Sunday, June 15, 2008

The father of wiki

Today on Father's Day, I cannot help but recognize the father of wiki, Ward Cunningham

Wikis are great tools for web-based content management and collaboration. They easily allow a community to collaborate and jointly create and edit content. The first wiki was created in 1995 by Ward Cunningham, a Smalltalk developer, who conceived it as a quick way to create and share ideas when working. The first public wiki, called the Portland Pattern Repository, facilitates the discovery and discussion of software patterns. Ward's Wiki is still working today. In fact, on its tenth anniversary, it had over 30,000 pages! His site has a lot more information about the history of Wiki.

Most wikis today are really not their father's wiki though. There's been a lot of progress in the world of wiki since Ward Cunningham created the first. Some note key differences from the original wiki concept and often reference Wiki 2.0. The early wikis required technical expertise during their setup -- often requiring customization of open source code. Wikis were initially customized and installed by people with key technical skills and authorities. These individuals would often be labeled as techies, geeks, or nerds by some. After wikis were created, the community members often had to learn a simple, text formatting language, called wikitext or wiki syntax. The early wikis could be updated by anyone, with little to no protection of any pages. You could see the history of changes and revert content, but there was really no option to lock or to protect a page's content. Today, wiki hosting services permit the quick and easy creation of wikis on the Web. There are no technical requirements or expertise needed to create a wiki on the Web using a wiki hosting service. Hundreds of thousands of wikis exist today -- and most were not developed by individuals with technical skills. Most wiki hosting services support a rich text editor and provide a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) interface for its users. In other words, no tags! Wiki users are not required to learn or to use a text formatting language at all. If you can send e-mail or create a document with a word processing software package, you can create a wiki. The early wikis were primarily text-based sites, with many hyperlinks easing the view of related information. Today's wikis support templates and creative site designs, include multimedia, and permit widgets or small applications to be embed, permitting interactivity and dynamic content. Many wiki hosting services allow a creator to protect the content for selected pages and some wikis allow authorizations at the page level. Many wiki hosting services have enhanced community features, permitting its members to create profiles, to send messages to other members, to send compliments to others, and to identify their associations or friendships with other members. The wiki -- a truly great idea -- is continuing to evolve and open the Web to the nontechnical users.

Here are two very short videos by Wetpaint which discuss some of the differences between the original wiki implementation and the ease of creating wikis today on wiki hosting services.

Mac vs PC Parody - Wiki 3

As posted on YouTube by wpseattle

Mac vs PC Parody - Wiki 2

As posted on YouTube by wpseattle

Today, don't be old-school -- give wiki a try, but start with a wiki hosting service, like Wetpaint, to experience the true ease and power of wikis today.

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