Wiki & Social Networking


“A wiki is a web tool that allows users to easily create and edit web pages collaboratively.” [Joseph Chao, 2007]

The ease-of-editing element and ease of use from everywhere by everyone make wikis perfect for project collaboration. Even though the wiki was introduced more than ten years ago, its use is pretty new in academia.[Schaffert, S., Bischof, D., Buerger, T., Gruber, A., Hilzensauer, W. and Schaffert, S.,2006]

Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and RSS feeds are known Web 2.0 technologies and have been named as 'social software' because they are perceived as being particularly associated, letting users to build web content collaboratively and open to the public [Alexander , B.,2006]. The term 'wiki' is derived from the Hawaiian language, wiki-wiki, which means quick or fast. A wiki is a website which contains a collection of web pages that can be edited by visitors to the site. Wiki allows users to easily create and edit the web contents mutually. All in all, a wiki simplifies the process of creating HTML web pages in combination with a system which records each individual change that occurs in the end, so that at any time a page can be forced to any of its earlier conditions.

History of Wiki

The history of wiki begins with Howard Curringham who in 1994 created new website model known as Wiki [Cunningham, 2001] with the aim of creating a trouble-free tool for knowledge management and helpful online collaboration. Wikis accomplish this by providing users with a straightforward mark-up language and a simple method to create new pages and to link them [Wang, 2004][Elrufaie,2005]. Wikis are website which allows user to edit and create information on the site on real time. Even though wikis are around for a while only recently they been used widely. Now they are revolutionizing the way people collaborating with each other.

In March 2000, two people Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger decided that they wanted to create free online encyclopaedia that will rive the lives of Microsoft Encarta and encyclopaedia Britannica, Wales and Sanger called their project Nupedia. Nupedia was for- profit venture which require its article to undergo strict peer review process before being published for public access. Contributors to Nupedia had to be experts in their respective fields and PhD’s where generally preferred. Unfortunately, in 2000, when internet was experiencing some growing pains and many .com were failing. Nupedia was lack of resources; lack of direction cause the project to belly up in 2003. In its 3 years existence Nupedia produces only 24 articles.

Wales and Sanger use wiki technology to create Wikipedia, Wikipedia was launched in January 2001 and it was tended to be a collaborative tool where public can suggest and edit content for potential submission to Nupedia. Now unlike Nupedia, in Wikipedia any one can create, edit and discuss the content on Wikipedia. As the failure of Nupedia in 2003 Wales and Sanger looked at Wikipedia, in comparison to Nupedia’s 24 articles Wikipedia produces about 20,000 articles surprised by the popularity of success of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales decide to abundant the Nupedia’s peer review model and decided to encourage the anyone can edit model on Wikipedia where Sanger did not approve this decision and left the project all together. Since 2003 Wikipedia has been growing and include over 10 Million articles in 260 languages.

Wikipedia ranked in top 10 websites on the internet in terms of page views and its popularity is actually encouraged by Google news which start linking directly to Wikipedia’s content from within its news article and through it all Wikipedia has kept its anyone can edit mantra. Whether you love it or hate it Wikipedia has drastly affected how we share information on the internet

Uses of Wiki

E-education or e-learning is not only considered by the famous expression A³ (anytime, anywhere and anybody) but also by the inclusion of communication [Preece, 2002] as an incredibly essential social part of deep and valuable learning. The communication can take place between learner and content (hypertext, simulation), learner and instructor (computer mediated communication) and in the end between learner and learner (collaborative learning). As a result, the basic idea of e-education is supporting apprentices to become dynamically connected in mutual work via a computerized process. Mitchell [Mitchell, 2005] stated that the communication between learner and content and the communication between learner and instructor have to run professionally.

As a recent survey on the popular technology site Slashdot showed, wiki systems are currently used for a wide variety of purposes, including:

• Encyclopaedia systems gather information from the certain area or get information from the resources where wide range of users shares their knowledge.

• Software development: collaboratively create documentation, collect ideas, track bugs; most of today’s high-profile Open Source projects (e.g. Apache, Mozilla, Open Office) use wikis for coordination.

• Project knowledge management: project tracking, brainstorming and exchange of ideas, coordination of activities, agenda tool for collecting topics of meetings, project notes repository, knowledge base, staff directory.

• Personal knowledge management: sketchpad to collect and elaborate personal ideas, addresses, dates, tasks, bookmarks, etc. [M. V¨olkel and E. Oren, 2006]

• Collaborative writing: writers work together on short stories, novels etc which is straight away accessible by visitors for the enjoyment purpose.

• CMS/knowledge base are used to collect data, connect data basically a simple publication tool.

Wiki in Education

Duffy and Bruns [Duffy, P. & Bruns, A., 2006] lists a number of probable educational uses of wikis:

• Students can use a wiki to develop research projects, where the wiki can be useful as an on going documentation of their work.

• Students can attach summaries of their opinion from the prescribed readings, constructing a collaborative annotated bibliography on a wiki.

• A wiki can be used for circulating course resources like syllabus and handouts, and students can easily amend and comment on them straight away for all to see.

• Teachers can use wikis as a knowledge base, enabling them to distribute reflections and opinion concerning educational practices, and permitting for versioning and documentation.

