Archive forWikis

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.

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