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66. Smart to get acquainted with Wiki

By Mark Alberstat

What's a wiki, you wonder? Well, it is a relatively new word being tossed about the Internet that has quickly gained in popularity over the past year. Simply put, a wiki is a web server-based application that allows multiple users to add and edit the content of a website. Many people view a wiki as an open forum that is text-driven through a website.

The first wiki ever developed was in 1995 for the Portland Pattern Repository. Although a leader in wikis, this one is not for everyone as it is all about patterns in computer software.

Wiki, which stands for What I Know Is, may be seen as a co-operative online project. Before the first wiki was developed, the best way for several people to collaborate on a single document, or a set of documents, was to pass them around through e-mail. This concept worked but there was no good way of seeing all the edits, additions and revisions to the document. Also, if someone came into the middle of this e-mail conversation, that new person may not receive the entire thread and could easily re-introduce ideas or concepts that had already been tackled.

One of the Internet's biggest and most active wikis is the Wikipedia. This extensive website is a free, online encyclopedia containing more than 675,000 articles in the English edition. There are also versions in French, German, Polish, Italian and a few other languages. The Wikipedia has articles on almost every imaginable topic and notable person.

Because of the extensive hyper linking within Wikipedia, if you are interested in one topic you can easily jump to other related topics, keeping you and your quest for info at that site for hours.

An addictive feature of the Wikipedia is that once you are in the topic you are looking for you can click the Discussion tab to see what, if any, proposed changes to the article have been suggested.

Another popular wiki is Wikitravel. This extensive travel site seems ideally suited to the wiki method of website creation. The co-operative nature of wiki-produced sites gives good insight into a wide variety of travel locations, festivals, modes of transport, traveler tips and other topics that the avid traveler is looking for.

A recent spinoff from the world of wikis is the bliki, which is a blog that has a wiki attached to it. This blog may be altered by a set of users and adds some interactivity to what is usually a static part of the Internet.

Wikipedia is just one of several projects run by Wikimedia, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating large repositories of free online information. Other wiki projects they have underway are a wiktionary; a multilingual dictionary, "wikibooks", a collection of free-content textbooks and other non-fiction books, including a series of Wikijunior books for younger readers, and even wikiquote, a repository of famous quotations.

The following are links to popular wikis: -- The Wikipedia -- The English version of the Wiktionary - A wiki travel site -- The Wikimedia Foundation homepage.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 21 August 2005


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