09 – Wikis


Wikis: Share What You Know

Skip straight to the task…

What are Wikis?

By now, pretty much everyone’s heard of Wikipedia. Wikipedia, though, only the most prominent example of a wiki – that is, a type of website that allows users to easily add, remove, and otherwise collaboratively edit and change content that can be quickly published to the web. There are thousands of other wikis out there, both public and private. Many of you may have actually used a wiki without realising it – LibGuides, for example, is a kind of a wiki.

It’s the ease of interaction and use makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative authoring. You do not need to know HTML to edit a wiki (although many allow for the use of HTML editing in addition to Wikitext or Wiki Markup) and all you need to edit a wiki is an internet connection and a web browser.

There are a lot of different types or brands of wiki out there. However, they all tend to have some features in common:

  • recent activity display
  • discussion or comment features
  • the ability to set degrees of access for users
  • WYSIWYG editing
  • ‘version’ or ‘edit history’, showing what changes have been made

Wiki software can be downloaded and installed on a private network; you can even get your own personal desktop wiki! Most wiki users, however, go to a Wiki farm. A Wiki Farm is a server or a collection of servers that provides wiki hosting. Wiki farms allow users to quickly sign-up and establish their own wiki with no software downloads either for free or for a nominal change; like most other ‘free’ things on the web, free wikis are generally supported by advertising.

Why Should I Use Them?

Wikis are a simple and highly effective way to share and build upon knowledge. It’s not too surprising, then, that you can see them being increasingly used in the Libary sector – if mainly behind the scenes, where they’re used for pretty much anything that requires collaboration, mutliple documents and/or ongoing updates. They’re great for training manuals or documentation, or drafting policy documents, or hosting links to resources on a given topic for quick reference on the circ/ref desks.

They’re so useful, in fact, that they’re an idea that has come up multiple times as a project in the e-leaning course for staff run by the Graduate School of Education. There are several UWA Library wikis in various stages of development, and you’ll be working with one of them.

To Complete Task Nine

  1. Go to Wikipedia and search for an entry on a topic you’re interested in. Read through it – is there anything that you could add to it?
  2. Check out the history of the entry – has it been heavily edited? Do the same people edit it?
  3. Read the discussion page for the entry – are there any controversies?
  4. Go to the Library lingo wiki (you should recieve an invitation to join at your Library email address).
    1. Read the Intro Tips
    2. Edit a page that another user has created.
    3. Add a page on a topic of your own.
  5. Blog about your experiences.

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