Online Wiki community wants your expertise
By A.S. Berman
Gannett News Service
Are you an experienced kayaker? Unusually knowledgeable in all things Hobbit? An expert on any subject, no matter how profound or pointless?
If so, the Internet's Wiki community is ready to take advantage of your expertise.
Created by programmer Ward Cunningham in 1995, Wiki technology (from the Hawaiian word for quick) allows visitors to a Wiki Web site to edit its content and add their own, all without having to download additional software.
The goal, enthusiasts say, is to create encyclopedic entries on subjects that are the culmination of the knowledge and experience each contributor brings to the table.
"It's one of the few collaborative (online) tools that isn't an electronic version of something that exists in print," says Cunningham, now in his 50s, from his home in Portland, Ore.
Where Cunningham's collaborative forum for programmers (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiWikiWeb) is hailed as the first Wiki, those launched by Internet luminary Jimmy Wales are credited with bringing Wikis to the masses.
Wales, together with philosopher Larry Stanger, started Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), a community-edited encyclopedia, in January 2001. Here, thousands of volunteers write articles, edit those written by others and otherwise add to an ever-growing body of knowledge. In a little more than two years, the site has racked up more than 132,000 articles on everything from Japanese rock bands to weapons of mass destruction, and tens of thousands more on its foreign language sites.
The past few years have seen an explosion of new Wikis (thanks to free, widely-available Wiki software), including:
Kayak Wiki, which offers novice and professional kayakers a place to share tips and techniques for getting the most out of the popular water sport.
TolkienWiki, where visitors chew over the finer points of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series.
A handy introduction to these and other Wikis is found on the MeatballWiki site.
Though Wikis have been compared to Web logs, or blogs, Cunningham says blogs are "very complementary" to Wiki sites.
Blogs allow people to state their individual opinions on specific subjects and link to Web sites that make their case, he says.
"Wiki is just different because you're mixing thoughts together, the way you don't on a blog."