Wikis – tools for communally produced contents

Wikis are web services for web users to produce web pages together. You can utilise wikis in many ways, such as:

  • creating a wiki containing lecture notes with your co-students
  • carry out group work with the help of a wiki
  • participate in maintaining communally produced content collections

The main feature of wikis is that anyone can access them and modify the contents. The best known example is probably Wikipedia, a non-profit encyclopaedia that is free to its users.

Features of wikis

Features shared by most wikis include:

  • wiki markup: a wiki markup is a markup language with which wiki pages are written.The wiki markup depends on the wiki, so when you start to contribute to a wiki, please check which kind of markup to use.
  • creating subpages with w wiki markup: in such wikis as the Wikipedia, it is possible to create subpages for wiki pages on a certain topic; the subpages discuss details of the topic of the main page. Links to other web pages can also be made, as on the web in general. However, it is much easier to create a subpage in a wiki than with other web pages; to create a subpage, the writer puts double square brackets around the word(s) that form the link to a subpage: [[this text would be a subpage]]. How subpages are created can vary depending on which wiki software is in use.
  • version management: modifications to a page can be cancelled with the version-management features of the wiki program.

Structure and modification of wiki pages

The image below shows an example of a page in the Wikipedia. The page consists of several parts (you can enlarge the image for more detail by clicking on it):

  • the left side contains a navigation bar where you can go to e.g. pages on the same topic in other languages.
  • at the top there are links to a discussion on the page topic and to a log of changes to the page, etc.
  • at the top right there is a link for logging on to the wiki system.
    Larger image

On most wiki pages, there are several {edit] links. If you click on such a link, you can edit the wiki page. The image below shows the editing mode of a wiki page:

Please note that the instructions for how to edit wiki pages may vary depending on which wiki you are using. if you want to edit e.g. the Wikipedia, please read the instructions and routines for editing.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia and Wiktionary

The best way to learn about wikis is to read the wiki description in the Wikipedia.  If you create your own account in the Wikipedia, you can update the information in Wikipedia. In addition to the Wikipedia, see the Wikimedia Commons and Wiktionary.

Different wiki systems

The best known wiki in the world- the Wikipedia – has been written on top of a system called Mediawiki. Since there are different demands, different wiki systems have been developed, some of them commercial and others free. At UH, students and staff have access to e.g.the  Confluence wiki. In addition, many online learning communities have their own wiki platforms. You can read more about wiki systems in e.g. the Wikipedia.