Wikis: Not all that wiki

One of the 23 things is to put a photo of your pet on the wiki. As mentioned on some of the other 23 things blogs, there is a slight flaw in this task: Some people don’t have pets, and some don’t want them, either. I do have pets, however, and so that part of the task was easy for me (see the masters of my universe below).

Antonia Satchmo

The rest of the task, though, from uploading the file to putting the photo on the wiki, was absolutely painful. I’m a reasonably well skilled computer scientist. I know HTML, and I have been editing webpages for quite some time. I don’t use a wiki often enough, however, to ever remember wiki codes (especially for something like a table, which is pretty complicated).

The word wiki has its roots in the Hawaiian word wikiwiki which means fast. This is because wikis are meant to be a quicker and easier way to create collaborative web pages. Some things about wiki-ing are easier than standard HTML — creating links to pages that don’t yet exist, and writing in paragraphs for example. Nonetheless, though wiki code is awkward for those of us who do know HTML, and still significantly difficult for those who don’t — a kind of perverse worst-of-both-worlds compromise (clearly at least two of my colleagues feel the same). The compromise is made even worse by the use of obscure characters like ‘|’ — does that thing even have a name?

Of course my technocentric intuition is “let’s just use HTML, everbody knows it now anwyay”. This intuition is, of course, wrong; one quick look at MySpace (and the number of HTML customisation generators for it) will demonstrate that in fact most people still don’t know HTML, and nor should they have to. The interface I am typing in now automagically generates nice clean HTML for me — why can’t wikis do the same (especially since they are translating code anyway)? Well, it turns out some of them do, and if I were to suggest ways to invite more participation in our library wiki, investing in one of those would near the top of my list.

The video below shows how easy it should be — and too often isn’t — to contribute to a wiki.

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2 Responses to “Wikis: Not all that wiki”


  1. 1 Dimitri Lisitski Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 3:25 am

    I think the current definition of wiki is even broader. Just look at Central Desktop. They claim to be a wiki software, although it is rather a project management software.

    So, it looks like wiki is any software where you can do everything yourself not calling an admin (unless you are an admin, of course:)


  1. 1 Congratulations : ye have overcome the wiki one* « Libodyssey Trackback on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 6:34 pm

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