Thursday, April 22, 2010

Introducing Wikis: Wetpaint (Part 1)

Until not very long ago, if a person or an organisation wanted to create a webpage or website, they generally asked someone else to do it - someone with the knowledge required to create and upload it. One needed to know how to use web-authoring software, perhaps a bit of programming and most importantly, one needed the physical online space to upload a website. This was in the era before we started to talk about Web 2.0 and cloud applications, of which Blogs and Wikis are a prime example.

A blog - or Web-log - is on online diary where people post diary entries about their personal experiences or talk about things that interest them. Blogs became popular because of the ease with which people could upload their posts - usually requiring little more than simple word-processing and e-mailing skills (typing, uploading of photos, attaching files). Popular blog hosting websites include Google's Blogger and Wordpress. Below is a short video which explains in simple layman's terms what a blog is all about:

Another popular and relatively easy way of publishing online material is through the use of Wikis. A Wiki is similar to a Blog in terms of accessability and usability, however it encompasses much, much more. For starters, whilst Blogs are usually made up of one 'page', where a person uploads his or her own personal 'diary' (with the posts appearing one after the other in chronological order), Wikis are usually more complex and are made up of many pages and sub-pages. Furthermore, Blogs are inteded to be used as online diaries, usually maintained by one or a very selective group of people. On the other hand, Wikis are not inteded to be led by just one individual; they have a much greater emphais on collaboration and are regarded as a social interaction and networking tool. The popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a prime example of a Wiki in practice: thousands of collaborators from all over the world have joined the site and collaborate regularly on articles to create this vast web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project. Perhaps two of the most popular Wiki sites (especially with Educators) are Wikispaces and Wetpaint. Both sites provide free, online hosting and allow users to create simple websites in a matter of minutes. Today I am going to take a look at the basic features of Wetpaint Wikis: below is a short video which gives an overview of what can be done with it:

Wetpaint: Creating an Account

Like with any other online service, the first thing to do is create an account: go to, click on the large green GO! icon and sign up (if its the first time you access the site) or Sign In if you already have an account. You can also opt to sign in with your Facebook, Twitter or Live account. Once your Wetpaint account is activated, you will be able to register and sign in not only on your own Wiki (which you can create from Wetpaint homepage) but also sign in to other public or private wikis (one to which you have been invited to). After creating your username or signing in, all you have to do to create your wiki is go to Wetpaint Homepage (, enter a site name on Name Your Site, enter your chosen URL on Choose URL, and you are ready to create your own website in minutes.

Basic Features and Navigation

Upon loading, your Wetpaint site should look something like this:

You will notice your Site Name on the header on top; and a list of menus at the bottom of this header. This is where you can make changes to your wiki. Below is a list of the menus and what they do:
  • Home: This will take you back to your Home page (easy!) To add additional pages to your wiki, you must click on Add a new page on the top left hand side sidebar.
  • Discussions: This is where you post, reply to and follow discussion. To start a new discussion - Post Thread.
  • Photos and Videos: This is where you can upload photos and videos. Also, any videos or photos uploaded anywhere on the site will be available for viewing here as well. Photos can be grouped intogalleries; videos into Collections.
  • Updates: A summary of all the updates performed and by whom. Very very useful when doing a collborative job!
  • To-dos: Quite simply, a to-do list required for the page. If you want someone to do a particular edit, make sure to post a to-do on the page.
  • Droplets: These are basically widgets that you can add to your favourite social networking site or aggregator, so that you will be able to follow your wiki's updates more easily.
  • Members: A summary of the members of the wiki, with a list of page edits performed as well. By clicking on he member's names you can add them as friends and send them private messages.
  • My Profile: Change your profile details, view messages, compliments, manage your account.
  • Promote: Get tips on how to improve traffic on your site
  • Settings: Last, but most certainly not least, this is the place to change your site settings: from layouts, to templetes, to privacy settings and who can access and edit your site.

Inviting Collaborators

The Scope of having a Wiki is not to build it yourself, but to have collaborators who together work to create a common website. At a basic level, one can have three types of Wikis: A wiki which everyone can edit, even unonimously (100% public); a wiki which only members can edit; or a 100% private wiki, which members may only join by private invitation from an administrator. In the case of private wikis, there is also the added advantage of it being relatively ad-free. Unfortunately at the time of writing this post, the invitation feature for private sites is temporaly disabled; therefore to invite people to join your site, temporarily put the site as "public", share the site's URL with your collaborators, and ask them to click on the Sign Up icon at the top right hand corner of the screen. As soon as everyone has joined, the administrator can put the site back on Private.

In this first part we have only just touched on the basic features of Wetpaint WIkis: What they are, how to create them, and how to invite collaborators. The second part will include more information on how to build up your wiki by adding pages and widgets. Stay tuned :)

Sites to remember: