The concept of a Wiki was invented by Ward Cunningham, taking its name from the Hawaiian word wikiwiki, meaning quick. It is worth noting that there is a Hawaiian bus company called Wikiwiki. It may be coincidence or a clever pun that Wiki also stands for "What I know is".

What a Wiki is

In principle, a Wiki is a website or a content management system where the content is written by anyone, i.e. the system is open access. Also, there is no requirement to learn HTML, as the Wiki software provides its own markup language. This includes a method of linking entries together.

What Wikis are used for

A Wiki can be used anywhere that a group of people want to share a common pool information, especially where the information is collectively owned and there are no issues with authorship, credit or copyright.

Wikis on the Internet allow for a very large audience of contributors. An example is the Wikipedia, whose aims are similar to E2.

A Wiki can be used in a university department, as a bulletin board for all information and administrative matters.

I have also seen a Wiki being used in a geek household, to keep track of all the bills, as well as a creative braindump receptacle.

Wikis work very well on corporate intranets, promoting free thinking and knowledge sharing amongst staff. Populating a wiki with a braindump has been considered a number one task before leaving the job, at one place I have worked.1

Is Everything2 a Wiki?

Although E2 has much in common with Wikis, there are fundamental differences.
  • Firstly, in order to contribute to E2, you must register a username with E2 supplying a valid email address. Although this is an option with Wikis, most are completely open access.
  • E2 also has a hierarchy of users with differing capabilities and privileges, based on XP and/or number of writeups. On a wiki, excepting those with administrator access to the server, all users are (created) equal.
  • E2 has a defined authorship for each writeup. Apart from showing the last person who changed an entry, Wikis do not show authorship, nor do they prevent others from editing any existing entry. This means that in a Wiki, there is no need for special "editor rights" as anyone can edit.
  • Finally, the content of E2 has a defined legal copyright status, and policy on the site is clearly stated. Wikis tend to be open and anarchistic. If there is any policy, the sites are usually copyleft.

See also the node wikipedia.

There is no reason in theory why someone couldn't use the Everything Engine to run a Wiki, by turning off all the user access controls and making everyone an editor or god.

Content recovery

You may be wondering how Internet Wiki sites deal with abuse, including trolling, flame and graffiti. The solution adopted by most wikis is quite simple, the Wiki software contains a revision control system. Each entry has a complete change history, Everyone can go back through time and view the previous versions of any entry. For the abuse, it then becomes a simple matter for someone who notices to change it back.

The legal position on this is quite moot. Can you sue a Wiki site for libel? Who becomes culpable?

Wiki markup language (usemod)

Paragraphs happen automatically by use of a single blank line.

Headings are achieved by enclosing a line in a number of ==

= Head 1 =
== Head 2 ==
=== Head 3 ===
==== Head 4 ====
===== Head 5 =====
====== Head 6 ======
Similarly, bullet point lists can be nested using lines beginning '*':
* Items:
** foo
** bar
** baz
* Extras:
** grault
** quux
Numbered lists work in the same way, but with '#' instead of '*'.

Text can be highlighted by using different numbers of single quotes: (note that in the second or third cases, the quotes are not actually displayed)

'ordinary quoted'

Wiki links

To provide a link on the site, the original idea was to use camelCase. The software detects words containing an upper case letter prefixed by a lower case letter, and turns fooBar into a hyperlink to page fooBar.

Later, placing in a pair of square brackets enabled linking to a phrase, such as [[The moon is made of cheese]]. Pipe linking was also introduced.

Wikis also have a means of linking offsite. This is done by placing the URL in a single set of square brackets, e.g. [], and pipe linking is also available here.

Wiki sites
Home of the original Portland Pattern Repository set up by Ward Cunningham.
The Wikipedia copyleft encyclopaedia
openwiki is Laurens Pit's open source Wiki
see twiki
This one is pretty much shrink wrapped, and I have installed a usemod site from scratch in about half an hour including download time.
The Moinmoin Wiki written in Python.
The OpenGuides project for community gazetteers


1 I left this company as a result of a takeover, and signs that things were beginning to change. Allowing and encouraging an intranet Wiki is a sign of a good company to work for. Too many of the big corporates are too political, pig ignorant or paranoid to allow a Wiki on an intranet site.