Defining what a Wiki is and how to write good articles

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This article explains what a Wiki is and the type of information that should be contributed to a Wiki. It also explains how to write good articles. It is important to understand how to write a good article to ensure it can be maintained over time to remain both helpful and relevant.

What's a Wiki?

A Wiki is a web-based application that allows community members to quickly and easily create articles. Unlike traditional web pages that can only be read, a Wiki allows users to easily create and edit articles -- All without knowing HTML.


Wiki Tidbit: The word Wiki is a shorter form of Wiki Wiki (weekie, weekie) which is from the native language of Hawaii , where it is commonly used as an adjective to denote something "quick" or "fast". [1] The word wiki can be pronounced either as "wee-key" (as it sounds in Hawaiian) or alternatively as "wic-key."

Similar to an encyclopedia, a Wiki is used to store factual information about a variety of topics. In the case of the sasCommunity.org Wiki, the articles are about topics that are related to the use of SAS. Once created, the articles are indexed and stored so that other community members can search for and read the articles.

What makes a Wiki so powerful is that not only can other community members read the articles, but they have the ability to edit and contribute to the articles. You see, articles are not owned by individual members. Articles belong to the entire community and everyone in the community can modify them equally.

Since multiple community members are able to edit and contribute to articles, it's important that articles are written as an entry in an encyclopedia. A good article will have the following characteristics:

  • It is written in a neutral point of view (it is based on factual information rather than opinion)
  • It is not written in the first-person (it doesn't contain words like “I”, “me”, “we”, or “us”)
  • It provides factual information about a specific topic (citations are included when necessary)


Over time, the articles are refined and become a reflection of the collective wisdom and the shared experiences of the entire community. As the number of articles grows, the more useful a Wiki becomes. The more useful the Wiki becomes, the more people will come to the Wiki to find information. The more people that come to the Wiki to find information, the more people will find articles to which they can contribute…This cycle of healthy growth will ensure the sasCommunity.org Wiki becomes a rich source of SAS-related information.

Writing an Article

The helpfulness of individual articles will determine how helpful the sasCommunity.org Wiki is for the SAS community. Because each article can be (and should be) authored by multiple members, it's important for community members to keep a few things in mind when they are writing a new article. This will help to ensure that an article can be easily maintained and remain as helpful as possible over time.

Wiki Tip: If you don't know enough about a topic to write an entire article, don't worry! Write an article stub instead. A stub is like a request to the community to provide this information. You would follow all of the steps outlined above, but the content would be a summary or a vision of what you would like the article to be. Other community members with the necessary experience can then come along and build out the article.


Finding the Best Topic and Sub-Topic

If you think of the sasCommunity.org Wiki as a city, then you can think of the Topics as Zip® codes (or postal codes) and the Sub-Topic as streets. The articles themselves will live at specific addresses, so when you create an article take a few minutes to find the best place for the article to live.

To help you determine the best place for an article to live, ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I were going to browse for this article, on which topic and sub-topics would I click?
  • If I were going to search for this article, with which terms or keywords would I search?

Once you have answered these questions, click on those topics and search on those terms and keywords. Take the time to see what types of articles already exist and if the article you are planning on creating would complement those articles.

Wiki Tip: Doing a search is always a good idea because you may find that an article already exists. If an article does already exist, then you can contribute to the existing article rather than create a duplicate article.

Once you determine the best place for the article to live, navigate to that Category page and include the indicated text into your new page.

Creating an Article

On the Main page you will see a section "Create an article." You will need to enter the title for the article in the box and click on the Create Article button. Enter or create the body of your article.

The title you enter will be important. It should be relevant and meaningful. For obvious reasons, the body of the article is the most important. This is where the information will reside. So remember the following:

  • Before writing think about the purpose of the article and what information the reader needs.
  • Write in a neutral point of view.
  • Do not write in the first-person (don't use words like “I”, “me”, “we”, or “us”).
  • Write for the benefit of the community (not to benefit individual members).
  • Support articles with factual information based on your SAS experiences (cite sources when necessary).
  • Think about the implications of including personal information such as your email, phone number on a public website.
Wiki Tip: Approximately the first 75 characters of the article are displayed when an article is returned on the Search Results page. Be sure you use these characters to summarize the purpose of the article and encourage members to read more about the article.


Wiki Tip: If you find that an article would not make sense if it is not written in the first person or cannot be written with a neutral point of view, then consider writing a Blog (go to My Blog link at the top of the page).

When creating an article it's important to not include unnecessary links in the articles. A link in an article should always be relevant and add value to the article. For example, an article about how to register as a small business in the State of California could include a link to a page on the State of California's Web site. However, including a link that is not relevant to the article, such as a link to the contributor's personal Web site or to the contributor's eBay Store, would not be appropriate.

Customizing Your Article

Remember that it's more important to focus on the content of an article rather than how it is formatted. That being said, there a number of options available when it comes to customizing how articles look.

The first option is to enter the text directly into editing window on the Editing page and use the text editor that is available on the page to format the article once you've written the content. The functionality of the text editor is limited, so another option is to write the article off-line using desktop publishing software. This way you can check your article for spelling or grammatical errors. Once you've polished the article you can then copy and paste it into editing window.


Wiki Tip: No matter what options you select in customizing your article, always remember that the most important part of the article is the content. The formatting you select should always enhance and never distract from the information being shared in the article – Keep things simple and to the point, as rambling will take away from the information being shared as well.

Previewing and Submitting

This is an often overlooked step, but it's important to take the time to preview your article and see how it will be presented to the community. If you find a spelling error or if the formatting is off, you can go back to the editing window and make the necessary corrections. After the article is ready for the community, click the ‘Save page' button. Once published, community members will be able to view, edit or add information to the article. If, after it's published, you find there's something you would like to change, don't worry. You always have the option of editing the articles.

References

This article is based on a similarly named one on the eBay Wiki site.[2]