Since the first wiki was developed by Ward Cunningham in 1994, wikis have become increasingly popular across the Internet, as users from all over the world combine their individual expertise to create a large database of communal knowledge. While anyone can contribute content to a wiki, it's important to adhere to the specific rules and guidelines set out by each website. With this in mind, here's a quick guide to help get you started.
What is a wiki?
According to the inventor of the wiki, Ward Cunningham, a "wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser." Wiki users can add, edit and remove information and content. Often, they can be edited by anyone willing to make a contribution, but most wiki sites enlist moderators to monitor and approve any changes made to the site's content.
Users and moderators collaborate to create substantial, quality content on one or a range of subjects. Of course, the most famous wiki site is undoubtedly Wikipedia, but there is also a wide variety of more focused or specialized wiki sites available on the web.
How to edit
Editing a wiki page is usually extremely simple. Most sites will include a "edit" tab next to certain pages or sections. Clicking an edit tab should lead you to a text editing page where content can be added and removed. Many sites have specific criteria for editing, as well as guidelines on writing styles and appropriate content, which should be consulted before editing.
Open an account
While many sites allow editing by anonymous users, it's usually best to create an account before continuing with the process. Over time, this will allow you to foster a reputation as a reliable and knowledgeable contributor. An anonymous edit is usually considered a red flag by a wiki site's moderators, and will increase the likelihood of your edits being deleted. In addition, creating a user account will enable you to participate in the site's community of wiki editors and engage in discussions about other edits, content and contributions.
Any former college student will know just how important it is to cite references, which provide legitimacy to your information and allow readers to investigate the context or background of the information you've included in your writing.
The same rings true for wiki sites; since anyone can edit the site's content, it's important to demonstrate that your contributions have been based on facts. While they may not be necessary for every page, failing to include citations for certain topics may cause the site's moderators to reject your edits, according to the Wikipedia editing guide.
Often, wiki sites will ask you to submit an edit summary once the changes have been made. This helps the moderators to identify which changes have been made, and why they were valuable. If the edit is deemed unnecessary or unsubstantial, it will likely be rejected. Larger sites like Wikipedia include content discussion pages, where edits can be deliberated and critiqued to further refine the site's content.