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What Is a Wiki? General Description and Purpose Term Paper

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General description and development of wikis

A website within which the users are allowed to undertake content modification by either deleting or adding some details is termed as a wiki. The modification of the website is usually carried out through web browsers by utilizing simplified rich-text editor or the markup language. The wiki software is used to power the wikis. In most of the cases, wikis are developed by numerous users collaboratively. Examples of wikis are such as corporate intranets, community websites, knowledge management scheme, as well as note-taking. Wikis can serve numerous diverse purposes. Some wikis allow the control of various functions (access levels); for instance, rights editing may permit removal, addition, or changing of material. Others allow access without imposing any access control1. Other regulations may be enforced to undertake content organization. The premier wiki software was developed by Ward Cunningham. This wiki software was referred by the name WikiWikiWeb. Cunningham originally defined it as the most simplified online database, which could practically work. Basically, “wiki” is a term derived from the Hawaiian language, which is literally translated as “quick” or simply “fast” in the English language.

Ward Cunningham began formulating the WikiWikiWeb in 1994 within Portland, Oregon. After the WikiWikiWeb was developed, it was installed on the c2.com internet domain on the 25th of March 1995. The name of this premier wiki was borrowed from that of the buses, which ply within the Honolulu International Airport’s terminals, which are known by the name “Wiki- Wiki Shuttle”. In accordance with Cunningham, wiki-wiki was the ideal choice of name, which made him not to name the website as the ‘quick-web’. Cunningham got the inspiration to develop the website partly from Apple’s HyperCard. Apple developed a unique system, which enables its users to make virtual “card stacks” which had supportive links within different cards. Moreover, Cunningham made use of the ideas of Vannevar Bush thereby permitting users to either post comments on other users’ text or change the text details.

Within the initial years of the 2000s, wikis were adopted in big margins as enterprising collaborative software. The most basic applications of wikis were such as intranets, documentation, as well as, intranets, principally for the technical users only. As at present, wikis is the only single collaborative software, which is available in a good number of companies. Most of these companies make use of wikis as a substitute for the static intranets. Moreover, in various learning institutions such as schools along with universities group learning is enhanced through the use of wikis. There is a high likelihood that wikis are used greatly behind firewalls rather than within the Net.

Wikis are developed to easy amend errors instead of proving it difficult to undertake corrections. Therefore, while wikis remain wide open, they offer procedures of verifying the recent added materials validity. The most common, within almost all wikis, is the page entitled “Recent Changes”. This page particularly contains the edits, which have been recently made, or the edits, which have been undertaken within a specific timeline. Certain wikis can filter the list such that minor edits are removed. Edits made by automatically importing scripts are also removed in the filtering process. In the majority of the wikis, various functions are accessed through the changelog. By viewing the revision records, the user can identify the former page versions.

Moreover, a diff feature is used to make highlights on the differences between two sets of revisions. By making use of the revision records, a user can view, as well as, restore an article to its previous version. Different features are also utilized while deciding if such actions are necessary. Regular wiki users access the edit diff feature within the page of “Recent Changes”. If the edit is considered as unacceptable, the history is consulted, and the previous revision is thus restored. This process is somehow streamlined in relation to the wiki software, which is in use.

In the event that unacceptable edits pass unnoticed within the page of “recent changes”, other wiki engines offer extra content control. It is possible to monitor a wiki webpage to make it certain that its quality is maintained. Individual volunteering to maintain wiki pages receives warnings on-page modifications, thereby enabling the person to conduct validity verifications of the novel editions in a quick manner. The basic implementation of this system is termed as the watch list. Other wikis make use of “patrolled revisions” whereby editors who possess the required credentials can label part of the edits as genuine. The “flagged revisions” method can be used to obstruct edits from being accessible until a review of them is carried out.

