Module 4: Wikis

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module, you will:

  • understand the basic features of a wiki
  • know how to create your own wiki and how to add content to an existing wiki
  • understand when and why you would want to use a wiki
  • understand when a wiki is a more suitable tool to use than any other Web 2.0 application
  • have developed ideas about the usefulness of wikis in a library

What is a Wiki?

A wiki is a type of website that allows users to easily add, remove, and otherwise collaboratively edit and change content that can be quickly published to the web. This ease of interaction and use makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative authoring. You do not need to know HTML to edit a wiki (although many allow for the use of HTML editing) and all you need to edit a wiki is an internet connection and a web browser.

There are numerous kinds of “wiki software” or “wiki engines”; these can vary widely in look and functionality. Features common to most wiki software include: Recent activity display, discussion or comment features, and varying degrees of access / edit permissions for users, WYSIWYG [What You See Is What You Get] editing and edit history.

Wiki software can be downloaded and installed on a private network; you can even get your own personal desktop wiki! (Such as MoinMoin Desktop), but most wiki users go to a Wiki farm. A Wiki Farm is a server or a collection of servers that provides wiki hosting. Wiki farms allow users to quickly sign-up and establish their own wiki with no software downloads either for free or for a nominal change (free wikis are supported by revenue from advertising).

What’s the difference? Choosing the right wiki

TWiki, WetPaint, Stikipad, PHPWiki, SeedWiki, PBWiki, Wikispaces, MoinMoin, Netcipia… with all these different wikis to choose from you might have a difficult time deciding which wiki is most suited to your project. A tool you might find useful for comparing the features of various wikis is Wikimatrix. The Wikimatrix website has several useful features for comparing any number of more than 80 wiki engines listed.

So what are some of the features common to Wikis & what are some differences?

  • Wikis allow you to assign different access permissions to different users. The site creator (Administrator) can assign other Administrators or Moderators to the Wiki.
  • Many wikis are tiered with both free accounts and ‘premium memberships’ that often have added features such as a higher page limits or greater storage capacity.
  • Pages edit history & Revert. Wikis allow users to view the history of specific pages. Wikis typically have a revert feature that allows those with sufficient access permissions to rollback a page to an earlier edit.
  • WYSIWYG. Wikis have “What You See Is What You Get” editors that make it easy for anyone to contribute!

Why Wikis?

Why do I care about wikis?
A wiki is the best tool to use when individuals want to collaborate on a project or document. Wikis are also very easy to use. Anyone who can create a Word document, can quickly and easily create, contribute to, or edit a wiki.

How can I use wikis in the library?
There are numerous examples of ways in which wikis have been used in libraries to foster collaborative writing projects.

  • Wetpaint has been used to create a quick reference tool named “Digital Reference Shelf” which allows reference staff to add links to online reference sources that can be quickly accessed at the desk.
  • PBWiki has been used assist in the development process of the new catalogue (Endeca Information Access Platform).

What wikis are most applicable to my work?
Of particular interest to those in the library field is the comprehensive list of library-related wikis at LISWiki. Especially useful for library staff is Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki . Another great wiki is the Blogging Libraries Wiki, which provides a comprehensive list of library blogs.

What wikis may be of interest to information desk staff?
Our own At the Info Desk Wiki is filled with useful information. For reviews of Reference Sources, see Butler University’s Butler WikiRef

What wikis may be of interest to students?
WikiIndex is a wiki that identifies and describes wikis on a variety of topics. Students looking for leisure reading suggestions can consult IRead Wiki, and those looking for readalike authors can go to Readalike Wiki. And, of course, students should consult the most famous wiki of them all — Wikipedia — for background information on topics.

Accessibility in a Web 2.0 World

If you decide to create a library wiki, don’t forget to think about accessibility issues, for example, including alternative text for images. See Accessibility Resources at the end of this module for tips on making your wiki accessible.

How do I add content to a wiki or create my own wiki?:

Click here for a three-minute video on how to use a wiki.


Activity 1
The first activity is to add a list of your favourite books to a wiki. A test wiki called “My Favourite Books” has already been created in PBWiki. You can access it by clicking on the link:

Anyone can read the wiki I created, but only individuals who log in can edit it. To log in, type for the email address, and library2 for the password. (The “log in” link is located in the top right corner of the wiki.)

Add a page, listing a few of your favourite books. How? Create a new page in the wiki by clicking on the “create a page” link (top right area of the page). Name your page, click “create page,” and start typing (or copy and paste anything from your computer). Click save. Yes, it is that easy!

To add your page name to the table of contents, just click “edit” on the front page, and click on the name of your page (look over to the right for it). Click save. Voila!

Try changing the font size and colour.

Activity 2
This time try creating your own wiki from scratch. Go to and follow the online instructions. As the name PBWiki indicates, the creation of a wiki is as easy as peanut butter. In the comments section, let me what you think about wikis.

Activity 3 (totally optional for those who would like to work with a second type of wiki)
Try using another no-cost wiki engine — Wetpaint. Click on the test wiki: To add a page with your favourite movies, click on the link “add page” (it’s at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar). Name your page; click “easy edit” and add your movies. (A pop-up box appears that allows you to add an edit note if you wish. I chose “skip edit note.”) Try adding a picture by clicking on the picture icon.

If you wish to receive a certificate for completing the Web 2.0 training, please send the a screen shot of the favourite book page you created in activity 1 to libweb20@library…

Accessibility Resources

WCAG 2.0 Checklist

Information on the coming Accesibility standards for Ontario

Other Resources (optional):

Video (4 minutes)
LeFever, L. (2007). Wikis in Plain English.

7 things you should know about wikis (2005, July). Educause.

