Saturday, March 1, 2008

What is a Wiki?

Wiki is a short form of the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki, which means quick. A wiki is an easily made web page, where users can create and edit content and link to other web pages anytime they want. Wikis can be made using open source software such as Wikispaces or PBwiki. For short videos explaining wikis, see What is a Wiki or Wikis in Plain English.

Wikipedia is one of the best known wikis with 2, 249,000+ articles, contributed and edited by anyone choosing to do so, demonstrating the power of collaboration. The big questions is: if anyone can edit anything on the site, how can you trust what you read on a wiki? There must be concern for accuracy of information on sites like Wikipedia, but in Will Richardson’s view, it seems there are more people who are interested in getting it right than there are those who want to simply contribute or even vandalize. In the online magazine Slate, Chris Wilson in his blog The Wisdom of the Chaperones, criticizes Wikipedia for claiming to be democratic when in fact there is “authorial domination by 1 percent of contributors”. This certainly isn’t the kind of user-generated collaboration to which Wikipedia attests. Is this kind of management necessary to maintain reliability? Alex Halavais (2004), a professor from the University of Buffalo experimented by creating 13 errors on Wikipedia, which were all fixed within a couple of hours. In December 2005, the magazine Nature compared 43 entries in Wikipedia with the same entries in Encyclopedia Brittanica and found Wikipedia to be only slightly less accurate.

Like blogs, wikis are becoming popular in just about any aspect of life on this planet. You can find wikis on just about anything including Travel, Star Trek and even Teacher-Librarianship. Corporations have started using wikis to manage information and universities and colleges are beginning to use them with their faculty and students. This type of collaboration is becoming more popular, especially with controlled access to a wiki providing a quick and easy intranet.

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