Certain wikis allow at a minimum, title searches and in other occasions full-text searches. The search scalability relies on the nature of the database used by the specific wiki engine. Some wikis, for instance, PmWiki, utilize flat files. MediaWiki was the first wiki site to make use of flat files. However, Lee Daniel Crocker rewrote the MediaWiki during the early years of the 2000s to become a distinct database application. Indexed database accessibility is essential for speedy searches, especially on the enormous wikis. On the other hand, outside search engines, for instance, Google Search, are applied on wikis, which have restricted searching functions to achieve results, which are more precise. Nevertheless, the indexes of the search engines of numerous websites can be quite outdated.

Due to the fact that Wikis are web-based, it becomes easier for a large number of people to search for information from them. In addition, the wikis cover a lot of topics and information, which many researchers want. There are also excellent pieces of writing provided by the wikis, which cannot be found on another site. Due to this advantage, many people endeavour to use them over other sites on the internet. There are minimal errors in the wikis. This contributes too many people having to benefit people from them. Also, the wikis are controlled by software, which enhances control of information in the World Wide Web.

The open wiki philosophy, which allows every individual to carry out content editing, lacks the verification of the editor’s intentions. Some of the editors may harbour bad intentions. It is for that reason that vandalism comes about as a principal problem. Within the enormous wiki sites; for instance, those operated by firms like Wikimedia Foundation, vandalism remains unnoticed for a specific period. Naturally, wikis are susceptible to deliberate disruption termed as “trolling”. Wikis mostly approach the vandalism problem with a soft spot. Wikis are concerned more in simplifying the process of undoing damages instead of attempting to prevent the occurrence of damages. The increase of wiki sites provides people with a variety of sites where they can seek any information they want.

Sophisticated methods are utilized within large wikis, for example, bots that identify, as well as, revert vandalism automatically along with JavaScript enhancements, which illustrate characters, which have been introduced within every edit. Through such measures, vandalism is reduced to mere “minor vandalism” which can also be termed as “sneaky vandalism”. Within the minor vandalism, the eliminated or introduced characters are so minimal such that bots are unable to identify them and wiki users usually overlook them. This has contributed to the elimination of defects, which occur during research. Programmers can easily detect the sneaky vandalism, thus making users comfortable with the provided information.

The degree of vandalism experienced within every wiki depends on the openness of the specific wiki. For example, certain wikis permit unregistered users, known by the IP addresses, which they are using, undertaking content editing. Other wikis limit the function of content editing strictly to the registered users. Majority of the wikis permit anonymous editing, but the additional editing responsibilities are reserved for the registered users only. However, to become a registered user in the majority of the wikis is usually a short process, which is considerably simple. However, within certain wikis, new users have to wait for a specific period before they can gain access to all available tools. For instance, within English Wikipedia, only the users who have been operating an account with the site for more than four days are allowed to rename pages.

Other wikis, for example, the Portuguese Wikipedia apply an editing obligation rather than a time constraint. Within this wiki, a user is granted extra tools upon making a set amount of edits to demonstrate their usefulness along with trustworthiness as editors. Generally, wikis, which are “closed up”, are considered as more secure, as well as, reliable but expand slowly. On the other side, wikis, which are more open, expand at a considerable rate although they end up being easily vandalized. The best examples of open wikis are Wikipedia along with Citizendium. Wikipedia is exceedingly open such that any person with access to a computer, which is connected to the internet, can edit it, leading to its vast growth. However, Citizendium requires individuals to register with their real names, as well as post their biographies. This has influenced negatively on the wiki’s growth but has resulted in the creation of an ambience, which is almost very free from vandalism.

Wikis are also faced with the malware problem. Malicious users introduce links, which connect the wikis to sites that harbour malicious code. For instance, an article featured within the German Wikipedia containing information on the Blaster Worm was revised to introduce a website hyperlink, which could infect the computers of other users. Nevertheless, countermeasures have been introduced which bar the links connected to dangerous malware sites from being introduced into the wikis through the use of certain software. Also, Wiki software should block JavaScript along with other scripting genres, which malicious users may attempt to introduce directly within the page in the course of editing secessions. Besides, edits wars emerge as users always turn certain pages to their favourable versions.

