Before I reached the age of ten, my father bought for my family a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a purchase I imagine he hoped would push forth our quest for knowledge. Twenty years later, I am one of many online collaborators who contribute to the English Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia. True, many of my contributions are extraordinarily minor, but it is still a bit of improvement that can be appreciated by any user.
The term ‘Wiki’ comes to us from Hawaii, where it is part of what is known as “pidgin English,” meaning “quick” or “informal.” The English Wikipedia is presently one of the more popular wikis and by far the most popular language for the Wikipedia, with over 600,000 articles available for viewing / editing. The term wiki can also refer to the software that runs the wiki, such as mediawiki, the open source software that runs the English Wikipedia.
Wikis and Open Source Software
I think that years from now when a formal history of wikis are written, it will be obligatory to mention open source software. I don’t think that wikis would exist today were it not for open source software. For one, I am pretty sure that just about every piece of wiki software that presently exists is open source. More importantly, the very notion of collaborative editing was most likely inspired, to some extent, by open source software.
Continue reading → On The Wikipedia & Collaborative Editing