Common Craft: Wikis in Plain English

What is a wiki?

A wiki is a bunch of web pages that anyone can edit freely. You don’t need to be tech savvy to edit and change a wiki. The best known wiki is wikipedia. With Wikipedia anyone can get an account and delete, add or change the information. Wikis have links, and people can add and delete freely.

Have you ever heard of the read/write web? The term means that users can interact with what they are reading creating an atmosphere of collaboration and community. Wikis involve, engage and facilitate collaboration among the people who use them.

Why do I need to know what a wiki is?

Wikis are perfect for collaboration with committees. They allow for everyone to have a voice, and they allow for asynchronous communication. You can easily edit sets of best practices and easily work with shared documentation. They are effortless to use for collaborating and knowledge sharing.

The Parts of a Wiki

Add a New Page: this button allows you to add a new page to a wiki and when you click on it will open up a window where you can edit how the page will look. You can choose to do this in the editor you see (called a What You See Is What You Get editor WYSIWYG), or you can edit it in HTML.

WYSIWYG Editors: Scary acronym! It means "What You See Is What You Get". It’s an editor like when you open up Word. You type, and can choose bold, italics, underline, just like in a typing program.

Edit Page: If you click on Edit on the top of any wiki page you have access to you can change the information on the page. Play with this! Click around and add or delete! Have some fun! Then hit….

Save: The save button is very important and is on a different part of the page depeding on the brand of wiki you are using, usually at the top or the bottom of the page. When you hit the save button

Revision Comparison: This is a feature that will show you a list of all the edits made to a wiki. That’s why you can’t "break it" because any wiki user can always look at the recent changes. You can revert to old versions, or look to see what edits someone made.

Show all pages: Clicking on this button will show you an alphabetical list of all of the pages within the wiki.

Files and attachments: You can upload a file for others to view. There tends to be a file size limit. This is really helpful if a group is collaborating for a manual or knowledge-base.

Preview: Some wiki brands offer you to preview the page. You’ll have to save it to accept the edits you’ve made, or hit cancel to go back and make more changes.

Class Resources

You can compare and contrast types of wikis at Try these brands of wiki software:

Class Assignment

The best way to learn about wikis is to play with them, and have fun. Play, play & more play. You can’t break it. So I set something up for you to use! I created a wiki called My Town, Idaho. You can access it here: Idaho Towns

The password is: idaho

Enter your name, your email address, and click or unclick to be notified of changes.

Please add a link to the town that you live in, if one doesn’t already exist, and tell us about some good restaurants, libraries, parks, or cool places to visit. You don’t need to sign in. Just click "Edit" and add a page for your town in the right side bar where it says "Insert a link to a new page" or… Navigate to your town by clicking on the name, and then click "Edit" and when you’re done either way click "Save"

Email me with questions!

Comment and discuss below!

Extra Credit

Using the Professional Development Service you can check out one of these two books by sending in the information on this form and the book will be mailed to you! Be sure to get a library card for this awesome service! Here are the two books:

  • wikipatterns : a practical guide to improving productivity and collaboration in your organization by Stewart Mader 004.6 MADER 2008
  • Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals by Ellyssa Kroski 020 Kroski 2008