View Full Version : Wikis - any one who uses one or understands them - we're curious about them!

12-12-2005, 08:24 PM
Recently a Mr. John Seigenthaler wrote an editorial piece found in USAToday (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-11-29-wikipedia-edit_x.htm). A false Wikipedia (http://www.en.wikipedia.org) entry was made and it got him a bit upset.

The article was changed. There has been other fallout (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002677060_wiki11.html) due to this article and one of the things Mommie4a (http://writeslikeshetalks.blogspot.com/2005/12/meanest-thing-ive-ever-read-in-pd.html), has noted is the confusion between wikis and blogs (http://www.cleveland.com/printer/printer.ssf?/base/opinion/113420715128750.xml&coll=2) by someone who should know better how to do his research. I'd be willing to bet he's not alone in his confusion.

No doubt there are a number of bloggers participating in wiki projects (http://wiki.org/wiki.cgi?WhatIsWiki). And, as I noted elsewhere, Daily Kos (a blog, amongst other things) has a wiki collaboration on its site (http://www.dkosopedia.com/index.php/Main_Page). I'd bet there are others.

So I'm opening this thread for anyone who is conversant about wiki to come and share their knowledge. Do you participate in a wiki? What are the benefits of a wiki? Drawbacks?


Marilyn Braun
12-13-2005, 11:51 PM
I contribute to wikipedia articles on royalty and I really enjoy doing so, especially if I can contribute an interesting fact which might not be known about the person. I've corrected a few articles but overall I just enjoy contributing. When I contribute, I do try to make sure that what I'm putting in to the article are facts that I've backed up and not gossipy things.

In this instance I'm really surprised that something like that didn't happen sooner. Yes there are the people who 'patrol' the entries and updates but they can't catch everything.

12-14-2005, 12:26 AM
From a web hosting point of view I'm afraid of wikis, lol. If used properly they're alright I suppose but I've seen so many people get their sites hacked from not using them the way they were meant to be used.

Mac H.
12-14-2005, 12:26 AM
That very article also showed one of the great benefits of Wikepedia.

When I read the USA Today article, I was left with a false impression - that the hoaxer had not been identified. Even though there was more information available, USA Today didn't provide a link or way to get it.

Consulting Wikepedia on the subject, however, gave more recent information.

Sure - you can't rely on it without using your brain and other resources. But that applies to ANY resource. eg: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4209575.stm

There's a great line in that article : "The encyclopaedia [Britannica] cost me 700 [$1,320] .." - and a schoolkid found 5 mistakes in a few weeks.

To see the results of an 'audit' of reference books on a single subject, see this: http://kennedy.byu.edu/staff/peterson/ChildVol/Childbooks.html It's quite an eye-opener.

Wikipedia is free. Use it for information. Then think about it.

(As a rule, if an entry isn't incredibly wrong with hundreds of edits - then it hasn't had enough people review it for it to be considered accurate)

12-14-2005, 12:30 AM
Wikipedia is a great research tool for people who know better than to rely on only one research tool.

From a web hosting point of view I'm afraid of wikis, lol. If used properly they're alright I suppose but I've seen so many people get their sites hacked from not using them the way they were meant to be used.

The trick is to have enough of a readership that hacks get caught and corrected immediately, and often enough to deter the attempted attack (unless you mean the software itself gets hacked, which is always a risk, whether it's blogging, CMS or just a photo gallery). Aside from that, the biggest risk isn't wide-spread attacks, but little lies and other such edits that can easily go unnoticed.

12-14-2005, 12:49 AM
Both, actually. Too many people will enable it in CMS, blogs, and other apps, not really realizing what it is or the potential for abuse of such and then never think of it again until it's too late and the damage is done.

But, honestly the worst site to deal with when thinking about wikis is a programmer's site. I cringe when I hear the words wiki and programming in the same sentence.

12-14-2005, 01:19 AM
Depends. I'd be more reticient to use one on a site covering a controversial issue, giving people more of an incentive to try and hack it.

12-14-2005, 02:28 AM
Human nature being what it is, any site that is popular for whatever reason is going to be a target but, yeah, I could see that happening.

12-14-2005, 07:07 AM
I have been frustrated at work with the fact that our collaboration tools truly stink. I once suggested giving something like wiki a try - and most of the folks in the room (full of IT engineers, analysts and PMs) didn't have any idea what I was talking about. Now this was a couple years ago, but still, our collaboration tools truly suck and nope, no wikis - so why? Seems to me if we truly want to become a 'networked virtual organization' that we need a way to continually collaborate real time...am I wrong that wiki facilitates that?

12-14-2005, 07:31 AM
wikis do facilitate that... depending on the wiki... Richard might have some already in mind and I'll do some checking for some recommended apps. However, as Richard stated, there needs to be a gatekeeper or group of such or it can go awry very quickly.

12-14-2005, 07:37 AM
What if it's behind the company firewall? I don't want to publicly out my employer - but I'd be willing to bet my next paycheck to donuts that if someone in our IT org put their mind to it there wouldn't be much awrying going on with an internal wiki for the purpose of project/program collaboration. Right now we're using some clunky app that nobody does anything more sophisticated than store revision copies of documents on. And it's ugly, to boot. True collaboration isn't happening, it's just a document repository. Of course the problem could be that they didn't implement it well. Another case of a solution looking for an answer and no real champion for change spearheading a movement for adoption...

12-14-2005, 11:23 AM
Well, you've got plenty of choice. Wikis can be easily installed on your server - try http://www.opensourcecms.com for some live demos (they're reset every hour, so you don't need to worry about breaking anything). Wikipedia runs on MediaWiki, and is one of the most feature complete. Alternatively, there's quite a few hosted services, like JotSpot and pbWiki, where're you using another company's servers, but the data isn't public facing (try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wiki_farms for a list of those).

