What Wiki & Forums For All
It happens: one day you wake up and decide that you want a wiki. But, despite there being hundreds of wiki providers out there, choosing the wiki platform that’s right for your needs, er, need not be difficult: the Wiki Matrix is here to help. The Wiki Matrix is a free service that compares a wide selection of wikis in an easy-to-read format. It also features a simple to use wizard that will ask you questions to determine which selection of wikis offer the features you need. Wikipedia itself also has a comparison of wiki software.
Wikis in Action
While the most famous wiki is, of course, Wikipedia, there are hundreds of other wikis out there. Here’s a small selection of some of the types of wikis you can find, if you look:
- Familypedia (a genealogy wiki)
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Library Success (created to be a one-stop shop for great ideas and information for all types of librarians)
- Memory Alpha (the Star Trek Wiki) and the Wookiepedia (the Star Wars Wiki)
- TV Tropes (an informal “catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction”)
- Uncyclopedia (“provide the world’s misinformation in the least redeeming and most searingly sarcastic and humorous way possible, through satire”)
- Urban Dictionary (“the internet’s unofficial slang dictionary”)
- Vintage Sewing Patterns
- WikiHow (collaborative writing project to build the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual.)
A question that came up a couple of times during the program was: “what is a forum?” I’ve been meaning to answer this for a few weeks now, since it’s unlikely that it will come up in the full program.
What are they?
At a basic level, a forum is an online bulletin board . A user posts a message or starts a topic (called a thread) on the board, and then other users comment on it – and on each other’s comments.
Forums are generally topic-specific – that is, they exist to draw together like-minded people to discuss things related to a particular idea. For example, Whirlpool, an Australian broadband news and information site, has discussion forums to talk about issues related to broadband. Whirlpool’s forum, like many others, is broken down into further sub-forums by subject, so you get smaller forums where you can specifically talk about jobs or a particular internet provider.
Who uses them?
The exact demographics will vary from forum to forum, and can usually be guessed at by the topic(s) they cater to. Typically speaking, there are four basic forum frequenters:
A lurker is a user who reads, but does not contribute to, the discussion. They may or may not be members.
Posters are usually registered members of a forum. They have the ability to post and respond to posts, and are generally the driving force behind the community, providing most of the content. They can usually edit their own posts, but can’t edit each other’s.
Mods are super-posters, who exist to facilitate discussion and enforce the rules of the board. They are usually given extra powers in order to do this, including the ability to ban and unban posters, edit and delete both posts and threads or merge related threads together, to name a few.
Admins are usually responsible for the running and upkeep of the board. This may take the form of paying the bills, installing updates or appointing moderators. Admins have all the powers of mods and more.
Forums that have been established for a while tend to form tight-knit communities with their own rules, customs and etiquette. If you’re looking at joining one, it’s generally best to be a lurker for a while to a get a feel for the place before posting yourself.
How do I tell if it’s a good forum?
Evaluating forums can be a bit tricky, as each forum is different and has a different goal. One of the best ways to evaluate a forum is to lurk for a while, as this will give you the best sense as to the quality of posts and posters. You should look at the forum’s rules, faq and moderation policy (if they have them), and try to judge how well those are adhered to or enforced. You can also judge the health of a forum and its community to a certain extent by the number of members, the number and diversity of threads, and the number of responses each thread gets.