Wikis have been around for a while, and they are extremely popular for groups sharing a knowledge base. Since they allow for easy editing, wikis might be one of the best experiments in the democratization of knowledge.
When writing for a wiki, think of yourself as contributing to an encyclopedia. A wiki is a Web site developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly.
Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself.
Like many simple concepts, “open editing” has some profound and subtle effects on Wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users.
— Gerald R. Lucas (@drgrlucas) May 1, 2013
A wiki, then, could be defined as an open-use encyclopedia, one that provides the information most relevant to a particular community. Wiki Design Principles suggests that wikis are by definition, open: because of the digital and communal nature of the wiki, entries are never complete or finished; if a page is incomplete or inaccurate it can always be amended by members of the writing community. A wiki is incremental in that pages are nodes in a bigger project. Links should be used organically and liberally between nodes, referencing those already written and anticipating those that will be needed. In this way, a wiki can grow as needed by the community. In The Wiki Way, Leuf and Cunningham characterize a wiki as “a learning place. For some it is a knowledge base. For others it is a forum for debate. All find something of value” (323).
As these definitions begin to make clear wiki entries should be self-guided articles that are well researched collaborative presentations of factual research. For example, entries can have a wide range of approaches, all centered around the delivery of factual information: a summary of Homer’s Odyssey; a how-to manual for getting out of debt; a guide to literary or new media vocabulary; a FAQ for English Composition; or study guides for literary works.
Now it should be clear as to just what the wiki is appropriate for, so how do we post information to the wiki? LitWiki uses Mediawiki, the same engine that drives the mother of all wikis: Wikipedia. Mediawiki uses fairly straightforward conventions for editing. The following pages should help you get started. I recommend looking at them in order to get the maximum benefit. Also, there is a help section on LitWiki that should answer most of your questions.
- Editing Help — the basic structure of the LitWiki editing conventions.
- Wikipedia Manual of Style — basic formatting conventions of entries
- Creating a New Page
- Neutral POV Tutorial — all articles should be written form a neutral point of view
- How to Write a Great Article
- The Perfect Article
Be sure each page has the following:
- A title that succinctly explains the entry;
- An introductory paragraph that appears before a table of contents (remember the base of the inverted pyramid: the most important content should appear first);
- Sections that break up the entry, like “History,” “Themes,” “Characters,” etc.;
- Links to other articles and external sources, like blog entries, perhaps; these links usually appear at the bottom of the entry in a “References” section whicle internal links (those that link to other pages in the wiki) are used in the entry’s body;
- A Works Cited listing — no article is complete without references;
- A category listing — the bottom of every page should include the category tag that helps the wiki organize your article. New categories can be added when necessary.
Consider making your wiki entries support your blog entries. For example, if you’re writing a blog entry on a particular passage in Doestoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, consider a wiki entry that footnotes that passage by providing history, social contexts, intellectual trends, maps, etc. Make your work work together. Also, be sure to follow MLA citation style and the standard conventions when writing about literature.
Finally, keep one more thing in mind: any user can edit any page. No work is sacred on the wiki, so don’t be offended if someone adds to your work or changes it in some other way. All work on the wiki is saved, so your work on articles will still be attributable to you. Remember to be conscientious and mindful of the community.