Glenn's Junk Chest

An assortment of Glenn's writings, photography, gaming resources, flash movies, and other creative output.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Wiki: Wowzers

So, thanks to my office, I've been forcefully introduced to Wiki. Wikiwiki is the Hawaiian word for fast, and the idea is that wikis are supposed to be the quickest possible way to create a collection of interlinked web pages. HTML has been replaced by a sort of simple shorthand that's very human readable, even in its unprocessed form, and highly functional (even attractive) in its processed form.

A wiki page might be entered like this:

==Wikis are Fun!==
===About Wikis===
Wikis are a very cool way to write a lot of [[web pages]] very quickly.
* They use a human-readable syntax.
* They are usually editable by visitors.

And should then look like this:

Wikis are Fun!

About Wikis

Wikis are a very cool way to write a lot of web pages very quickly.


  • They use a human-readable syntax.
  • They are usually editable by visitors.

For comparison, the HTML for such a thing would probably look like this:

<h2>Wikis are Fun!</h2>
<h3>About Wikis</h3>
<p>Wikis are a very cool way to write a lot of <a href="">web pages</a> very quickly.</p>
<li>They use a human-readable syntax.</li>
<li>They are usually editable by visitors.</li>

The first cool thing about wiki pages is that creating links is easy. You just put the link inside your text with a syntax like [[Foobar]]. The word Foobar will then show up as a link. If there is already a Foobar page in the wiki, you'll have linked to it. If there isn't, the word will show up in red, and when you click it, viola, you'll be creating a new page called Foobar. In this way you can build an interlinked hierarchy incredibly quickly.

The other cool thing about wiki pages is that they are usually collaborative. This means that anyone who visits a wiki page can edit it. There are obviously potential ways that this can be abused, and potential problems with authority and expertise, but it's still an awfully cool thing. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, with nearly half a million articles in English alone, that has been created in this way.

Anyway, my office has decided to do our internal documentation in Wiki, partly to save time, and partly because it standardized the myriad of approaches that were previously being used. It should also allow our non-technical staff to quickly gather presentation-ready material out of the base. I'd link to it, but because it is an internal wiki, it's behind security, and you can't get there.

However, I recently wrote an extensive wiki page on non-roman text, and since it contains no customer information, I thought I'd post it out on a public wiki farm, which is a service that allows people to set up wikis of their own, in much the same way that allows people to set up blogs. Feel free to stop by, and if you'd like, make corrections and additions, because that's the wiki way.

(Unfortunately, it doesn't look quite the same as the Clotho internal wiki, because I wasn't able to find a free unrestricted wiki farm based around MediaWiki, which is the wiki engine that both Wikipedia and Clotho are using, but this is still close enough that you can get the idea.)


At 12:02 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

If you're looking for something to edit, just for practice, but don't really know anything about non-roman text, an easy thing you could do is fix one of the myriad capitalization errors. I try to capitalize words like "Japanese", "Arabic" and "English", but I know I missed a bunch throughout the document.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been trying to tell Glenn about Wiki's for years. It seems that his being "forcefully introduced" has finally sparked his interest.

My first requirement for a wiki system is versioning. The system must keep previous versions of a wiki-page around so that the users or admin can easily revert a page to an earlier state. The second necessary feature is a standard in most wiki systems: RecentChanges, which lists in order the changes that have been made. These two features together effectively eliminate abuse most people fear from a "can be edited by anyone" setup. Only the most dedicated, with scores of hours of free time, could damage a wiki with these features.

-- Kit ( My Wiki )

At 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seth pointed me at Jon Udell's treatise on the evolution of a Wikipedia page about the Heavy Metal Umlaut. It is quite an interesting watch/listen if you get a chance.



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