Mike Coombes
12-14-2005, 03:56 PM
Imaginaries, the sf&f writing group that I've been a member of for around 15 years now, has just installed a Wiki for collaborative writing exercises and group world-building.

It's early days, but people are getting quite excited about it.


12-14-2005, 07:03 PM
Mike, why did you decide to use a Wiki?

12-23-2005, 07:08 AM
FYI - Richard, I've forwarded the Writeboard suggestion and I think my group is going to give it a try. Thanks.

Lots of great info around the blogging forum, Dawno - no surprise! Thanks for all you do.

05-14-2006, 04:02 PM

I just started working with a Wiki and may be coming back here to post about it now and again. Anyone who's working with Wiki and blogging, I'd be interested in your experiences...

05-14-2006, 04:20 PM
I'm looking to play with one soon when it's added to my CMS package (ExpressionEngine). Generally they work well, holding articles instead of a blog's more ephemeral postings.

http://www.toastyfrog.com is a pretty good example of that.

05-14-2006, 07:20 PM
I'm not so sure how well public wiki's work :) I've got a friend who has a public wiki for free MP3 information - about bands which release MP3s for free over the Net. He had so much trouble with spammers putting junk in the wiki that he at one point removed public posting/editing and made it password protected. Later, he opened it up again but the issue was that most people didn't know how to format a wiki entry since except for simple text, all wiki entries use some form of arcane markup that makes it difficult for a novice to make a properly formatted entry :p He got around that particular hurdle by asking me to build an additional app for him which provided a form for the data entry (this was straightforward static information) and my code did the actually entry formatting and insertion. Seems to work fine for him :)

On a private/personal basis, I've had much better luck with wikis :) My current employer uses a wiki for the employees to share information about certain procedures, tips etc. All the schedules information, employee contact information etc. is also kept in the wiki. From an information management and accessibility standpoint, this is ideal since you can edit your own information instead of waiting for somebody (say in HR) to edit your contact information. The biggest problem I've seen with that particular system is that information is not updated sometimes in a timely manner. For instance, our schedule information is like 3 months behind and some schedules have not been updated since last year :p But that is mostly a management issue and not a failure in the wiki system itself.

I just started using a personal wiki for information management. I'd been using a treeview based information management app all this time but the more information you accumulate, the harder it is to find any one bit of information since in a treeview, you still have to know which node or branch contains the information you want. Information management becomes even harder because the same bit of information might fit on two different nodes depending on how you structure things. (Incidentally, if you're interested in a more detailed discussion of this particular problem, I have a blog entry from a couple of days ago which goes into more details :p) So, I thought to look for an information management tool which used tags or keywords to help you identify the exact bit of information you need quickly and easily. That was when I stumbled upon personal wikis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_wiki). OK, fine, I didn't actually stumble upon them since I did know of them before that but I did take a closer look this time :) I found several interesting personal wiki options but the one that's my favourite so far is TidddlyWiki (http://www.tiddlywiki.com/).

It is a simple HTML page. You just open it in FireFox or IE and you immediately have access to your own wiki, right there on your desktop! No installation, no fuss, no muss :p In fact, I just love the concept due to how portable it is and because it is just one file. You can even carry your own wiki around on a USB drive :) The drawback? The same issue as any other wiki - you have to remember all the different formatting rules since there is no WYSIWYG editor in there. But then again, somebody might come up with that soon enough ....

05-14-2006, 07:25 PM
I use Wikis locally, on my Mac, to teach with, and I encourage companies/institutes to use them for "knowledge management."

They're great for collecting "tribal knowledge," since they're easy to update and all changes are tracked--you can always "roll back" to an entry's previous state, or several states back.

But like any tool you need to use them with care. For users wanting something locally, TiddlyWiki is useful; for Mac users, VoodooPad is an inexpensive Wiki maker that also saves out generic HTML pages that look pretty darn good. I've used Insticki, on a server, as will as a few others, but I keep preferriing PHPWiki (the Wikipedia app).

For people looking to play, PBwiki (http://www.pbwiki.com) has a free version.

05-14-2006, 10:06 PM
Wikipedia uses MediaWiki, not PHPWiki.

The best uses for them are if you have an active community already, or can lock it down so that it's simply more convenient for you personally to add and manage your content, leaving everyone else as viewers. Opening up a public, or even membership one, on your site for the heck of it is just opening the floodgates to spam and arguments.

05-15-2006, 02:19 AM
really good stuff, thanks!

I plan to use the Wiki with a select group, the Wiki will be password protected and not part of my public sites. It's strictly for collaboration on a joint venture.

05-15-2006, 02:24 AM
Oh, I forgot to mention above:

If you want a fully hosted wiki (as in, someone else dealing with all the technical stuff), Stikipad (http://www.stikipad.com/) is superb. Really good wiki (Instiki, not that it matters much), which amongst many other things is one of the few big ones that supports free linking out of the box (think [[My Blog]] as a link instead of MyBlog), is really well integrated into the service, and a ton of features on the free plan.

05-15-2006, 03:39 AM
oooh Stikipad *is* nifty!!

Thank you for the link.

05-15-2006, 05:12 AM
Richard is quite right; I meant to say MediaWiki, not PHPWiki--think of it as a Freudian petticoat. I was debating while I posted whether or not I should mention some of the problems with PHPWiki.

One of the things I like about MediaWiki and several of the others is that you can as an Admin "lock" some pages. This can be very helpful.

05-15-2006, 05:48 AM
I rarely ever use Wikipedia. To be honest, I'm not all that well versed on wikis. So this thread has been an interesting read. Thanks.