What Wiki & Forum Free-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). given the number of Wiki/Wookie jokes you lot’ve made, you should get a kick out of that last one.
- TV Tropes: an informal “catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction”. It’s a site that you can easily spend several days getting lost in.
- 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.
What are they?
This is a question that came up a couple of times in the Pilot Program. An internet forum is an online message board, often known as BBS. At a basic level, 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, or share jokes.
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. My personal experience is that, increasingly, forum users tend to skew older, but that may well just be an entirely subjective observation.
Forums that have been established for a while tend to form tight-knit communities with their own rules, customs and etiquette. They are often self-organising, with people who have shown to be upstanding members being promoted to leadership or moderation roles within the community, regardless of such trivial concerns as age.
Speaking of roles, there are usually about four basic user groups:
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, and are typically the most numerous group of users. 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.
Bigger forums may have a more granular spread of powers and privileges, such as sub-forum specific moderators or super admins.
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 active members, the number and diversity of threads, the number of responses each thread gets and how ‘on topic’ those threads remain over the course of a discussion.