An exercise in clarity: Wiki Jason 06 Apr 2005

64 comments Latest by Marshall Kirkpatrick

Explain what a Wiki is in 10 words or less.

If you don’t even know what a Wiki is, here are some examples: Instiki (make your own free wiki), Socialtext (enterprise wiki), Jotspot (“application” wiki), Wikipedia (the world’s most famous wiki), 43 Folders Wiki (for the Merlin Mann Clann). Is Backpack a wiki?

64 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Jim Royal 06 Apr 05

A community-run encyclopedia.

Kris 06 Apr 05

one change behind, two changes ahead

Brady Joslin 06 Apr 05

content management system focused on collaboration and ease of use

amyybeth 06 Apr 05

Wiki: Taking true advantage of the web with collaborative authorship.

Jamie 06 Apr 05

Community-based authoring and editing of content online.

Zelnox 06 Apr 05

Community-managed content.

>Is Backpack a wiki?
Since you asked, I think yes. Haha.

Nick 06 Apr 05

Interesting because I just posted on a wiki I’m currently using, PMWiki.

http://www.nickdominguez.com/2005/03/25/29/

Here are some some uses for the wiki i’m using: Project management, client communication and project invoicing. Wiki’s are great because they can ultimately become whatever you want them to be.

Jesper 06 Apr 05

Edit, create, link. Anyone, everywhere. Together.

Chris Campbell 06 Apr 05

Structured graffiti by and for a community.

Craig 06 Apr 05

The Web the way Tim Berners-Lee imagined.

Kevin 06 Apr 05

A world-editable and flexible web site.

Mobil'Homme 06 Apr 05

A mechanism for annoying people you disagree with.

Adrian Holovaty 06 Apr 05

A Web site that lets anybody edit any page.

JD 06 Apr 05

I can do it in one: Crap.

Just kidding, I couldn’t resist.

paul haine 06 Apr 05

An excuse for programmers to not write any documentation.

starmonkey 06 Apr 05

I thought word docs were that excuse? :)

It’s funny trying to explain the concept of a wiki to non-technical people… usually flies right over their head the first few times.

it’s helps if you throw a yoda-voice at them:

“you must UNLEARN, what you have learned.”

Jonathan Holst 06 Apr 05

“Fast”

Chris 06 Apr 05

Almost always a way for unknowledgeable people to appear knowledgeable.

James Byers 06 Apr 05

web pages anyone can edit

All of the community, collaboration, etc. aspects are side effects of the ‘anyone’ part. Once you roll in complex access control, you’ve made a content management system.

One more category of “wiki example” is free wiki hosting, an example being http://wikispaces.org (disclaimer: I’m the lead developer).

Jerry 06 Apr 05

I appreciate suspense as much as anyone but waiting for Backpack is beginning to feel like waiting on the front porch to enlist in Project Mayhem:

“Alright, if the applicant is young, tell him he’s too young. Old, too old. Fat, too fat. If the applicant then waits for 3 days without food, shelter, or encouragement he may then enter and begin his training.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Andi 06 Apr 05

A hyperlinked community-managed content resource

Rick Faaberg 06 Apr 05

A collaborative, contextual website - easy to learn, hard to master.

Josh 06 Apr 05

Anyone (really, anyone) can edit, free-range information, usually encyclopedic.

(Do hypens count as one or two words?)

Ryan 06 Apr 05

a hyperlinked knowledge repository, created collaboratively online with web forms.

Will Hayworth 06 Apr 05

A freely editable and easily integrated knowledge database.

By the way, why don’t you mention MediaWiki, which powers Wikipedia?

Josh 06 Apr 05

As for Backpack, it’s hard to say. I think what seems to distinguish the wiki from a blog — or a community-news site (like Slashdot, say) — is the ability to edit the original content. While blogs and Slashdot provide a great platform for “audience participation”, a wiki allows the audience to re-write and re-create the original material. So, if you can’t actually edit the original material, it isn’t a wiki.

Chris 06 Apr 05

A new way of thinking about an old idea (the web and its content).

rick 06 Apr 05

“The simplest online database that could possibly work.”

From the official source

Alexandre Simard 06 Apr 05

Adrian: A Web site that lets anybody edit any page.

+1. I can’t do better than this. It is the least technical/ideological definition, yet it clearly explains a Wiki’s defining feature: anybody can edit any page. Good job!

ceejayoz 06 Apr 05

“A collaborative, user-editable website.”

Shaun Inman 06 Apr 05

Wicked is a wiki (in the collaborative sense). Adrian however said it best but I would extend it a bit further and say “A website where anybody can create or edit any page.”

German 06 Apr 05

An easy to use web site anyone can edit

Brady Joslin 06 Apr 05

I have to question the validity of including the word “anybody” in the definition of a wiki. Is a team wiki not a wiki? If you ban someone from posting on your wiki, is it no longer a wiki? What about using wikis as personal journals?

The original idea of a wiki may have been based on complete openness, but I think we are seeing some effective uses of wikis with more limitating authoring rights as this type of CMS continues to evolve.

Similarly, a wiki is a CMS. A CMS does not have to have work flow capabilities, only a method for managing content.

Tony 06 Apr 05

Wiki:
Buzzword with little relevance to the average web user.

