Sunday, September 26, 2004

'Wikis' Offer Knowledge-Sharing Online: "Taran Rampersad didn't complain when he failed to find anything on his hometown in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Instead, he simply wrote his own entry for San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago.

"Wikipedia is unique for an encyclopedia because anybody can add, edit and even erase. And the Wikipedia is just one—albeit the best known—of a growing breed of Internet knowledge-sharing communities called Wikis."

"There are Wiki cookbooks, a compendium of quotations and a repository on guitar players. College professors use Wikis to spur discussion. Software developers create online manuals. Small teams within businesses track projects, exchange ideas and list good places for lunch.

"Wikis have the power to change how we live and work, replacing e-mail as a tool of collaboration and spanning hierarchies."

"Wikis, based on the Hawaiian word 'wiki wiki' for 'quick,' grew out of programmer Ward Cunningham's desire for a new way to discuss software design. He launched the first Wiki in 1995. Thousands more followed, including Wikipedia in 2001."

"At Wikipedia, any visitor can make changes without needing to first prove expertise. This month, it surpassed 1 million articles, including 350,000 in English—three times that of the online Encyclopedia Britannica. More than 25,000 people have written or edited at least 10 articles."

"Where Wikis can truly take off are in corporate and organizational settings."

"Technically, a Wiki's attraction is in its efficiency. Unlike e-mail and discussion boards, which tend to involve back-and-forth exchanges and lots of attachments, Wikis permit changes directly to the main document."

"Setting up a Wiki typically means running a Web server and installing such software as TWiki or MediaWiki, though companies like Socialtext Inc. offer hosted services and are developing easier-to-use software aimed at businesses.

"Perhaps the biggest hurdle is cultural. Corporations are accustomed to hierarchy and control."

"All changes are recorded, so reversions are easy. Though vandals aren't easily banished—they can reconnect anonymously from another computer—a single troublemaker cannot keep up with 100 users set on preserving the community."

"Contributors say the potential for vandalism is outweighed by the speed and breadth of the end product."

cluetrain manifesto, Thesis #7: "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy."

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