That online font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia has been in the news again recently according to the founder, Jimmy Wales has been tinkering with his own biography to remove things he doesn’t like.

The continually growing presence of Wikipedia (it seems that Wales must have hired Larry Ellison’s old PR agent the amount of coverage he’s been getting recently,) led me to look into what exactly a Wiki is.

Being of a certain age, these days, I’m sometimes not as familiar with technical jargon as I should be, and I thought for ages that Wikipedia was named that way just because it sounded cool.

I’ll freely admit to not knowing what a wiki was, other than something that Will Smith sang about in the theme tune to ‘Wild Wild West.’ To me it sounded like cricket terminology or perhaps white kids would say in a very sad and tragically doomed attempt to sound cool.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that wiki actually meant something, that it was a recognised term (well not by me.) According to Ward Cunningham and quoted on Wikipedia itself, a wiki is a type of website that allows users to add and edit content and is especially suited for constructive collaborative authoring. This is a great concept, allowing something like Wikipedia to grow rapidly as more and more people hear about it and get involved in the project.

Wikipedia itself has been so successful that it is now being seen increasingly as a trusted source for information (according to a recent article, Wikipedia is as accurate in most respects as the Britannica.

This of course brings its own problems, as the need for some kind of editorial control becomes greater. Wikis are, however, a great way of growing a shared information base quickly, and I can see their presence and influence expanding massively over the next few years.