:)

Dave 06 Apr 05

Open-source encyclopedia (is that 3 words, or 2?)

seth 06 Apr 05

My personal organized online notepad.

Anonymous 06 Apr 05

free for all

Dan Hartung 06 Apr 05

With apologies to IRC: multiplayer notepad.

Will Pate 06 Apr 05

Auto hyperlinked, chronicled, collaborative document creation.

5 baby, 5.

Sunny 06 Apr 05

Write, edit and publish for the masses.

Banks 06 Apr 05

Would a Wiki be the End Result (editable pages) or the Application Itself (i.e. the web app, Instiki, JotSpot …)?

James Byers, I feel, is close.

“web pages anyone can edit” …The Content of.

Alan 06 Apr 05

“A collection of webpages created and editable by anyone”

TG 06 Apr 05

Hawaiian for “can’t find shit”. (stated by someone on the Rails list, can’t remember who, but aptly sums them up in my experience).

D 06 Apr 05

This

Ian 06 Apr 05

Collaboration of written information by anyone for anyone

Chris Griego 06 Apr 05

Sites that are easy to edit but impossible to navigate.

Kevin Klein 06 Apr 05

a well organized bathroom stall.

Ross Mayfield 07 Apr 05

Rea. Write. Link. Remember.

Perhaps a visual would help: http://www.socialtext.net/mayfield/index.cgi?wiki_101

Ross Mayfield 07 Apr 05

That would be Read, but this isn’t a wiki, which is: a group-editable website.

Thank you for playing.

david gouch 07 Apr 05

Wiki - Need someone to a defnition for this!
(edited 1 times)

Wiki - A group of pages editable by users.
(edited 2 times)

Wiki - Permet à n’importe qui d’éditer des pages d’enchaînement.
(edited 3 times)

Wiki - A tool where any one can edit whats on the page.
(edited 4 times)

Wiki - %%%H A C K E D !!! %%% %%%%
(edited 5 times)

Wiki - A page of contributed information that users can easily modify.
(edited 6 times)

paul haine 07 Apr 05

David Gouch is a comic genius, and I salute him.

Jack 07 Apr 05

Interesting that so many folk are using the word ‘encyclopedia’ in their explanations, when that’s only one potential use, and certainly not the most common. (Presumably thanks to Wikipedia’s deserved popularity?)

Anyway, I can’t beat Adrian Holovaty’s explanation and the derivatives above. That’s pretty much what I say when trying to explain the concept, but I don’t think anyone has ever just said, ‘Ah, I see’ when told that definition - it usually prompts questions about why a wiki would be more useful to them than a ‘normal’ site, what stops vandals wrecking a wiki, etc.

(David Gouch - funny!)

Jim Royal 07 Apr 05

Jack wrote: Interesting that so many folk are using the word ‘encyclopedia’ in their explanations, when that’s only one potential use, and certainly not the most common.

The task was not to come up with a definition of a Wiki, but to explain it to someone who has never heard the idea before. True, most Wikis are not encyclopedias (which contain information on a wide range of subjects), but the word itself communicates the purpose of a Wiki, in that it is a gathering of useful information.

Contrast with:

A Web site that lets anybody edit any page.

Most people would say, “So what? What’s the purpose? Why am I interested?” This definition offers no context, and thus explains nothing.

I still stand by my original definition as the most useful: A communty-run encyclopedia.

Jim Royal 07 Apr 05

On reflection, I offer this alternative:

A storehouse of information that can be edited by anyone.

But I find this to be a much fuzzier explanation, as it puts too much emphasis on the editing, and not enough on the communal aspects.

monkey 07 Apr 05

Web site where anyone can create or change content.

monkey again 07 Apr 05

A Web-based encyclopedia anyone can write and change.

Ludovic Dubost (XWiki) 07 Apr 05

In addition to the list you could add:

XWiki, -make you own open-source enterprise application wiki (and maybe it will be famous !)

Ludovic Dubost 07 Apr 05

“Wikis, the real editable web”

Ludovic Dubost 07 Apr 05

Wiki: anybody can create, edit and link pages together.

indi 07 Apr 05

Write, edit, link and rinse. Repeat as needed.

ChrisR 07 Apr 05

Wiki: anybody can create, edit and link pages together.

If they can figure the damn thing out, yeah.

memer 08 Apr 05

For me, the biggest difference between a wiki and, say, a group blog is the revisions functionality. It’s handy, if there’s a group working on a single document to be able to review changes/adds/deletes.

Now if this backpack thingie does that AND incorporates some wysiwyg-type gizmo like fckeditor, you gotcherself a winnah.

Dan 08 Apr 05

Brevity does not neccessarily mean clarity, please understand that, now.

Marshall Kirkpatrick 09 Apr 05

“Online intranet with attachments, easilly editable by users, email notification of changes.”
or for the utterly tech-cold “website anyone can edit, like an online pad of paper”

Of course the first is only a description of the best wikis for internal use in organizations, but that’s what I’ve been working with lately. I chose PMWiki and so far am happy.

If you don’t have time for 15 or 20 words, maybe the audience isn’t really interested. BTW, users here might be interested in http://www.wikalong.org/ a wiki-sidebar for every website users visit in firefox. it is rad, and easy to install. I’ve been using it for 10 minutes now and really like it.
-Marshall
http://marshallk.blogspot.com

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