Intro to Wikis

Craig M. Buchek

St. Louis UNIX Users Group

October 13, 2004

"The Web is the sum of all human knowledge plus porn."
                                -- Ron Gilbert

What is a Wiki?

  • Wiki-wiki is Hawaiian for "quick"
  • "The simplest online database that could possibly work" -- Ward Cunningham, The Wiki Way
  • Any user can edit Web page content using any Web browser
  • Uses a simple text markup "language" instead of HTML
  • Hyperlinks to other pages on the wiki automatically created by using CamelCase, aka WikiWords
  • Clicking on a hyperlink to a non-existent page lets you create the page
  • All pages are referenced by their WikiName -- no hierarchy

History of Wikis

  • First was written by Ward Cunningham in 1995
  • First Wiki is still in use at
    • Repository for programming Design Patterns
    • Info about wikis
  • Features were added over time
  • Many clones developed

How to Use a Wiki

  • So simple, you have to see it or use it to understand it
  • [Live Demo]
  • Spend 5 minutes reading the HelpPage, then play in the SandBox
  • Short version: hit Edit, hit Save

Why Don't Wikis Get Defaced?

  • They do; there's also Wiki spamming
  • But the next person to come by can easily fix it
    • Usually just by rolling back to the previous version of the page
  • Some Wikis let people sign up to be notified of modifications to pages
  • Can ban IPs; they're generally already logged
  • Some Wikis provide/require logins
  • In the end, it generally just works
  • "People don't do graffiti in pencil." -- UserGoogol on Slashdot

Wiki Variants

Popular Wiki Sites

Presentation Info