Wikis are not new, but I feel my fascination with them being kindled. The usual model of web publishing is that the webmaster locks everything down tight; a few people can publish while the rest of the universe gets read-only access. Wikis turn this assumption on its head, asking the absurd question, “What if we let the entire world add or edit pages in real time, without editorial intermediary? Instead of assuming people will vandalize everything not locked down, what if we assumed that people actually want to do cool things together?”
There are a lot of cool Wikis out there, but the most sterling example is WikiPedia — a collaborative encyclopedia being constructed second-by-second by volunteers from around the world — thousands of people adding to and correcting the analysis of others on every facet of human knowledge. More than a quarter million entries since 2001, and growing. What’s really inspiring is that the information it contains seems to be of such high quality. This makes sense – if someone writes on a topic that you understand better than the original or previous author, you can modify the entry right there on the spot.
Of course the WikiPedia is up-to-date in a way no printed encyclopedia could ever be — yesterday’s successful test flight of Boeing’s Mach 7 aircraft X-43 is already a part of the X-43 entry. Seeing collaborative potential manifest is always inspiring.
Installed PHPWiki last night on a side domain, starting to play with it. We’ll see what comes…