Nonetheless, the wiki administrators can make use of certain wiki software to bring to an end those edit wars; by locking the affected page from additional editing until when a consensus is reached about the most appropriate version. All in all, certain wikis are capable of controlling the users’ behaviour through the use of an external governing structure. For instance, an institutional instructor may warn students against making unnecessary edits within a private class wiki.

Communication models (Buhler, Jakobsen, and Schultz von Thun)

There are various communication models used within the Wikis. These communication models are such as Buhler’s, Schultz von Thun along with Jakobsen communication models. The communication model, which was developed by Buhler Karl, is termed as the Organon model. This model defines communication functions through which a description of linguistic communication can be carried out. Buhler came up with this communication model after getting inspiration from Roman Jakobson. Buhler proposed three distinct communicative functions. These are the expressive function, conative function along with referential function. Most of the wikis make use of all of these functions as introduced by Buhler. Wikis clearly fulfil the expressive function because they allow users to express their ideas about various topics within their sites2. In the event that there were no wikis, numerous academicians would lack the chance to publicize their ideas on various topics. Moreover, it is through class wikis, which are established in various learning institutions that students are able to propose their ideas on certain topics covered within their syllabus. The referential function is not left out in the development of wikis. All wiki users are obliged to making reference to their source of information. It would be unethical if all the information presented within the wiki pages were left unreferenced. In relation to this function, the wiki users describe various topics of main concern and then at the end of their work outline the sources from where they obtained their information.

On the other hand, the conative function is basically an appealing function. Wikis comply with this function by requesting users to provide useful information and avoid any malicious behaviour such as introducing malware within the wiki pages. Also, all wiki pages advice their users do not rely hundred per cent on the information presented within them because it is subject to further research.

The Schulz von Thun communication model is commonly referred to as the four-side model. In accordance with the model, news or any information is considered to consist of four messages. The news’ four sides are the fact, appeal, self-revealing along with the relationship. On the fact side, which is also termed as matter layer, an individual makes a presentation of information about various statements as well as facts. The individual must make the presentation a clear and easily comprehendible manner. Basically, wikis fulfil this function because most of the information available within them contains several statements along with facts3. Moreover, the information within the wikis is regularly edited to make it clear and comprehendible. Appeal function makes individuals undertake a duty, which they were not ready to do. It also entails convincing individuals to avoid certain wikis. Concerning the appeal function, wiki users are advised to carry out further editing of the information presented within the sites. In respect to the same function, users are also requested to discern the previous mentioned bad behaviours. Certain wikis require the users to post their biographies within the wiki pages. This regulation aims at fulfilling the function of self-revealing within the four-side model. The relationship function is achieved within then wikis by allowing the users to post comments on their ideas about the information presented within them. The comments posted about certain wiki pages assist the wiki developers to establish whether they are achieving any sort of success, or their work is bound to fail.

The other communication model applied within the wikis is the Jakobsen communication model. In accordance with Jakobson, for any communication to take place, there must be six diverse functions, which are involved. The two basic functions are the sender and receiver. The other four, which exist between the two, are the message, code, context along with the channel. In each wiki, the registered members are the senders. The wiki page acts as the channel and code within which the message and context are presented. Those who finally use the information can be regarded as the receivers.

Comparison of two wikis in terms of language style, layout, and users

There is a big difference between Wikipedia and Citizendium. To begin with, Wikipedia uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This is a writing language, which describes the semantics and written in HTML. The design of CSS enhances the separation of the content in the document from a presentation of another document and enhances the presentation of elements such as fonts, colours, and layout. However, Citizendium has been programmed using the Computer Programming Language (CPL). In particular, it uses the C++ language to format its documents and its graphics. Wikipedia and Citizendium have been written in the HTML although Wikipedia is more developed than the latter.

