Media Morph: Wiki

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WHAT IT IS: A wiki is the simplest online database that could possibly work, writes Ward Cunningham, a program developer who founded the first wiki site, in 1995. In plain English, a wiki is a piece of software that makes it possible for anyone to create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. It's free, it's open source and it can be public or maintained within a company.

WHO'S USING IT? Wikipedia, an online public encyclopedia, is the most famous example. What both public and private wikis have in common is that they are a work sustained by a community. Wikisphere is a new company that has raised $5.2 million in venture capital funding to make it easier for people to add, erase or share information. Outfits such as Socialtext and Jotspot are focusing on how corporations can use wikis to enhance the collaborative process.

IS A BLOG A WIKI? No. "The blogosphere is a community that might produce a work. A wiki is a work that might produce a community," Mr. Cunningham said in a recent speech, quoted online.

ADVERTISING APPLICATIONS: Interactive ad agency R/GA started a wiki a year ago and has collected a multi-layered body of knowledge. The best thing about it is for the first time disparate bits of information are linked together in one place and dated, said John Mayo-Smith, VP-technology. Before the wiki, information about a project or issue would be siloed in e-mails, voicemails, directories and remote databases, and content and corporate intelligence that directly relates to clients was hard to access.

WIKI IN ACTION: Someone wants to know about how digital signage can be used in a retail environment can open a blank Web page on the R/GA Wiki. Then they send a request out to everyone in their department or the company with a link to that page. Other people post their intelligence and "we're connecting a research report with a pitch with a presentation we did last year related to Nike:iD, which can turn into a killer idea for a new telecom client," Mr. Mayo-Smith said.

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