An aggregation of the world’s knowledge. To generations past, that was a futuristic ideal, incoceivable outside the attempts of Britannica and the World Book encyclopedias. Yet to kids growing up today and those of us that work in an online realm, these tools are a reality. The most common example, the one that shows up on the front page of results for nearly any Google search imaginable, is Wikipedia.
Due to its widespread use (and noteriety amongst professors who constantly remind their students that “Wikipedia is not a source,”) many people think that “wiki” and “online encyclopedia” are synonymous. In fact, the world wiki doesn’t reference what information is contained, but how that information is compiled. Wikipedia is named as it is because it is both a wiki and an encyclopedia.
Wiki’s are any online forum where information is gathered and presented through collaboration. Anyone can submit content to Wikipedia, and then there are administrators and moderators that verify and edit the information.
The word wiki comes from the Hawaiian language, where it means quick or fast (that information was found on, you guessed it, Wikipedia). The first wiki was developed by Ward Cunningham in 1995.
Outside of Wikipedia, there are countless examples of smaller scale wikis. Wikihow attempts to answer user’s questions or teach users how to do things. There was a Lost Wikia where viewers of the popular TV series could trade theories or add the the shows canon.
Wikis can be useful even at smaller audiences. Here at Maga, we’re developing an internal wiki to help capture the knowledge gained across all of our projects. The goal is to have a quick reference tool for employees to consult before diving in to a new project or begin working with a new client. It may not be as big as Wikipedia, but for our purposes, it does just fine.