Starting and Running a Wiki Website/Overview

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Before deciding to start your own wiki, if you plan to write about something that may be of general public interest, there is a good possibility that there is already something similar online. Remember, a bigger wiki (with more participants) is often more fun. If, or rather when, you get hit by spammers and vandals, having a big community and others willing to help out can be invaluable. Perform extensive research using search engines to make sure that a suitable wiki does not already exist. A Google search for 'wiki' currently returns about 436,000,000 results; duplicating efforts is very unhelpful - it only means some helpless soul will end up confusing the two wikis at some point in the future.

Some good places to find out if a wiki already exists include:

Technical challenge and community challenge[edit]

Despite the first impression, the biggest challenge for a wiki is not technical but human. There is lots of tools and documentations for the wikis. The main issue is to start the wiki, verify that anything is working and see nobody coming or staying without knowing why. That's the reason why the book deals more with relational points than technical points.

Before starting[edit]

One key aspect to make a successful wiki is to create it for good reasons. Do you want to create it because one day you realize that this wiki does not exist, because you have needed this wiki or because you want to have your own wiki and you have found an idea to do it? In the last case, your wiki is likely not to grow, because the project is focused on you, not on the community. If your wiki has been created to highlight yourself, nobody will want to contribute.

The contributors should feel that they are highlighted by contributing. You should search people that are interested by your project before you create the wiki instance. If you do that, they will feel that this project is also their project. If you first create the wiki instance and then you search people, they will never feel that it is their project but yours.

Your concept should fit to the wiki mechanism. The pages of the wiki should be atomic, that is to say, one page does not need other pages to be comprehensive. Otherwise, your wiki will be hard to edit. That means that a reader needs to read several pages to get the benefit of one page and a contributor needs to be aware of the other pages to do a small edit. If it is an encyclopedic content like Wikipedia, there is no problem. The more atomic the content is, the quicker the wiki will grow.

The content should self-explain why it is done that way. For example, if you are the only website in the world to display a content in a given form, the first reader will remove the content.

Hosting - self or external[edit]

If you still want to run your own wiki, you will either need to run your own web server or have someone else manage a server for you.

  • "from scratch": you install whatever wiki engine you choose. You control everything. (Either on your own hardware, or on any suitable web host).
  • "hosted wiki": most technical decisions and support issues are handled by someone else, and you handle the social aspects of growing the wiki.

If you already have a web server, but your web host does not specifically say they host Wikis (for free or a fee) just see if they support the scripting language that the Wiki software you want to run requires. Many wikis require just PHP, Perl, or some other common server-side scripting language that most web hosts provide. Other wikis require a database (e.g. MySQL database) and/or have other requirements.