A Wiki is a web-based software that allows all viewers of a page to change the content by editing that page online in the browser. This makes the Wiki a simple and easy-to-use platform for collaborative work on texts and hypertext.
You will find an "Edit" or "Edit" link at the edge of the content area. As soon as this link is clicked, an editing window opens. You can then see the actual text and various control characters, so-called wiki tags, with which simple formatting can be carried out. With a button "Save page" text and Wiki tags are interpreted by the system into an HTML page and put online.
- Each participant may edit content.
- Contributions can be made anonymously or only with registration.
- Data is not available in a structured form.
- The order of the contents is completely transferred to the users.
- The users can create new pages and change the reference structure.
- The procedure is result-oriented, one sees the newest version in each case.
- The author moves into the background as a person.
- Edit function: The edit button that is accessible to all on every page is the most striking feature of a wiki. It leads to a form in which the source code of a page can be changed and saved. In most cases, this text is not HTML but Wiki code, which is intended to simplify the formatting and structuring of the page for the authors. Some pages (e.g. home pages) are excluded from editing.
- Internal linking: All pages can refer to the titles of other pages. If the corresponding page for a link does not yet exist, it can be created after saving with a simple mouse click on the link ("red link").
- Versioning: This function basically documents all previous versions or changes of a single page. It also allows you to restore an old version (rollback) and is therefore an effective means against unfriendly visitors who want to destroy a page. Many wiki clones also offer a "diff" function that shows changes between two versions of a page.
- Discussion: Each article page has its own discussion page. There you can discuss the contents of the article. Here it is also usual to leave all comments and add a signature behind your own comment.
- WYSIWYG: stands for "What You See Is What You Get" but is also called visual editor. In this view it is not necessary to write with Wikicode. So it is an essential requirement for faster and easier working in a wiki, especially for laymen.
- Workflow: Via a workflow function, tasks can be assigned to a person. The person to whom a task has been assigned receives a notification. It is then comprehensible which steps are to be carried out by whom or were carried out. In some cases there are additional functions such as the activation of expert processes, workflow templates or various notification systems (open tasks, etc.).
- Page templates: ("PageTemplates") offer the possibility to select from predefined content structures (templates, e.g. table of contents, blocks, layout, content elements) when creating a new page and thus create a uniformity for certain page types. There are synonyms for many descriptions (wiki articles), but in order for them to refer to the same content, redirections can be set up e.g. from addresses and contact data to employee data.
- Authorization system: A Wiki should be as open as possible for all authors. However, especially in companies it is sometimes necessary to make certain areas or pages accessible only to certain persons.
- Semantic functions: This allows structured data with complex queries to be found.
Areas of application
Since wikis are constantly being expanded in their functionality, the diversity of their applications is also expanding.
- Encyclopedia: The classic. Made known by Wikipedia, Wikis are often used as a lexicon for specific topics (e.g. the Star Wars Wiki "Jedipedia"). But also in companies the Wiki still plays an important role as a central company Wikipedia.
- Brainstorming: Not for nothing the Wiki is often compared with a note box. Here, ideas can be collected, commented on and arranged. Ideas are compiled by several participants, but not everyone has to do everything again.
- Knowledge base: A frequent application is the creation of FAQ pages, problem solutions, lessons learned, expert debriefing or glossaries. The reader no longer has to click through an entire thread, as in forums, but sees the quintessence of a possibly long discussion. If he still finds an error, he can fix it right away. This makes an article (ideally) better and better. The successful operation of a knowledge base requires, in particular, an active carrier group that takes care of the content and growth of the wiki ("wiki gardeners").
- Documentation: Wikis are also very popular as a documentation tool, as they provide some structuring mechanisms for organising knowledge through easy creation of new pages, internal linking and search. Important in this context is the aspect of easy updateability. This means that content, such as a manual, can always be kept up to date by the people who also benefit from the information. From technical documentation and documentation in research and development to an IT helpdesk, a wide variety of applications are conceivable.
- Project management: Wikis do not replace professional project management systems. However, there are many advantages to having team members collect tips on work organization or information on a specific project in a wiki instead of sending them by e-mail to all colleagues. You save time in your daily e-mail processing, have a point of contact for searching for specific information and can be sure that this knowledge base is always up to date. The tool can also help in the planning of projects. Thus, the agenda of a meeting can be worked out in advance by all participants. A wiki supports quality assurance in particular.
- E-Learning: In many schools (in German-speaking countries, especially in Switzerland and Austria), wikis are already being used as a learning platform to enable pupils not only to jointly develop content, but also to learn how to use the Internet in a playful way.
- Enterprise Wiki: Enterprise wikis, corporate wikis, company wikis all these are synonyms for wikis that are used in companies and therefore often have specific functions. Besides the career in the public web (e.g. Wikipedia) the Wiki has made a - naturally less visible - career in the intranets of larger companies like Motorola or SAP, where it is mainly used as a project and knowledge management tool. IT departments in particular use wikis in their daily work. The development of their own corporate or enterprise wikis, which align their offerings to the organizational and legal needs of companies, heralded a new phase.