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A wiki is a type of website that allows anyone visiting the site to add, to remove, or otherwise to edit all content, very quickly and easily, sometimes without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative writing. The term wiki is a shortened form of wiki wiki which is from the native language of Hawaii, where it is commonly used as an adjective to denote something "quick" or "fast" (Hawaiian dictionary).

The term Wiki can also refer to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a website.

In essence, a wiki is a simplification of the process of creating HTML pages combined with a system that records each individual change that occurs over time, so that at any time, a page can be reverted to any of its previous states. A wiki system may also include various tools, designed to provide users with an easy way to monitor the constantly changing state of the wiki as well as a place to discuss and resolve the many inevitable issues, namely, the inherent disagreement over wiki content. Wiki content can also be misleading, as users are bound to add incorrect information to the wiki page.

Most wikis will allow completely unrestricted access so that people are able to contribute to the site without necessarily having to undergo a process of 'registration', as had usually been required by various other types of interactive websites such as Internet forums or chat sites.


Pages and editing

In a traditional wiki, there are three representations for each page :

  • The user-editable "source code", which is also the format stored locally on the server. It is usually plain text, made visible to the user only when the edit operation shows it in a browser form.
  • A template (possibly internally generated) that defines layout and elements common to all pages.
  • The rendered HTML code produced by the server on the fly from the source text when a particular page is requested.

The source format, sometimes known as "wikitext", is augmented with a simplified markup language to indicate various structural and visual conventions. An often used example of one such convention is to start a line of text with an asterisk ("*") in order to mark it as an item in a bulleted list. Style and syntax can vary a great deal among implementations, some of which also allow HTML tags.

The reasoning behind this design is that HTML, with its many cryptic tags, is not especially human-readable. Making typical HTML source visible makes the actual text content very hard to read and edit for most users. It is therefore better to promote plain-text editing with a few simple conventions for structure and style.

It is also somewhat beneficial that users cannot directly use all the functionality that HTML allows, such as JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets. Consistency in look and feel is also achieved, along with some extra safety for the user. In many wiki implementations, an active hyperlink is exactly as it is shown, unlike in HTML where the invisible hyperlink can have an arbitrary visible anchor text.

Wiki syntax HTML Rendered output
"''Doctor''? No other title? A ''scholar''? And he rates above the civil authority?"

"Why, certainly," replied Hardin, amiably. "We're all scholars more or less. After all, we're not so much a world as a scientific foundation—under the direct control of the Emperor."


&quot;<em>Doctor</em>? No other title? A <em>scholar</em>? And he rates above the civil authority?&quot;
&quot;Why, certainly,&quot; replied Hardin, amiably. &quot;We're all scholars more or less. After all, we're not so much a world as a scientific foundation&mdash;under the direct control of the Emperor.&quot;

"Doctor? No other title? A scholar? And he rates above the civil authority?"

"Why, certainly," replied Hardin, amiably. "We're all scholars more or less. After all, we're not so much a world as a scientific foundation—under the direct control of the Emperor."

(Quotation above from Foundation by Isaac Asimov)

Some recent wiki engines use a different method: they allow "WYSIWYG" editing, usually by means of JavaScript or an ActiveX control that translates graphically entered formatting instructions, such as "bold" and "italics", into the corresponding HTML tags. In those implementations, the markup of a newly-edited HTML version of the page is generated and submitted to the server transparently, and the user is shielded from this technical detail. Users who do not have the necessary plugin can generally edit the page, usually by directly editing the raw HTML code. More recently, wiki engines are generating wiki syntax instead of HTML. This way, users who are comfortable editing in wiki syntax can carry on.


Most wikis offer at least a title search, and sometimes a full-text search. The scalability of the search depends on whether the wiki engine uses a database; indexed database access is necessary for high speed searches on large wikis. On BDWiki, the so-called "Go button" allows readers to view a page that matches the entered search criteria as closely as possible. The search engine was created to enable searches across multiple wikis. Search is keyword-based.

Controlling changes

Wikis are generally designed with the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them. Thus while wikis are very open, they provide a means to verify the validity of recent additions to the body of pages. The most prominent, on almost every wiki, is the "Recent Changes" page—a specific list numbering recent edits, or a list of all the edits made within a given timeframe. Some wikis can filter the list to remove minor edits and edits made by automatic importing scripts ("bots").

From the change log, other functions are accessible in most wikis: the Revision History showing previous page versions; and the diff feature, highlighting the changes between two revisions. Using the Revision History, an editor can view and restore a previous version of the article. The diff feature can be used to decide whether or not this is necessary. A regular wiki user can view the diff of an edit listed on the "Recent Changes" page and, if it is an unacceptable edit, consult the history, restoring a previous revision; this process is more or less streamlined, depending on the wiki software used.

In case unacceptable edits are missed on the "Recent Changes" page, some wiki engines provide additional content control. It can be monitored to ensure that a page, or a set of pages, keeps its quality. A person willing to maintain pages will be warned of modifications to the pages, allowing him or her to verify the validity of new editions quickly.


The open philosophy of most wikis—of allowing anyone to edit content—does not ensure that editors are well intentioned. Wiki vandalism is a constant problem for wikis, although some sources with little relevant experience with wikis tend to exaggerate the danger of vandalism. In some cases, user accounts or IP addresses are banned from editing certain wikis to prevent further vandalism.


The decision to execute BDWiki was spearheaded by Pauline, a long time RPer in The Broken Dagger.


External links

Personal tools
Wiki Stuff