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21 Wiki example: Wikipedia I can’t explain on paper what a wiki is as well as a wiki can explain it on the web. On this subject, Wikipedia is authoritative: wiki/Wiki. example: Technical and Professional Writing Program Technology Wiki Wikipedia is the largest and best known wiki and therefore as good a “sample” as you’ll find. Here’s a screen shot of a very different wiki created by Rebecca Walton for her students to research and write about the technology useful to technical and professional writers. You can see the rest of the page, and in fact the entire wiki, at http:// Spend a few minutes looking at the wiki. Did you learn anything? (I learned how to use Jing.) Can you imagine writing for such a wiki? Certainly there are experts who could write more authoritative definitions, but contributing to 148    Genres the wiki helps students learn and remember the concepts, and having all the definitions in one place is very convenient. It shows that you don’t have to be a world authority to contribute to a wiki; you just need to do enough research to be able to add to the conversation. Questions about Wikis 1. What are its purposes? Wikis are most useful when a group of people needs to collaborate, the participants are geographically spread out, and the information the group studies tends to change quickly. Professors may also use wikis to encourage individual work on a collaborative project. 2. Who are its audiences? Audiences are as varied as wikis themselves. Many who at first scorned Wikipedia have now been won over to the concept, and a wiki has become the first stop on the research express. 3. What’s the typical content? Information. Readers go to blogs for opinions, wikis for facts. But they can be facts about anything. Readers of wikis—and other contributors—expect a high level of accuracy and integrity from all wiki entries. If you’re contributing to a wiki, you’re speaking for the wiki, not just for yourself. So the wiki writer needs to be especially careful to use source material ethically. Wiki    149 4. How long is it? I doubt even Wikipedia’s administrators know how “long” it is, since people are constantly adding content. Most wikis keep the opening page relatively short but link it to a wealth of other information. 5. How is it arranged on the page? A wiki resembles a print dictionary or encyclopedia but of course it makes use of the Internet—many wiki entries are crammed with links, pictures, footnotes , and sources. 6. What pronouns are used? “I” is not as common in wikis as in blogs; the writer generally tries to get out of the way of the information. 7. What’s the tone? Fairly formal, objective. 8. How does it vary? Wikis are so new that it’s possible by the time you read this that either they’ll already be fading into technological history or they will be sweeping the Internet as Facebook did. Their variety is potentially unlimited. Suggested Moves for Contributing to a Wiki 1. Discover. Contributing to a wiki requires reading enough to know what has already been said and to figure out where and how you might contribute. Inventory ➥61–68, especially your territories and things you’re an authority on. Your best contribution to a wiki may come from what seems to you a minor and idiosyncratic area of expertise but happens to be one not shared by any other contributors. Wikis require thinking about links as well as about a linear progression of ideas. To get a sense of where your subject fits into various matrices and to start making sense of the argument, Dig into contexts and connections ➥51. 2. Develop. Change perspective ➥81 or Take the other side ➥82 should help you further understand your topic and give you a sense of how you want to approach it. 3. Gather. You’ll need to spend a good deal of time gathering all the information you can from the wiki itself. You’ll need to know everything from contribution guidelines to what precisely has been said about your topic. Your own resources are 150    Genres likely to be extensive and scattered, so Freewrite ➥72 or Brainstorm ➥69 about all your potential sources and which are likely to be relevant. You’ll be in good shape if you keep good reading logs...


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