Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Do You Wiki?

A screen shot of Wikipedia

Chances are that you have heard of Wikipedia, the famous online collaborative encyclopedia that allows its users to edit it. Well, it is probably the best known wiki. Wikis are designed to be easily used and have a whole lot of other uses besides that of the online encyclopedia that has made them famous. If you’re not already using a wiki, you probably will be in the near future.

Wiki is a Hawaiian word for fast, it has come to be used in connection with software that allows its users to easily create pages, edit, and link the pages together. Wikis are often online collaborative sites, can be based within a company’s intranet, and you can also use various programs to create wikis for your own use on your computer.

Many companies have set up wikis to allow their employees to collaborate on projects. They have also set up parts of their public facing online presence in wiki format. Some companies are using wikis for user manuals. Debian and Ubuntu are two efforts for use wiki with Linux based operating systems as modern user manuals. Wikihow is billing itself as a wiki based collaboration to build the world’s largest, highest quality how to manual. Howtowiredwiki a collaborative site from Wired magazine filled with all kinds of projects, hacks, tricks and tips you can edit.

Sites like Wetpaint and Pbwiki allow you to create your own wiki or edit wikis that are hosted on their sites. These wikis can be for corporate, educational, or personal use. Because many of these online wikis are ad supported, they’re often free to set up and use, with premium services being available at various rates. There are now a lot of fan based wikis, which has lent itself well to chronicling various story lines, lineage, and history for musical bands, movies, television series, and everything else under the sun. Memory Alpha and Star Trek are two Trek based wikis, while Wookieepedia is used by many Star Wars fans.

Wikis are also being used to capture all kinds of information about various subjects. MineZone and Jeffsandquist are two wikis about GTD (Getting Things Done). Most of the online wikis require you to become a member, so it is possible to assign permissions as to what the various users are allowed to do. Depending upon the capability of the wiki, it is often possible to see a history of the changes and edits that have been made, in addition to being able to restore earlier versions, should the need arise.

Because there are several wiki programs that you can use on your own computer, that aren’t dependent upon an online host, you can use them for a variety of things offline. Since they’re easy to create and edit, you can capture information in your personal wiki, move it around within the wiki, or change it as you see fit, all rather easily. Wikis lend themselves well to taking notes for research. You can use wikis to record and keep track your to do lists and tasks. They can be used to as contact lists. If you keep a variety of text files, you can easily keep that information in your wiki and you won’t have to spend as much time searching for it later. Because it isn’t a formal “Word” document, you can use them to capture your thoughts and then easily change what you have written down as your thoughts progress or change. In this sense I would even say that wikis are like an electronic blank sheet of paper. I started using wikis a few months ago and am currently using them for a variety of things. The application and use of wikis is virtually limitless!

Wikimatrix allows you to compare many of the software programs and the hosted sites that are available. TiddlyWiki is a simple open source wiki that you can download and use on your computer. GTDTiddlyWiki is TiddlyWiki modified to include GTD aspects. I have used the GTDTiddlyWiki, GTDTiddlyWiki Plus (similar to GTDTiddlyWiki but with some added features, including a calendar), and D3 which is called a “kinkless GTD system (also a based on the GTDTiddlyWiki). All of these are relatively simple to use.

Interested in learning more about wikis? I'll be doing a post about using wikis in the near future, so stay tuned. Have you noticed some interesting wikis? Are you member of an online community that uses wikis? Are you using your own personal wiki? Are you doing anything unusual with a wiki? Be sure to let me know if there are any other topics that you would like to read about at Systems-Overload. If you liked this article, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or email, share it on del.icio.us or on Digg and pass it on to anyone that you think might appreciate it .Thank you. :)

On Deck…

I’ll be publishing posts about…

  • Using wikis for the net impaired
  • The next in my series of weight loss strategies
  • My new series featuring interesting and useful websites.

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