The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
A wiki is a website that allows for easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.
The biggest example is Wikipedia.org, the huge online encyclopedia that has articles written by and updated by tens of thousands of contributors. Genealogy-specific wikis include the Encyclopedia of Genealogy at http://www.eogen.com, We Relate at http://www.werelate.org, and the new and still-under-development FamilySearch Research Wiki (The beginnings of the New FamilySearch Wiki can be found at https://wiki.familysearch.org).
Many businesses use wikis to create documentation (online user manuals) or to track the progress of a project.
"Wiki" is a Hawaiian word for "fast," and most wikis are just that. They are also easy to use and easy to update. Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as "the simplest online database that could possibly work."
Most wikis are used for group collaboration in which multiple users create online reference documents for all to use. For instance, the New FamilySearch Wiki already contains an on-line library where you can find thousands of articles and how-to instructions about researching family history. The Encyclopedia of Genealogy at http://www.eogen.com contains hundreds of articles about genealogy societies, various sources of records, a dictionary of old and obsolete medical terms, and more. We Relate at http://www.werelate.org is a wiki about people: each ancestor receives a dedicated page containing as much information as possible about his or her life. You can create new pages at any time, and you can also add information to existing pages. Each page uses hypertext links to connect that page to the pages of parents, children, spouses, and siblings.
In each case, you are invited to add new articles and to add updates and supplemental information to existing articles. In short, anyone can contribute to a public wiki, and everyone is invited to do so.
Today I will describe a somewhat different type of wiki: a personal wiki that only you can use. This wiki might use the same software as a group collaboration effort, but in this case the wiki is for your purposes only. It might be an online wiki that is available only after entering a user name and password which you control. You might keep that information secret. Another possibility is to use “wiki-like” software installed on your own Windows or Macintosh computer that resembles a wiki but is limited to your use only, requiring no internet connection.
Why would you want to do this? You can probably find as many reasons as there are people in this world. In my case, I have been using a wiki for more than a year to simplify my life.
Once upon a time I was inundated by "yellow sticky notes" and other scraps of paper. Need to remember a user name and password that I just created? I would write a note to myself on a yellow "sticky pad." Want to remember the address of a certain genealogy library? I would write a note to myself on a yellow "sticky pad." Find a nifty new web site that I wanted to remember? I would write a note to myself on a yellow "sticky pad." How about the telephone number of a distant cousin? I would write that into my phone book (which I later lost). Want to save a newspaper article? I would cut it out of the paper and then store it "someplace." Of course, I could never find it when I wanted it. In short, I was inundated with yellow sticky notes, address books, and other scraps of paper that were never filed properly. I saved a lot of information but had great difficulty retrieving what I wanted at the time I wanted it.
My personal wiki now serves as the repository of all sorts of information. I can find whatever I want within seconds.
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