Wikipedia defines a wiki as a web page that is easily edited by visitors and useful for collaborative projects. The software that drives projects was developed by Ward Cunningham. He maintains his website as well as the Portland Pattern Repository. states that Ward Cunningham's original description of a Wiki is "The simplest online database that could possibly work." Additionally, according to PC Mag, the term "wiki" is derived from a Hawaiian word for "quick".

In a 2005 report entitled Emerging Technologies: A Framework for Thinking, the Australian Capital Government defined a wiki as "a website (or other hypertext content collection) that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also allows anyone to edit the content. "Wiki" also refers to the collaborative software used to create such a site.

The largest problem mentioned by various Wiki authors is that of content accuracy. Whether from the original author or an editor the content of a given Wiki must be taken ‘with a grain of salt’. Wikis are designed to be easy to add, edit and change content, which means that the information presented may not be correct. A quote from ( says “Vive le cynisme; vive le Wiki. -- David M”.

The problem of malicious editing could be overcome in a business or education setting by limiting the editors to ‘registered’ users and then limiting the registered users to those who are within the organization. However, this sort of limitation would constrain the scope and curtail creativity and ‘outside the box’ thinking as well.

It seems that the real question you should ask before starting a Wiki is “Can I find this information in another Wiki and expand an existing block of knowledge through my additions or does this knowledge area need a Wiki?”

Wikis as Project Managers

Wikis are especially useful when working on group projects. They allow members to collaborate online, at their pace from anywhere in the world. If each member is working on a separate portion of a project or report, he or she can complete their portion and post it to the wiki. Conversely, if the group is struggling with how to elaborate on a single idea, members can enter their thoughts on a wiki and allow their colleagues to elaborate and/or modify on certain aspects of the report. An article from the O'Reilly Network expanded on this thought:

"Wikipedia builds on transparency, simple linking, and a low barrier to entry for crowds of people to be involved in editing and authoring. We can use these same qualities with just two or three people for a different outcome: a shared workspace and, in effect, a shared memory."

Choosing a Wiki

If you've decided you want to set up a Wiki - you're going to need to decide which wiki software is right for you. Will you host it yourself? How secure does the software need to be? C2 provides an excellent resource discussing many different Wiki engines (

Uses of Wikis

Sites like wikiHow show the more practical uses of wikis. The online repository titles itself "The how-to manual anyone can write or edit". Social yet helpful uses of the Internet like wikiHow and similarly, Yahoo! Answers, allow people to share information and advice with relative ease. Topics run the gamut on these sites. For example, current popular wikis on wikiHow include "How to get six-pack abs", "How to get an upgrade to first-class", and "How to calculate pi by throwing frozen hot dogs".

Another social activity in which wikis are being utilized is travel. Travel and destinations are all about shared experiences, and many people want to know about a certain location before embarking on their journey. While they could read brochures and other marketing material, many prefer communicating with those who have been there. Wikitravel provides that option. This site, an offshoot of the popular Wikipedia, provides basic articles regarding travel destinations, but also allows users to share thoughts and news about positives and pitfalls of their vacations and other travel experiences.

Wikkis in Teaching

Wikkis neatly combines the traditional methods of collaboration, repetition and summarization into a more accessible package. Students make entries, edit, and review their work and the work of other students in a dynamic landscape available to all. In a current application, students in a web design class are asked to cooperatively summarize each chapter of text and revise entries as their understanding changes. This forces the student to rehearse what they've read, restate it, review what others learned, and work their observations in appropriately. This degree of repetition should improve internalization of the basics and accelerate discovery. I hope to either find research covering this, or develop a small scale experiment of my own.

A traditional classroom might challenge students to a team project, using conveniently sized teams. Wikki may lend itself to larger groups working a project for more extended periods of time.

Wiki Videos

The following video discusses Wikipedia as a news source as well as the pros and cons of the publication format (collaborative wiki), using Wikipedia and whether you can trust it as a news source. (1hr 21 min.)

Ever wonder how Wikipedia works? MediaWiki - the software that powers Wikipedia - is demonstrated by (4min 27sec):

Google Tech Talk featuring Brion Vibber, one of the masterminds behind MediaWiki and Wikipedia (55 min, 35 sec) *Recommneded*

Wiki Resources

Educause Review