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A wiki is a web page that multiple users can create and edit. It is specifically designed for collaborative work. Users who have access to edit the wiki (or to even see it) can be limited, such as to members of a project team. Wikis create a dynamic collaborative environment with those who contribute, over time, to the development of a document. Be aware that the purpose of a wiki is primarily the creation of collaborative content, not attractively formatted documents. Formatting options can be limited.

Editing of wikis is done simply through a browser. Edits can be tracked (by date, by author) and retracted, if needed. Some wiki software offers a tabbed area adjacent to the document to allow editors and participants to carry on a conversation about the edits (See "Discussion" tab in Wikipedia, for example.)

If a Wiki is to be used for collaboration in your organization, assume most participants will contribute successfully and appropriately. Do not lock a wiki down excessively to avoid risk of error, since edits can be tracked and retracted. Encourage participants to contribute freely.

If two people edit the same wiki document concurrently, there may be issues with version control (if the last editor's work overwrites the earlier ones). Check with the software to see whether it supports version merging or other tools to avoid such issues. (Note that the same issue exists with files edited in other ways, such as by passing to multiple editors in e-mails, but the ease of editing wikis may make the problem less obvious.)

If wiki is hosted on a public wiki site, no additional software is needed. If wiki is hosted internally on the organization's server, wiki software will need to be installed.

Features to look for:

  • Ability to easily interact.
  • Ability to control access based on roles (i.e, administrator, author/editor, contributor, reader).
  • Ability to capture versions, and to return to earlier versions.
  • Ability to identify author of edits.
  • Ability to subscribe to notifications of changes.
  • Ability to carry on a discussion about the edits in a location other than the page being edited.
  • Ability to format easily.

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This page was last updated on May 6, 2009