of pages.

q) Email Notification: E-mail notification of changes in the pages of wiki is another great advantage.

5. Finding Wiki in a Specific Subject: Domain names containing “wiki” are growing in popularity to support specific niches and finding a wiki in specific niches is like finding an encyclopedia in that subject with an easy to search option and lots of online reference articles. Following are the ways that can be used in finding a wiki on a specific subject

a) Wiki-node Network of a Particular Wiki: A common way of finding a wiki on a subject is to follow the wiki-node network from wiki to wiki. A wikiNode are (is) page(s) on wikis describing related wikis. They are usually organized as neighbors and delegates. A neighbor wiki is simply a wiki that may discuss similar content or may otherwise be of interest. A delegate wiki is a wiki that agrees to have certain content delegated to that wiki. The wiki node generally appears below the home page of almost all wikis.

b) Sister Project Node: Sometimes different wikis are also listed under the heading of “sister project’ if it is run by same foundation or company. A common example can be found below the home page of each wiki that are hosted by ‘Wikimedia Foundation”.

c) List of Largest Wiki: One can also find the relevant wiki by consulting the list of largest wikis which are available at the following-

i) List of Largest Wikis (http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_wikis): It provides a list of largest MediaWiki / wikis (Conservative count above 8100) with automatically retrievable RAW statistics and also a list of largest other wikis (Conservative count above 8100) which updated by manual method or by hand.

ii) WikiIndex (http://wikiindex.com): WikiIndex is a wiki of wiki, many public wikis are listed at this site.

d) Wiki Farms: One can also find out a relevant wiki by consulting the Wiki Farms. A wiki farm is a server or a collection of servers that provides wiki hosting, or a group of wikis hosted on such servers. Or a wiki farm is a website, which may itself be a wiki, that allows for free or pay, creation of wiki. A detailed List of wiki farms are available at

i) Wiki Farms (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiFarms): It categorized the wiki alphabetically on the basis of language (English and Non English) in which a particular wiki originate with a rating i.e. four star / three star etc. A list of Commercial WikiFarms is also available based on the amount they charge for hosting a wiki site. Subject approach is also considering i.e. Education, Philosophy etc.

ii) Wiki Farm (http://wikiindex.com/WikiFarm): It gives an alphabetical list of wikifarm.

iii) Wiki Matrix (http://www.wikimatrix.org/): It also gives an alphabetical list of wikiFarm for easy comparison.

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