Saturday, March 8, 2008

Setting up a wiki

Just like many other Web 2.0 tools, there are an abundance of wiki sites to choose from. Wiki Matrix is an excellent site to use to compare various wikis. It provides a detailed analysis of the features of wikis, and which of these features are provided by the wikis you have selected to compare.

Some of the most popular wiki creation sites include: Wikispaces, PBWiki, and WetPaint. While all of these are free sign-ups, a person will have to put up with varying degrees of advertisements on these wikis. For example, Wikispaces offers an ad-free wiki for $5 a month. All sites are very welcoming of educators and students.

My first experience actually using and collaborating on a wiki was for our Assignment 2 group project. Elizabeth created our group’s wiki, so when I “arrived” there, it was ready with pre-made pages just waiting for our research and ideas to be recorded. Our group began at working on Wikispaces, which was user-friendly, but very basic in features and appearance. Elizabeth suggested moving the wiki to the PBWiki site, which we discovered to have a more polished website appearance, as well as other features.

While Wikispaces allows for fast and furious editing, there are some things that I found frustrating. When you choose to “edit this page,” the next page suddenly no longer appears to have the same formatting as the page you were previously looking at. For example, extra spaces appear which were not seen on the original. What this means, is that while editing, Wikispaces is not WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). This can make editing a bit of a guessing game, perhaps requiring a bit of back-and-forth until you get the page to look how you want it.

However, WYSIWYG is true of PBWiki. This makes editing pages much simpler. Additionally, the editing toolbar has features such as: colour text and background; font style and size; and other commands similar to editing in a Word Document. It can even tranform your wiki pages into a pdf.

Recently, I had the opportunity to create a wiki on Wikispaces for a group project in another class. It was very simple to set up. Yet, we may select a different wiki site to transfer our information for a nicer visual presentation of our final project.

Despite, all of the little details which accompany editing something into an attractive visual product, the concept behind wikis is very straightforward. As Lee LeFever explained, it’s a simple as edit, write, and save!

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