When it comes to a truly successful wiki example, Wikipedia stands out above the rest. The largest and most popular Wikipedia content is created, edited and maintained by volunteers from around the world.
It has over 530 million monthly readers, so it’s not hard to see why it is now one of the top ten most popular websites in the world. But what is a wiki and how do you succeed?
A wiki is a computer tool used to communicate and collaborate with other users within a centralized content management system. Derived from the Hawaiian term for “fast,” the Wiki allows teams and organizations to collect vast amounts of knowledge gathered from several different resources and redistribute that knowledge on a site for the public to see.
Readers can then view all of the content on a specific topic and, with permission, edit and add their own knowledge of that topic as part of a collaboration. Any reported content errors can be quickly corrected and kept up to date.
Things to consider before creating your wiki
Creating a wiki is not as difficult as it sounds. Idea, internet access and website hosting are really all you need. However, anyone hoping to create a successful project needs to understand a few things before getting started.
Is a Wiki good for the job?
Wiki pages allow teams to easily collaborate on projects, share notes and ideas, and provide resources. They are ideal for gathering information that is constantly evolving, but can also be used to exchange notes and compare thoughts based on different points of view.
To make sure that the wiki is the best tool for your needs, you will want to answer the following questions with firm answers:
- Will the event be purely personal or will there be a team involved?
- Will the team benefit from making the information on the wiki available to a wider audience?
- Will you need to collaborate on this project in the future?
- Is the project static or will it continue to evolve as more information is discovered?
For any of these unanswered or dubious questions, a wiki may not be the best project for your needs. Wiki pages must evolve as they are disadvantageous as a static document. For those, I would suggest blogging.
For a wiki to be successful, there must also be a team behind it. Opening it to the public can only benefit the project in the long term, as updated information can come at any time from anywhere. If you intend to share confidential knowledge among colleagues, a wiki is definitely not what you want.
Define the purpose of your wiki, answer the questions above, and then decide if it is right for you, your team, or your organization.
Software and hosting options
Once the purpose of your wiki is clear, you can choose software and hosting options. There are many at your disposal, and the purpose of the wiki can help you identify the right options for moving forward.
Teams on a low budget may prefer the free approach to the likes of Wikia, WikiDot, and MediaWiki These specific hosting sites allow you to create a wiki from scratch. Paid services like Central Desktop and Same Page give you the tools and templates you need to get started right away.
You can use the WikiMatrix site to help you compare your options and find the best wiki that suits your needs. For private wikis, some sites usually offer software such as TikiWiki (free) and Twiki (paid, one-time fee) that can help you get started.
Scout Other Wikis
Imitation can be the greatest form of flattery. Unfortunately, in the field of documentation, this can also be considered plagiarism. Once you know what your wiki is for, take a look at other wikis that are already online. You should focus on being the only source of information on a given topic.
You will need to look for duplicates by checking every site that hosts the wiki. It would be rather pointless to create a completely “new” wiki on a topic already discussed. The wiki is designed to be collaborative, so if you have more information than what can be found on an existing site, ask to be allowed into the project.
If you like the look and feel of someone else’s wiki setup, don’t be afraid to copy the styles and templates provided there. Copying content is plagiarism, duplicating appearance is not. Just make sure that your wiki stays consistent in both content and appearance so as not to confuse your audience.
Make sure the team is up to date
Members who are familiar with the wiki are likely to want to share their knowledge to help develop the project. Strangers may be reluctant to interfere. Newbies can often be put off by editing documents created by others. Which, besides the markup code used in the formatting, can make them hide.
Make these contributors more comfortable by offering to teach them how to use the tools the wiki provides. Create a markup symbol memo for anyone with text formatting issues. Allow more ambivalent contributors to write and edit â€œhands-onâ€ wikis until they feel more confident in their abilities.
The team will be much more efficient at creating articles if they learn the basic syntax of the wiki beforehand. This makes it easy to edit pages without the need for any managed editors.
A strong team guarantees a strong wiki, increasing its chances of success.
Post construction tips
- After creating the wiki, it would be better to test the usability and readability of the site. Invite a small number of users to test all ins and outs and provide feedback on your site before it goes live.
- The wiki as a whole will greatly benefit from the established policy guidance. Make general guidelines for other contributors so that they have information on how your wiki should be presented to readers.
- Depending on the size of the team and contributors, wikis can be full of false or irrelevant information. Consider nominating one person as the curator of the wiki to remove this unnecessary information, ensure that the right information is in the right place, and prevent conflicting edits between contributors.
- Promote members who remain committed and active in the community. If you find people who are enthusiastic about the work they did, you can show your appreciation by giving them more control over the site.
Support and develop
A wiki is a living document and therefore needs to be maintained in order for it to evolve. Encouraging your team members and community members will encourage them to take ownership of the wiki and keep it up to date.
Once you’ve created your own wiki, please share your wiki to continue growing. Promote it on forums, social media, YouTube, etc. This can only push more visitors to the wiki and possibly more contributors wanting to see it flourish.