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Wikis: How Community Documentation Works

Wikipedia has been around for quite a while; an exceptionally useful resource that I think most of us use on a regular basis. The website was founded in January 2001, which was around the same time as similar website ideas, such as H2G2, or the ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. Whilst H2G2 still exists today, it’s Wikipedia that we really talk about when we think about community documentation.

Wikipedia isn’t alone, however. Many niche communities have their own Wikis, or Wikias, which the community get involved with and update as much as possible. From the well known Wookieepedia, through to the much more niche wikia, such as the Boku no Hero Academia wikia. All of them serve a particular purpose, which is typically to document everything in their respective fandoms, or niches.

A Brief History on Encyclopedias

Community documentation websites, such as Wikipedia’s and Wikia’s aren’t unique to the internet. We’ve had encyclopedias for about 2,000 years now and over that time, we’ve seen a huge change in how encyclopedias are formatted and indeed, how they’re updated. The very first encyclopedia that we’re aware of came from Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder, a Roman from the first century AD.

Since the Naturalis Historia, we’ve grown more and more in what encyclopedias are for. With Wikipedia coming along in the early 21st century, we’ve seen them open up from being a group of people, to potentially being everyone. Naturally, that comes with its own set of problems which we’ll discuss, but all in all, Wikipedia and Wikias are known for being open to everyone to help improve over the years.

Open Source Knowledge

So now that we’ve moved to an online system to catalogue everything, there is a requirement for a group of administrators and for everyone to be able to make changes. So everyone can push through a change, no matter what that change is. Naturally, all changes are monitored by the administrators, who will make sure that nothing goes onto the website that isn’t fitting the image they’re looking for.

In order to be able to publish this knowledge, Wikipedia and indeed Wikias have their own in-house styles that must be adhered to. Wikipedia in particular is hugely picky about this, as it needs to be to be in compliance with copyright laws, as best it can. You can read a lot more about Wikipedia’s in-house styles on their website, right here.

There’s so much to wikis in general, however one thing that always impresses me is how people genuinely want to see it do well. On the odd occasion, you see someone try to cause problems by effectively damaging the credibility of the posts, but with other users and with a dedicated team of administrators, these websites maintain a professional look. After all – We all want to share knowledge on our favourite subjects. Now go lend your voice to a Wiki or Wikia, or let us know – How often do you use Wikis & Wikias? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.


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