How to use a wiki

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What a wiki is

A wiki is a website that its community of readers can edit! See Wikipedia's article on wikis for more information. Wikis are a type of groupware, software to mediate interpersonal collaboration electronically. Interest in wikis has been growing exponentially.

Why we use a wiki

By integrating the ability to write as well as read, the level of skill required to edit a wiki-style website is dramatically reduced, at modest cost in design flexibility.

By socially respecting (or cybernetically enforcing?) addtional protocol, wiki pages can be "subclassed" (i.e. specialized) to reproduce older groupware modalities - like the traditional bulletin-board (consisting of a series of time-ordered inalterable contributions from multiple authors), today called a group [We]blog.

Unrestricted wiki custom is good for the collective creation of "encyclopedic" content - stuff on which there is likely to be broad ultimate agreement by the community of joint authors. Bulletin boards are a better groupware form when the purpose is the frank debate of potentially discordant points on view and there is little which all parties agree is objectively true they can publish jointly.

Wikis and other tools for the read-write Web are examined in a graduate student paper [here].

How to use this wiki

The OLPC wiki uses a wiki "engine" called MediaWiki. Writing wiki pages is typically much easier than coding in HTML, the native design language of the World Wide Web. To learn how to edit this wiki, please visit this link always found in a menu at the left of any page: Help using the site. A beginner's tutorial is given in Wiki getting started.

How to be nice, on this wiki

What behavior is expected of us on this wiki? A liberal set of guidelines is provided here: Main_Page#About_this_wiki.

Perhaps we can also learn from precedents set at the multilingual Wikipedia project, which seems to have done pretty well at developing a cooperative culture. Please edit and re-edit this page whenever you see a way to make it better.

What to sign, and how

In order to make the wiki maximally useful, the general rule is to leave signatures off of main articles. This lets the content stand on its own, without injecting ad hominem features. On the other hand, additions to Talk: pages are signed, which may facilitate successful communication.

Sign by using four immediately consecutive tildes, so: ~~~~
The system will automatically substitute your account name (or IP address) and the date/time.
Here is an example of such practice: Nitpicker 23:28, 15 December 2006 (EST).

How to agree, publicly

Usually, a note of agreement will not improve the reading experience for others, so it seems to be wise to express yourself on the talk page of the relevant article.

How to disagree, publicly

When you are confident that your view or wording will improve an article, JUST MAKE THE CHANGE. That is why wikis can be edited so easily. We want the articles to be improved very rapidly. If you are not quite so confident, it is always appropriate to express your concerns and preferences on the Talk: page. There it should be signed, with the four tildes.

If two authors hold incompatible views, the first effect may be that a change gets made and unmade. Do not let that continue, unabated. Instead, either leave both views in the article, or move one to a second page with links both ways. Other creative approaches are clearly possible and perhaps we will learn what works well over time. Don't assume ashtyn+braeden=<3 there is spite where there may only be ignorance: surely you will eventually encounter a tyro who is mystified why his content is always being changed (by you) because he has not noticed your attempts to negotiate cooperation. (You mean there is a Talk: page???)

Remember, we are in this together because everyone here, or at least the ones we care about, wants to see this become a valuable resource for readers. The aspect that separates wikis from other groupware (like traditional electronic bulletin boards) is that wikis do not necessarily just get longer the more readers add their input. Instead, some of us can contribute our editing and wordsmithing skills toward condensing, clarifying, and otherwise improving the content.

Do not shy away from correcting someone else's words. You are explicitly encouraged to do that. This can be done without being cruel or even impolite. Usually it works better that way.

How can the wiki framework be improved?

There are some pages which should be easy to find wherever you are in the wiki. Surely someone is responsible for revising the content of the navigation bar on the left. Perhaps another person has the authority to change the boilerplate text at the bottom of each page and in particular at the bottom of every editing page. These are places to put things that everyone needs to know. Links to etiquette and methods articles would be appropriate, in my view.

Where should we provide feedback about the wiki itself?

Use the Talk page of Help:Bulletin board