• Wikis can be used to map concepts. They are helpful for brainstorming, and amending a particular wiki topic can generate a bonded network of resources.

• A wiki can be used as a presentation tool instead of usual software, and students are able to openly comment on and modify the presentation content.

• Wikis are tools for group authoring. Usually group members work together on a file or article by emailing to every member of the group a file that each individual changes on their computer, and some effort is after that made to bring together the changes so that everyone’s work is equally represented, using a wiki drags the team members as one and allows them to build and change the document on a particular, central wiki page.

Common Properties of Wiki

A wiki is basically a collection of Web sites associated via hyperlinks. Although there is an extensive choice of wiki systems available with different functions and viewers’, each and every one of them shares the following common properties:

Modifying via Browser

All the data on wiki is usually edited via any simple internet browser interface that can be used without installing any extra (expensive) software. This makes modification simple and allows user to modify pages from anywhere in the world with minimum technological requirements. As a result, content creators can access, amend and update the wiki from where on earth they are, e.g. at work, at home, at conferences, nowadays even while travelling.

Simplified Wiki Syntax

Data on wiki is generally expressed in a simplified hypertext format known as wiki syntax which is a lot easier to use for non-technical users than technical e.g. HTML. As a result, the knowledge of HTML is not necessary for formatting purpose.

Rollback Mechanism

Modifications to the content of a wiki are versioned every time they are saved, i.e. earlier versions of pages are reserved. This allows to go back to former versions of a page e.g. by mistake the essential parts of content have been deleted or unintentionally the amendment has been done by someone else. Moreover, most wiki systems allow users to compare two versions of a page, so user can identify the amendments quickly and revert it.

Unrestricted Access

The majority of wiki systems give unobstructed access to users i.e. any person can correct, amend, update, complete or even delete anything. Although this might look weird, and even risky, from a general point of view but practice demonstrates that the system works as ill-meaning users are relatively rare and on the other hand, all modifications can easily be undo using the rollback mechanism.

Note that a few wikis still allow applying additional access limitations using users and groups as establish in traditional content management systems.

Mutual Editing

The above mentioned characteristics mutually make wikis a supreme tool for collaborative editing.

As soon as someone creates page and add data to it, others can contribute to it, expand it, correct it, etc. Numerous wiki systems gives additional support for mutual editing, e.g. by means of discussion forums, summaries of modification, and list of last updates.

Powerful Linking

Pages in a wiki are generally powerfully linked with each other using hyperlinks. The cause for this is that the simplified wiki syntax makes it extremely straightforward to identify a link to a different page in the wiki. For example, in a lot of wikis a link is defined by including a word in square brackets [ ], or by using a so called “CamelCase” where a phrase includes several upper-case letters e.g., McDonalds. Links to non-existing pages are generally rendered in a different colour. If a user clicks on such a link, the wiki system redirects him to a view where he can build the non-existing page. In several wikis, this is even the only way to build a page. Links in a wiki are the most essential tool for navigation.

For that reason, a lot of wiki systems allow not only subsequent links in the direction they are defined but also in reverse direction term known as back links. Back links are important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purpose and number of back links indicates the popularity and importance of website or page.

Search Function

As an additional tool for navigation, nearly all wiki systems allow a full text search over the data of all wiki pages.

Uploading of Other Content

In addition to just writing, some of the more classy wikis allow uploading of multimedia content, like files, pictures, videos, and programming code, etc.

Blogs Vs Forums Vs Wiki

Three software platforms which people used to enjoy online are Blogs, forums and wikis which are helpful for academic purpose as well.

Blogs are basically a series of posts by individual author, they are usually arranged in reverse chronological order and it will be post on single topic and below each post there is comment stream where people can leave comment and have a discussion about the main post. So blogs are sort of interesting as they let individuals let their intellectual ownership of their writing and allow other people to comment on them.

Wikis are collaborative writing tools so a wiki is a webpage which anybody can edit and by anybody means the people you give authority. Wikis are really great for times when you want to do group works and to turn into a single paper or easy at the end of project. Wiki allows anybody to post their writing as they go online. There is history tab in wikis that which tells you at the glance who’s being doing the bulk of the editing.

Discussion forums are similar to blogs where one can post their initial thoughts and then there you get responses to it but it’s a much more democratic conversation and there is no one person who takes ownership of that conversation and discussion forum posts tend to be shorter maybe 100 to 200 words where blog posts tend to be 250 words or longer and discussion forum threads go on and on where as the blog posts and comment sort of have short life span.

Categories of Wiki

Wikis come in all forms and dimensions. The wiki type states which users have visibility and modification rights of the wiki pages. This manipulates the information and data contained on the wiki. This is of greatest importance when decision making is concerned with time significant information used by crisis management groups.

In general, there are six types of wikis categorized by Leuf and Cunningham according to the security obtained through user access restrictions [Leuf, B. And Cunningham, W., 2001]; see Table 1.

Even though it is useful to categorize wikis, this categorization is based only on two useful dimensions and ignores many important dimensions that replicate the task and user group size, particularly when the tasks involve time-critical analysis and fast decision making.



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Duffy, P. & Bruns, A., “The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities”, Proceedings of the Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, Brisbane, September 26, 2006.

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Joseph Chao Student Project Collaboration using Wikis 2007

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