Chawner, B., & Lewis, P.H. (2006). Wiki wiki webs? New ways to communicate in a web environment. Information Technology and Libraries, 25(1), 33-43.

Clyde, L. (2005). Wikis. Teacher Librarian, 32(4), 54–56.

Farkas, M. G. (2005). Using wikis to create online communities. Web Junction.

Singel, R. (2006). Veni, vidi, wiki. Wired News.


This post is based on The Learning 2.0@Mac program.


  1. ahitchen Said,

    April 6, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

    FYI, this post was created by Pauline Dewan.

  2. ahitchen Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 8:39 am

    Main problem I had with setting up the wiki is that instead of telling me that the URL I had chosen was already in use it just kept sending me through a sign-up loop!

  3. Pauline Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 10:34 am

    How frustrating, Alison! I’m glad your figured it out and didn’t give up!


  4. Pauline Said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 10:49 am

    Question: I don’t like the colour scheme of the wiki. Can I change it?

    Answer: Yes. In PBWiki there is a choice of 8 different colour schemes. (You can customize the colour scheme, but not in the free version.) Go to settings (top right corner) and click on colours.

  5. Larisa Said,

    April 21, 2009 @ 9:07 am

    First, thanks for the project – I’ve learned a lot and had fun.
    Second – particularly about wiki –
    I wasn’t able to delete my wiki or my comment? I should be possible, right?

  6. Pauline Said,

    April 21, 2009 @ 9:31 am

    Hi Larisa. I am so glad you had fun!

    To edit or delete material, you first need to log in (the “log in” link is in the top right corner).

    To delete an entire wiki, log in, then click on the “pages and files” link. (top right corner). Select the wiki and press “delete.”

    I hope this helps.


  7. Larisa Said,

    April 21, 2009 @ 10:23 am


    Thanks for your answeres – it helped.

    One more question: what is the difference between “creating page” in wiki and “joining wiki” (creating an account)?


  8. Laura Said,

    April 21, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    I like wikis!! I just need to make time to utilize them! Well there is always the Screencast Project wiki (

    This was a great tutorial with lots of good info!



  9. D Addesso Said,

    April 22, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

    Good tutorial! Thanks

  10. Pauline Said,

    April 22, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    Thanks Laura!


  11. Pauline Said,

    April 22, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

    Hi Larisa,

    If you create an account, you can then construct a new wiki, or add to an existing wiki.


  12. Pauline Said,

    April 22, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

    Question: Is there any size limit to my wiki?

    Answer: Yes, in the free version of PBWiki, you get 2 GB of storage.

  13. Cornelia Tiba Said,

    April 23, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    I have accidentally put my favorite movies page under David’s. I have been trying to find the “more options” menu so that I can delete it but I cannot seem to locate it.

    Any ideas on how I can fix this?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  14. Pauline Said,

    April 24, 2009 @ 8:58 am

    Hi Cornelia,

    Good for you to have tried this second wiki!

    I ran into the same problem as you! The trick to moving a page is to first log in. Once you do, a heading will appear called “More Tools.” If you click on this, you will see a link called “move page.”

    To avoid the mistake in the first place, make sure “Home” (and not another page such as “David’s Favourite Movies”) is highlighted before you click on “new page.”

    Good luck! Pauline

  15. Jane Forgay Said,

    April 24, 2009 @ 11:02 am

    Hi Pauline,
    I made a wiki about “cat fur everywhere”.

    I guess in order for others to be able to add to it, they’ll need my log in and password? Is that right?

  16. Mark Spencer Said,

    April 24, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

    Another great module wherein I have created another useful tool for myself! Thanks!

  17. Zsuzsanna Lancsak Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 2:01 am

    Now that I have completed all the modules I would like to thank Alison, Nancy, Pauline, and Tim for their excellent tutorial. It was fun and a good learning experience.

    As for wikis — I created one and now I cannot delete it. I tried to follow the instructions given to Larisa but my wiki is a very stubborn one. It is still there.

  18. Zsuzsanna Lancsak Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 2:16 am

    Finally I deleted the wiki

  19. Pauline Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 8:47 am

    Hi Jane,

    What a unique idea for a wiki! I love it!

    If you want others to be able to add to or comment upon your wiki, you need to either give them your user name and pasword or click on “Settings” (top right corner of the wiki) and change the permission levels. You can allow others to log in with their own password.


  20. Pauline Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 8:48 am

    Thanks for the feedback, Mark! And good for you to have created your wiki!


  21. Pauline Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 8:59 am

    Hi Zsuzsanna,

    On behalf of Alison, Tim, Nancy, and myself, thanks your comments! We are happy that you found these modules useful!

    I am also glad you were able to delete your wiki. I found another way of deleting stubborn wikis. I am sure you discovered this too! When I went to ‘Settings” then “delete. . .” and “start delete process,” I could delete a test wiki.



  22. Michele Laing Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    I finally found time to complete this module. My wiki was titled “No time for wikis”. I think wikis would be fun and work well for group projects.
    Thanks for all the work you all put into this workshop. It was very helpful to be able to work on it at my own pace.

  23. Esther Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 8:43 pm

    Thanks to all of you. It’s been a fun, educational experience.

  24. Marian Davies Said,

    April 28, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

    After using wiki’s that were already set up, it was nice to create my own.
    Thanks so much for putting all of this together. It has been a very useful and interesting set of exercises.

  25. Pauline Said,

    April 28, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

    Thanks so much Michele, Esther, and Marian! I am glad you found the module useful!

  26. Carol Said,

    April 29, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

    Hi, Pauline,

    Using a wiki is fun. And I have created one of my own, Thanks for presenting this module. Very well done.


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