For Marc Laporte, one of the conceptors of the TikiWiki application, the Wiki is an ideal tool to stimulate the creativity of a group and share knowledge. Sylvain Carle defines the Wiki as a storage room for an immense collective brain.

Whatever, both internauts compare the Wiki to a white board. Marc Laporte said, refering to Pierre Levy: "No one knows everything, but everyone knows something. Levy's citation is a great representation of the possibilities offered by a Wiki".

What is a Wiki? On a web page, you might have already seen this funny word. If you are a visitor of the online encyclopedia Wikipédia, you have been consulting a wiki.

In it's simplest form, a Wiki is a collaborative work tool allowing any user with a web browser to create and modify pages at his own will without the need to learn any programming language. Sylvain Carle describes it as the easiest tool to use on the Internet after email.

For the francophone community WebSé, using a wiki can be resumed to four main aspects: the wiki is incitative, "it's vertue to incitate participation is the very first element of it's task definition". It's also deliberative, by proposing "a form of virtual consensus ... being part of it's attractivity and incitation to participate". The Wiki has to be instructive, as the direct or differed collaboration of it's contributors is synthetised into a ressource group centered on the object that motivates them. Finally, it's expressive, which means that it's "the expression of a collective, of a group of individuals presenting at least one common goal."

To be concrete, a Wiki allow any person reading a page to modify it directly. However, all versions remain available while the modification history can be accessed at any time. This way, a first author can write a first draft, a second can complete it and visitors can correct possible errors that they noticed while they were navigating on the website.

To have a better idea of the mechanism of a Wiki, imagine a version of Le Devoir's website where it would be possible for visitors to modify or correct all pages it contains, in an anonymous way.

Wikipédia is built around that type of publishing. Everyone can add a piece of his own. Anarchic and chaotic publication model? No doubt to it, it would actually be possible for everyone to destroy a web page or indroduce false information.

Luckly, this does not seem to happen very often. Marc Laporte explains: "Since everyone can destroy a web page, where is the challenge hackers are looking for? The beauty of Wiki is the implicit concensus." What remains on a web page is the most pertinent information. It's also what is confirmed by visitors.

Furthermore, if an idiot or a spamming bot does dammage to one or multiple pages, the next visitor can erase those changes by using the change historic. This is one of the main reason why Wiki works. Wiki is an organic tool that burns with freedom and chaos.

Even if the most popular Wiki application is Wikipédia, research centers , "think tank" and project managers begin to use Wiki in enterprise environments. Since usage contraints to the usage of a Wiki are almost null, everyone, without any restriction, can contribute at their own rythm.

Sylvain Carle noted that because of the universal participation, implentation of a Wiki in an enterprise responsabilised it's users. "Using a Wiki requires to re-evaluate the reflexion process. Installing a Wiki in an enterprise and locking down the staff in a rigid structure is an inevitable failure." A Wiki is a steroid-empowered brainstorm! "You shouldn't restrain the participant's creativity in a Wiki." When respecting those conditions, the group usually appropriate itself the Wiki and the results become positive.

Karl Dubost, from W3C and founder of WebSé, suggests other usages for the Wiki. For example, a Wiki could be used for the development of projects in small teams, learning structured writing or novel writing ("using the automatic management of linked words, the scenarisation and history can be done at once, both completing each other").

For the francophone user community of CraoWiki, the Wiki is one step further in the "OpenSource" and "BBS" models. In a normal model, you had to either go through an extensive registration process or be able to program to contribute to anything, which did not encourage to contribute and create a community of "members" or "programmers". Opposed to this, in a Wiki, if you notice an error, you can correct it right away and add more information. It's as simple as knowing hte information and typing it on the keyboard.

Correct with ease

Created by Ward Cunningham, the Wiki is a website where all visitors can modify or create pages using his web browser. The name comes from the Hawaian word WikiWiki, which signifies "fast". In fact, the publication of a contribution on a Wiki is instant, there are no delais or latency caused by content revision by an adminsitrator.

The great online encyclopedia, Wikipédia, explains the concept this way. "It's very simple: it's a cooperative document redaction model. Any visitor has the opportunity to edit the page he is currently reading. The changes are recorded and the historical revisions remain accessible as in a version management application. This way a first author writes an article, a second one completes it and visitors can correct the potential errors they notice during the navigation of the website."

To illustrate how easy it is to modify Wiki text, when I came to grab a citation from Wikipédia for this article, I noticed a typo in a word ("navigant" instead of "naviguant"). Without having to register, I corrected the error and published the new definition within seconds.

A large encyclopedia

Wikipédia is one of the largest encyclopedias published on the Internet. The encyclopedia is Free and multilingual – Wikipédia is published in over 50 languages, including french – as of February 2004, the entire project contained over 500 000 entries.

Wikipédia saw the light after the publication of an essay by Richard Stallman (The free universal encyclopedia and learning ressource) which interogated itself about the importance of a Free and universal encyclopedia.

Even if there are currently no official project leaders at Wikipédia, both founders, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, achieved the project with the countless efforts of Sanger to write the base of the encyclopedia over a year and Wales, using his web portal "Bomis", the financial support and the Wikimédia foundation, focused on assuring the survival of the project. Today, the project works around a consensus, using the rules and recommandations created by different contributors.

All contents are published under the GNU Free Documentation Licence (GNU GFDL), which allows diffusion and modification of the content to anyone, making sure that the content will always remain public, even the content of the modified versions.