Chapter 1. Understanding Wikis: From Ward’s Brain to Your Browser

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Finding your way to wikis

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Understanding what makes a wiki a wiki

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Comparing wikis with blogs and other Web sites

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Examining the history and future of wikis

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How to start using wikis

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When Ward Cunningham started programming the first wiki engine in 1994 and then released it on the Internet in 1995, he set forth a simple set of rules for creating Web sites that pushed all the technical gobbledygook into the background and made creating and sharing content as easy as possible.

Ward’s vision was simple: Create the simplest possible online database that could work. And his attitude was generous; he put the idea out there to let the world run with it. The results were incredible. Ward’s inventiveness and leadership had been long established by the role he played in senior engineering jobs, promoting design patterns, and helping develop the concept of Extreme Programming. That a novel idea like the wiki flowed from his mind onto the Internet was no surprise to those who knew him.

The wiki concept turned out to have amazing properties. When content is in a shared space and is easy to create and connect, it can be collectively owned. The community of owners can range from just a few people up into the thousands, as in the case of the online wiki encyclopedia, Wikipedia. ...

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