Wikis are very neat. They are Web sites that are easily editable by anyone. It’s kind of like a public binder where anyone can add pages and anyone can edit the pages. A wiki provides a fairly intuitive way to start creating pages and links between the pages. It’s the ultimate user-supported community. The first Wiki was created by Ward Cunningham at the Portland Pattern Repository. There are many wikis and many implementations of wikis around the Web. One simple and fast one that I really like is Brian Ingerson’s Kwiki, which is actually a Perl module. I’ve got Kwiki running at home to play with. I just haven’t figured out what to do with it out in the wild yet.
An amazing project that has figured out what to do with a wiki is Wikipedia which is an incredible resource that is filled with user-contributed information about just about everything. It’s a massive (hundreds of thousands of entries) encyclopedia that can let you quickly find out about things that have happened and even current events. A wiki is a leap of faith and a vote of confidence in the goodness of humanity. In a world and a time when there are many large corporations trying to restrict freedom through copyright it’s amazing and encouraging to see something like Wikipedia work so well. Online pioneer and documentor Howard Rheingold recently spoke about the Wikipedia in a speech to graduates of Stanford’s Communication Department that David Weinberger pointed at today. One thing that caught my mind in Rheingold’s speech was that the mean time to fix some vandalism on Wikipedia is 4 minutes! The argument made against setting up a wiki almost reflexively is that you can’t let anyone edit a site as it will be vandalized. With a community people will take care of it. You just need to have faith.