RE: Wikis for end-users

Subject: RE: Wikis for end-users
From: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2005 14:22:24 -0700


Well, a Wiki is basically a web site with quick-and-dirty contribution
built in.

You can have a normal web site in which a bunch of people have access to
the HTML files. If someone wants to make a comment to someone else's
page, they could edit the page, put in the comment, and repost the page
to the server site.

But, to do this:
* everyone has to know HTML pretty well.
* everyone has to have a HTML editor or text editor.
* everyone has to have access to the site directory through FTP or
WebDAV or whatever.
* everyone has to know the site, so they can link correctly to other
documents.
* everyone has to remember to mark their comments so everyone *else* can
tell who wrote what.
* somebody has to maintain security, etc.

Enter Wiki.

Wiki either automates this, or provides a simple alternative:
* Wiki formatting is easy to learn, although not as powerful, compared
to HTML.
* The editor is built into the Wiki system.
* Everyone edits directly in the web browser as they look at the page.
* Wiki has a scheme for "automatic" links using a particular type of
name capitalization. Most
wikis also have a way of searching for pages.
* Wiki automatically marks edits with the name of the editor.
* Wiki has a security system.

I say "Wiki", although the term refers to an architectural concept and
not a particular piece of software. Several Wiki implementations are
available.

This is different from Wiki *sites*. The best-known wiki site is, IMHO
Wikipedia, powered by MediaWiki software.

I've used wikis extensively:
Upsides:
* Very easy to set up, add to, edit, and use.
* Allow templating, so you can create a wiki page from a template and
then "fill in the blanks".
* Support both HTML and Wiki formatting, so you can put up HTML if you
want, but you can also put up a "wiki" format.
* Really help you make documents like test plans, doc plans, schedules,
etc. available to everyone everywhere, in *one* place.
* Encourage non-technical people to participate.

Downsides:
* Not as good as pure HTML for static sites. For one thing, you can't
really "lock" a page
so it's uneditable; all you can do is restrict user access to the
site.
* Unless you have an overseer, pages tend to proliferate. Wikis can get
confusing.
* The capitalization scheme leads to some goofiness, especially when
you're trying to document
Java stuff in a Wiki.
* Wiki pages are not actual HTML, so you may find it harder (but
possible) to link to them
from other sites.

Wikis, like everything else, can be misused. You know the saying: "When
you really love your hammer, everything looks like a nail." Same with
Wikis. I've seen this happen with web sites, Microsoft Office Collab
Suite, Oracle Portal, Wikis, discussion forums, Plone, etc etc etc.

| -----Original Message-----
| From: bounce-techwr-l-216553 -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
| [mailto:bounce-techwr-l-216553 -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
| Of Bill Swallow
| Sent: Friday, June 10, 2005 1:53 PM
| To: TECHWR-L
| Cc: TECHWR-L
| Subject: Re: Wikis for end-users
|
|
| I still don't get wikis, and I've been a web junkie since I
| got my hands on Mosaic in the late fall of 1992 (yes, before
| the public debut). ;-)
|

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