I’m sure all of you noticed the proliferation of sites last week that covered the national tragedy. Sure, the big network sites stepped up with coverage, as did some smaller publishers, but our attention was drawn to a relatively unknown type of site called a Wiki, which served as an excellent vehicle for distributing links and opinions because of it’s unique construction.
“Wiki Wiki” is actually Hawaiian word for “quick,” which pretty much embodies the simplistic nature and execution of a Wiki site. A Wiki site is one in which *all visitors* can easily and quickly add to and edit content (usually text only) within a system of interconnected hyperlinks to other Wiki pages. It’s sort of like the old saying, “All roads lead to Rome.” And I love this quote by Alan Kay about one Wiki: “The WikiWikiWeb is just a high-tech form of writing on the bathroom wall.”
Wikis sprung from programmers, and they still make up the majority of the Wiki community. Wiki pages rely upon CGI scripts and are ever-transitional: as easily as someone can add content, someone else can take it away. The first thing to note about Wiki is that you’ll find many words with capital letters running together (like “WebAdvantage”). Wiki automatically converts these combined words into hyperlinks which link to new Wiki pages. Wiki also has other quirky symbols and methods of working, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not too hard.
The Wiki Web interface often looks quite similar to that of a online bulletin board and allows for certain formatting in addition to hyperlinking (“Wiki markup”). Oftentimes, to edit (add-to/delete-from) a page, you have to scroll down to the bottom. Wiki sites tend to be topic-specific in nature and some generate a devoted following…so much so that frequent visitors take it upon themselves to act in the role of moderator for that Wiki. Their official title is “VolunteerHousekeepers,” and they bear the responsibility of keeping the site clean and within the boundaries of its topic.
WikiLovers are proud of their WikiCommunity and contend that it succeeds for a few simple reasons:
1) They have educated, technologically competent users (after all, you do have to figure out how to edit the page)
2) Users must be willing to contribute (a user must generate meaningful content or their reference will be removed)
3) The fact that any and all information can be deleted by any user. Therefore, the page and its users, govern themselves so ultimately the sites evolve into directed discussions.
4) Users often don’t sign their posts, which helps to avoid the fighting which sometimes occurs on open discussion forums.
These reasons for success, coupled with the quick and easy way that Wiki sites can be updated, leads us into why Wiki sites were so well suited for disseminating information pertaining to the recent national tragedy.
How Wiki Sites Helped
During the first day or two of the national tragedy events moved rapidly. It took enormous effort on the part of news sites to keep their sites updated with the latest information and links. Wikis, on the other hand, were sometimes a step ahead of the major networks because *their users* were able to do the instant updating. It was like having dozens of editors scouring the Internet to find and contribute the most relevant and timely content.
In many instances during this tragedy, Wiki sites sprung from nothing and quickly evolved into a robust resource filled with links and information. For many of us, it took this tragedy to be introduced as to how Wiki sites work, and how they can be used.
To see live examples of Wiki sites focused on the disaster:
To learn more about the details of how to set up your own Wiki site go to the Wiki Wiki Web Page.
A good explanation about Wiki text formatting can be found at http://lightingwiki.com/HelpOnEditing
If you care to have a little Wiki fun, visit our sample Wiki page.
Happy Trails!Comments Off
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