How To Write a Wiki

Book Stack Image: Joseph Fernandez

It takes a community to raise a wiki.

A ‘wiki’ is an interlinked set of Web pages written by the people who use it. Wiki is Hawaiian for “to hurry; fast, quick.” Wikis however are built is that laid-back, Hawaiian way that the tropics are famous for. The beauty of a wiki is that anyone can edit and contribute to it. The most famous wiki is, of course, Wikipedia — an encyclopedia written entirely by its passionate community of users.

A wiki is created by a passionate community to fulfill a knowledge-need in our world. It must be something that you are passionate about. Make sure that your wiki is affordable, can be sustained and built to become part of the society or group that it focuses on. The best potential wikis are those that have a community of people who would contribute. For example, Wiki Spot is a nonprofit, member-supported effort dedicated to helping communities use wikis. So, here are four important pointers to keep in mind, when building your wiki:

Be interesting

A common misconceptions about starting a wiki is that you can throw a wiki up on the web and it will grow rapidly. Wikis build themselves, like any other ecosystem. You have to have a starting amount of material and a dedicated base of contributors to keep it going at least for the first year. Ask yourself, if your wiki is interesting for the first time visitor. Your wiki must value quality of content over quantity.

Visualize your community

A community is a group of people who accomplish their goals with shared values and togetherness. Ask yourself if your wiki is focused on a community or its common interest. Think of what your wiki will look like in one year from now or 3 years from now. Is it an active group that builds vast swathes of knowledge? Or, will your wiki serve more as a wellspring of gained wisdome? This will help you define what you are trying to achieve, and help you to measure the success of your wiki.

Preparing your wiki

Set up enough pages to establish core pages upon which people can build. If you want set up a wiki for your college, set up pages that will catch the interest of early adopters in each department. For an interest wiki you might start with what you know about the subject and organize that material in a logical way.

Starting small, and then grow your community

Start with your early adopters. These are the people who will help expand your core. For a college based wiki start with a few of your classmates who are good at writing; then you can expand by asking interested writers in other departments to contribute to the wiki. Then work to build your user community so that each section of your college is represented. This means the core group of editors you start out with will have to keep working to build interesting material, while others start contributing slowly.

Act as a wiki guide for your team

First, act as a member of the community that you visualize. It is better to lead by example than to give orders. Share the leadership with your core group. Remember, your wiki works because everyone is an editor. It is best if everyone feels like they are an equal and important part of a community.

So, that one day soon, everyone will look at it and say: “We built this.”

— o0o —

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