2017-08-28 Why Wiki

Recently on G+, Brian Murphy asked whether people still used wikis.

I run Campaign Wiki, a site where anybody can create wikis for their role-playing game campaigns. Why wiki, and what’s a wiki?

What is a wiki? A wiki is a website on which users add and edit pages, together, using nothing but a web browser.

Users add and edit pages. This means that the structure of the site itself is also maintained by users. Whether you just want to list the session summaries on the main page, or whether you just want to link to the list of player characters, or the magic items the party has or knows about, or whether to start with a map and link to the known locations, it’s up to you.

Together. A single person can start a wiki and other players can join in and drop out over time, no hassle. Many wikis I see are basically run by one person. Perhaps this specialisation is a natural thing. One person is the mapper. One person knows the rules better than anybody else. One person writes session notes for the wiki. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A wiki is not a blog run by a single person. Anybody can join.

Nothing but a web browser. We don’t need Google accounts, we don’t need MS Word, we don’t send emails. All we need is a browser. Traditionally, wikis were very simple and Campaign Wiki still is, in many respects. We use markup to format text: *bold*, [[Link to a page]], and so on. For those of us who are used to writing on forums, we also support bbCode like [b]bold[/b] and [url=http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/]Pathfinder Reference Document[/url].

There are advanced topics, of course. Uploading images. Changing the look of the site using cascading style sheets (CSS), and so on.

And there are challenges, too. On Campaign Wiki, I assume that the people running the wiki don’t always have the time and patience to set up accounts for their fellow players. That is why you don’t need one. Anybody can join and help out. This also means that in order to spot and undo vandalism and spam, we need to watch Recent Changes, the list of edits made. Campaign Wiki maintains a list of recent changes for every wiki, and a big overall list of recent changes for people like me.

Why wiki? The biggest challenge is also the biggest asset as far as Campaign Wiki is concerned. No accounts. You don’t have to share your data with Google or Facebook or any other big player. No ads. No fees.

I guess you have to trust me, though. I can’t help you with that. At least I’m a person. Perhaps that helps. At some point, you will have to trust somebody, or keep it all on paper in your home.

Campaign Wiki makes it easy to download your data. Even if you’re not a computer person, you can still ask a friend to do it for you.

As Campaign Wiki uses nothing but Free Software, you could also set up your own site and do the same thing. The setup should be reasonably easy to reproduce. And if not, you can always ask me.

Some people say wiki is short for “I can’t find shit.” If people just keep adding pages and nobody organises the site, then that’s indeed what happens. A forum or a blog has an implied structure – posts come ordered by time, later pages take precedence over earlier pages; comments apply to the post they are attached to. On a wiki, you can have all that, or you can have a totally different organisation. Wilderlande works like a blog. Page names are just dates. Greyheim uses page names that don’t start with a date but it’s still mostly a simple list of session reports simply because the home page links to them from an ordered list. Fünf Winde is more like an encyclopedia with links to characters, items, locations, and hidden in a subsection, all the session reports. Kaylash uses a different CSS to create a very different look and feel. And on and on. You can find links to all the campaign wikis on the status page. If you want to look around, I suggest you look at the ones with a higher page count.

Only a wiki provides this combination of ease of use and freedom. After all, the fundamental rules are:

  1. Use empty lines to separate paragraphs
  2. Link to other wiki pages using double square brackets: [[Example]]
  3. Emphasis using markup: *bold* /italic/ _underline_

Everything else you can add later. The wiki will grow with you, step by step. And if you are ever wondering: can I do this using a wiki?contact me and we’ll talk.

This page is also on Campaign Wiki, now.



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