Wikipedia’s Cascading Style Sheets has been developed to enhance document separation and improve the layout of the main document. This has benefits such as improvement of accessibility of the document by the users. Also, it is very easy to provide more flexibility and control of the formatted documents. Through the tableless web design, it is very easy to format a document and reduce its complexity by the users. Many users also find the structural content of Wikipedia very useful because it is very easy to understand. CSS allows users to be presented markup in different styles, thus enhancing its enhancement for the users.

Wikipedia content has been designed in such a manner that it can be accessed by any device regardless of its size. This is why users who have different sizes of screens can assess Wikipedia content at any time they wish. A CSS style sheet is designed in such a manner that it can override any kind of sheet, which has been designed by its users. This is because it contains a scheme, which contains the set rules, which match with the elements provided at different levels. Furthermore, the specifications of CSS have been developed and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This enhances the implementation of the existing rules, which prevent people from copying information provided by Wikipedia.

On the other hand, Citizendium uses the Programming Language (BCPL), which is designed to enhance users to access information faster than any other form of language. This form of language helps to combine arrays and structs to enhance the usability of the information4. BCPL has adopted many forms of programming languages such as C++, and this helps to enhance the usability of the information. Moreover, BCPL has standardized many programming languages to form a unique language, which contains various forms of fonts, layouts, and structures, which can be understood easily by the users.

Some of the advantages of using BCPL language is that the users and the programmers have less control over the hardware because it contains software’s which have features such as the sensitivity of cases, semicolons which help in ending statements, parameters which are combined in pairs. This allows temporary variables to be contained inside the blocks. The procedure for using Citizendium is thus easy as compared to Wikipedia. This is because Wikipedia is designed with the layouts structured in an alphabetical manner, while Citizendium is structured in such a manner, which can be understood by the users.

It is very easy to enhance profiling of information and documents while using Wikipedia. This is because the users have the ability to use information as provided by the programmer. The programmer is the individual who decides on the important information to use to enhance visibility. The language used in the coding of information is very simple and uses a low-level approach to guide users to understand the layout of information. On the other hand, in Citizendium, the language has been programmed in such a manner that the information has not been coded into C++. Users who lack the knowledge of JavaScript and C++ find it difficult to understand the used language. Wikipedia’s CSS helps to define non-visual styles like speed, and the emphasis is on the aural text. It is thus an improvement from the original mark up used by HTML5. This enables information to be provided in a number of sources, which have been defined by the language.

Many users of Wikipedia include researchers, programmers, students, and teachers. All these people use Wikipedia in search of information. There is a wide variety of articles, which have been posted in Wikipedia, which contain a lot of useful information. These articles have been written by people who have Wikipedia accounts. These articles are posted freely, and they enhance people to use free information. The information, which is contained by Wikipedia, has references and it is thus easy to refer it from its source. Unlike Citizendium, it is easy to derive the source and the basis of the information as provided by Wikipedia.


In conclusion, the Wikis have contributed a lot in the society by providing people with free information. The Wikis are powered by the wiki software, which controls the information through the World Wide Web. As a matter of fact, the Wikis have been developed by many people within the globe who contribute articles for research. The Wikis have been designed to serve numerous functions, which include providing researchers with free information, providing users with new researched content and providing information for research. There are also applications of wikis were such as intranets, documentation, as well as, intranets, principally for the technical users only. Wikis clearly fulfil the expressive function because they allow users to express their ideas about various topics within their sites. To sum up, the existence of Wikis has contributed to innovations in research in the world today.


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Mader, S. Wikipatterns, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2007.

Myers, G. The Discourse of Blogs and Wikis. London: Continuum, 2009.

Teehan, K. Wikis: The Educator’s Power Tool. Santa Barbara, Calif: Linworth, 2010.


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  2. Teehan, K. Wikis: The Educator’s Power Tool. Santa Barbara, Calif: Linworth, 2010.
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