Semantic Mediawiki workshop

From zooid Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Using Wikis in organizations

What is a wiki

Hawaiian for "quick."

Classically - A wiki (pronounced /ˈwɪki/ WIK-ee) is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language. (Wikipedia).

The simplified markup focuses on the simplest ways to create meaningful formatting and navigation. While the markup is designed so anyone can start with basic editing, it's still a major stumbling block to newcomers.

Usually wikis have a simple access model - the site is completely open for editing, some pages or locked, or the entire site is only available for writing and/or reading to a restricted group.

Culturally wikis try to emphasize the same level of access for everyone, though practically some levels of administration are required.

Wiki features are starting to merge with web-based content management systems to support features such as fine grained editing and access permissions and rich editors.

Where do they come from?

  • Wiki like systems predate wikipedia hgttg, everything


  • Vandalfighter / Beren
  • Touchgraph

Problems solved

  • Reference
  • Codeveloped documentation - definitions
  • Personal or workgroup notes/database
  • Knowledge management (using categories)
  • Share organized info without blasting everyone
  • Message of openness - creative commons

Quotes about wikis

Stefan comments:

  • a wiki is like play-doh or paper and you can make anything out of it. With a few formatting conventions i've seen wikis used for documentation, task and TODO lists, planning and timelines, bug tracking, tracking physical resources (where is this piece of equipment and has it been paid for yet) and customer relations
  • it's faster and easier and safer than emailing around a bunch of word documents with "track changes" turned on

Helen comments:

  • What makes me a Wiki enthusiast after tonight, however, is that I've now seen how wikis enable the management & generation of knowledge, and the planning & generation of work. Specifically, I think it's incredible that with wikis (or at least this particular wiki software), you are expected to generate the title (reference) for a link BEFORE you generate the content for the link. So if I'm tackling a multidimensional beast, even just a complicated grant, I can start with the main text, and put in links to appendix documents without having those documents in existence yet. In other words, it's a conceptual approach -- I LIKE!!

Compared to other applications

  • More generalizable, less rigid
  • Not really for communications (but see Blikis)
  • With semantic wikis, they will become more like applications

How do they work

  • Rows and columns, relational databases vs hypertext and wikis
  • Easy editing, on the spot
    • Simple syntax, typically no rich text editor
  • Typically write-able by anyone
  • Full history is always there, can revert
  • Use discussion tab for comments and questions

Creating a page

  • From main – a few links per page
  • Keep each major topic on its own page, or move to one when its time
  • When editing other's work, be considerate of what they were trying to say

Hands on

  • Create an account
  • Create your user page with a heading and a link
  • Fill in the link


  • Not everyone has access to a computer / is comfortable using a wiki
    • Summaries
    • Currently don't compare to more specialized apps
    • Different workflows for different people -storyteller, coder
  • Making information available
    • NPOV, substantiated
    • Culture is changing to be more critical, expect more
  • Different wikis are better at different tasks
  • Flagged revisions - editor culture
  • Sometimes experimental, community involvement doesn't work

Types of Wikis

Sample wikis


  • Same software as used by Mediawiki, probably millions of other sites
  • Well tested
  • Well established bot programming interface
  • Hundreds of useful extensions
  • Not meant to be a CMS

Semantic wikis

  • Properties – ad hoc and non
  • Categories
  • Queries and views

Hands on

  • Put yourself in the Person category
  • Add your birth date
  • Add your postal code
  • Add your favourite colour
  • Views

Tasks easy to hard

  • Use a todo annotation, view it in a query.
  • Add the same interests as other people on user page, view on a graph
  • Create a class with form and template using the Special page.
  • Use a semantic internal object.

Problems solved

  • Databases with finely and arbitrarily defined data, with forms and querying
  • self contained applications like mapping, task tracking, diagramming with fine grained data integration between "apps"
  • Connecting with other systems using semantic web standards

Using Semantic Mediawiki practically in organizations

  • Start slow - use it for particular projects
    • Good as general web site
      • Restrict access unless the project is about open access
    • internal documentation, public development
  • Make sure there are helpers and champions ready to 'garden' quickly, or use an extension like Flagged Revisions
  • Use forms to make common tasks easier
  • Always update documentation on the wiki rather than repeating
  • Can always use other SMW sites as examples since their code is completely open, even locked pages

Developing uses

  • Interface to mail, IM, twitter, etc - send a page update, todo or queries
  • Interface to other systems using PHP, bots, XML, RDF

Applications for organizations

Encouraging wiki use in organizations

  • Introduce progressively, encouraging the idea of progressive learning
    • start with why wikis, wikipedia, the culture of wikis
    • good uses
      • sketch out idea with links
      • page management
    • show a few good sites - wikipedia
    • create account
    • edit home page, add headings, lists, a link
    • demonstration of formatting/layout, common.css
    • emphasize looking at markup examples
    • introduce idea of semantic, distinct content, resuse
    • few good sites - placeography, discoursedb
    • simple example of semantic use - birthday, show on timeline
    • simple example of a class - todo
    • facet search, narrowing down, copy and paste
  • Find out what their real problems are
  • find champions
  • break wikis into sites "owned" by different people/communities
  • Ease of hosting
  • Don't pretend wiki can do everything, don't oversell
  • Alternative to uploading document - good summary, link to original

Key concepts

  • play-doh - for wikis
  • structured
  • wikipedia - well known
  • built on mediawiki, millions of sites, thousands of extensions
  • emphasize control - no database management, open source, users can create data or can lock it down, import and export data
  • good opportunity to introduce and encourage adoption of creative commons


  • Working with conservative top level management
    • "this is already happening" - examples
  • gaining critical mass