Posted on September 8th, 2010 at 6:18 AM by Wan
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The term “wiki” comes from the Hawaiian word “wikiwiki,” which means “fast.” The technology is computer-based and can be generally described as a knowledge sharing and creation system that has as its basis a set of Web pages, which can be created and updated on an iterative and collaborative basis, and is in many ways a form of groupware. A wiki is designed to run on the Internet and World Wide Web, uses the HTTP protocol, and resembles traditional Web sites in terms of its underlying structure. Some of the benefits of wikis include the ability to easily create pages (using a simplified form of HTML or basic HTML) and the ability for a document to be authored collaboratively and collectively. In particular, simplicity is the key to wikis, and wiki pages have been designed to be easy to create, (simpler than the process of creating standard Web pages). One of the better-known examples of a wiki is Wikipedia, which is an online encyclopedia with entries authored and edited by different persons worldwide, and in several different languages as well. In essence, it is an online information resource that is authored by interested and knowledgeable persons from around the world (Wikipedia, 2010).

Wagner (2004) developed a set of design principles that relate to wikis. These are the principles of open, incremental, organic, mundane, universal, overt, unified, precise, tolerant, observable, and convergent wikis. Open means that anyone can edit a wiki, creating an “open source” environment for the sharing of knowledge. Incremental means that new pages can be added, even if they do not yet exist. Organic means that the information can be continuously evolving, as changes and edits are made. Wikis are mundane because they involve the use of a simplified set of essential commands. The design of wikis is also universal, meaning that writing and editing is a “combined” activity, formatting is related to input (overt), page names are not context specific (unified), and pages are generally named with some precision (precise). Wikis should be tolerant of error; activity should be observable by all, and duplications are undesirable and should be deleted (convergent).

Wikis are set up to allow for easy collaboration and more specifically, editing. Rather than passively reading a passage of text or related information (which may include graphics, multimedia, hyperlinks, etc.), a reader of a wiki can also take on the role of a writer, making changes to the text (re-organizing, editing, re-writing, and marking up) at will. In essence, the document is open to changes by a “collaborative community,” which allows for the secondary-oral model in education to be applied. There are a number of software programs that enable the effective creation of wiki pages, including TikiWiki, TWiki, and Pmwiki. These allow for the effective creation, modification/editing, and management of wikis, including creating pages, creating links, formatting, and feature modules (discussion forums, photo pages, download areas, etc.) (Chawner & Lewis, 2006). According to Gartner (2010, p.50), the market penetration of using a wiki is 20% to 50% of target audience which has an early mainstream maturity that would be adopted 2 to 5 years period as shown in figure 1.

(Gartner, 2010)

IBM is one of the giant organisation using a wiki to share knowledge information and expertise on topics of special interest to its community. By using its Enterprise 2.0 application called developerWorks, IBM brings together its technology and solutions into a fully integrated portal. Consequently, IBM’s customers can find information about IBM products and uses these products themselves in their own environment. There is a wide range of information within developerWorks, everything from product documentation to articles, blogs and services showing the usage of new features and customization of products in compelling new ways.

My developerWorks: Wiki

(IBM, 2010)

The interesting thing about developerWorks is that it is powered by the readers of the site itself. This has always been one of the major advantage; where most of the content and how-to articles are written by the same people learning new ideas and features. The content is easily findable, and an integrated full-featured search enables them to quickly narrow down to the content they’re looking for to be successful in their project (Bernal, 2010). developerWorks has been continually evolving to include more social networking capability. A concept called Spaces is also available within the developerWorks community. Recently, it has provided some additional functionality to create professional networking capability called My developerWorks. This greatly enhanced functionality enables users to create new networks and connections with others who share a common interest as well as providing many of the same social networking patterns like blogs, wikis, forum and tagging (Bernal, 2010).

(NB: Sorry guys, you just have to visualize if you don’t understand what the presenter is saying. But I do like its interpretation)

However, one of its pitfalls is difficulty in securing its content especially the confidential data. According to Mills (2010), “Nearly 50% of data breaches were caused by insiders (employee) through data theft due to misuse of access privileges and others. Consequently, it cost $3.8 million USD per year for organisations to handle cybercrime as it is difficult to protect the data without encryption”. This can be seen further as shown in the figure below.

(Mills, 2010)

Other pitfalls that may also occur in developerWorks are such as:

  • Lack of organization and structure, which may result in an unmanageable wiki.
  • Tracking of contributions and modifications can be difficult. As wikis are used to create or maintain formal content (for example, client communications, product descriptions and technical documentation), it may be necessary to introduce additional policies and management controls to ensure appropriate quality and governance.
  • Quality control is needed to deal with the variability of content quality, especially when once-thriving wiki page collections fall into disrepair when abandoned by their main contributors.

I have experience using a wiki myself such as Wikispaces, where I had contributed several great articles and topics related to new media and other technological issues. Most of the time, I use Wiki for discussion/bulletin boards, brainstorming tools and online sketchpads. Meeting planning is another viable application area, in that I can start with a preliminary agenda, from which the other team members (dealing in a group project) can then add their own additions or make modifications or comments. An important application area for wikis has been identified in knowledge management (KM). The use of wikis for knowledge management may allow for an improvement over existing systems and technologies. Currently, with existing KM systems, there does exist a number of bottlenecks relating to knowledge acquisition, namely acquisition latency, narrow bandwidths, knowledge inaccuracy, and “maintenance traps.” Basically, these knowledge acquisition bottlenecks result from a time lag between when the knowledge is created and then distributed. In addition, there are also problems of limited channels of knowledge input, possibilities of erroneous information being received and also the difficulties of maintaining the knowledge base as it grows larger (Wagner, 2006).

We can expect improvements in Wiki in terms of its technical qualities such as ease of implementation and stability, as well as improvements in editing interfaces and graphical quality. These improvements, along with the positive experiences of early adopters, should help gain the interest and confidence of potential users and result in further diffusion of wikis as tools for collaboration. Clearly, I am sure you would agree that the use of this new conversational technology is allowing for the enhancement and continued evolution of new and innovative forms of support for teaching and learning. What do you think?


Bernal, J. (2010). Web 2.0 and Social Networking for the Enterprise: IBM Press Pearson plc

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

Gartner, I. (2010). Hype Cycle for Business Use of Social Software, 2010. Retrieved September 8, 2010, from

Higgins, B. (2005). Corporate Blogging: Is it worth the hype? Retrieved September 8, 2010, from

Mills, E. (2010). Report: Most data breaches tied to organized crime. Retrieved September 8, 2010, from

IBM (2010). My developerWorks: Wikis. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from

Wagner, C. (2004). Wiki: A technology for conversational knowledge management and group collaboration. Communications of the AIS, 13(2004), 265-289.

Wagner, C. (2006). Breaking the knowledge acquisition bottleneck through conversational knowledge management. Information Management Resources Journal, 19(1), 70-83.

Wikipedia (2010). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 7, 2010, from