Friend: “Hey Tai, what is wiki? Is it a software or a website?”
TaiTran: “Neither. Wiki is a concept. It refers to a content which everyone and anyone can edit.”
Friend: “What? You’re confusing me!”
OK, so let me go into details on Wiki.
“Wiki” is a concept
“A wiki” might be explained as a computer software or a website. “Wiki” is a concept.
What’s the difference?
You may want to notice this difference: “A Wiki is a software/website” and “Wiki (without ‘a’) is a concept”. “A wiki” refers to a specific instance of the concept “Wiki”.
To make it easier to understand. It’s like we talk about “a person” and “person”. “Person” is general, has body organs, has character and personalities – but doesn’t have specific character and personalities. “A person named X” is specific, has X’ body organs, has X” character and X”’ personality.
Back to Wiki. So I say “Wiki is a concept. It refers to contents which everyone and anyone can edit.”
Basing on this concept, people may build Wiki software that put this concept into practice. Wiki software allows users to create different wiki websites.
Wiki is powerful
The major power of Wiki lies in its open nature to collaboration.
Anyone can edit Wikis, and it’s quick to do so. We have the power of the mass where every contribution is counted. That’s how within a short amount of time, the community has grown Wikipedia to be the world’s largest encyclopedia.
Does this work?
To some, the idea of “anyone can edit” is crazy. But it works!
You want to know that the edition doesn’t go away easily. All modifications are tracked and they are discussed by the whole community. If person A puts in an inaccurate or biased information, person B will point it out and the discussion will determine how to deal with that information.
While I agree that we can never have perfectly unbiased information, this open nature allows the whole community to reach a consensus that would benefit all.
“I’m a genius. They don’t understand what I wrote in the wiki so they removed it!” – Well if this is the case, I’d suggest you revert to your blog or your Knol whether you have full authority 🙂
2. High Linkage
Wiki pages within a wiki website link to one another through keywords. Therefore, when you read a wiki page, you are presented with information to other worth-knowing concepts.
Wiki management models
Power of the Mass
“No editor”, or “everyone is an editor”.
This is the original concept of Wiki. However, you may want to know that this is an idealism and no wiki is perfectly wiki.
People participation varies, people commitment varies, and people behavior varies. There may exist certain bias in many wiki pages.
Because of this “open” nature, many question the validity and authority of information on wiki. Researchers may need to cite from other sources accepted as “more authorized”.
Power of Authority… plus the Mass
To deal with the issue of validity and authority of wiki, Larry Sanger, former Wikipedia co-founder, has initiated a new model for Citizendium.
“Authorized editors are selected to be editors of Citizendium. The site is still open for everyone to edit.”
This model harmonizes the credentials from editors while still utilize the power of the mass.
Wiki in enterprise
Wiki is useful to teams within an enterprise to centralize their knowledge. Of course, people can write separate documents, but it will be hard to avoid duplication, hard to maintain and hard to search. Wiki solves all these 3 issues.
Wiki is a powerful concept on which people in the last decade have built centralized massive amount of information.
5 ways to build effective Wikis
Wiki Software: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_wiki_software
List of Wikis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wikis