Help:MediaWiki basics/Introduction to MediaWiki and wikis

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"What is MediaWiki?" you ask. Formally it is free server-based software licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). MediaWiki is a powerful, scalable, and feature-rich wiki implementation that uses PHP to process and display data stored in a database, such as MySQL.

Pages use MediaWiki's wikitext format, allowing users not versed in the use of XHTML or CSS to more readily edit wiki content. When a user submits an edit to a page, MediaWiki writes it to the database, but without deleting the previous versions of the page, thus allowing easy reverts in case of vandalism or spamming. MediaWiki can also manage and store image and multimedia files within the file system.

What is a wiki?

MediaWiki is also wiki software. So what is a wiki?

A wiki is typically a web application which allows people to add, modify, or delete content in collaboration with others. A wiki also may act as a type of content management system, though it differs from a blog or most other such systems in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader. Additionally, wikis have little implicit structure, emerging according to the needs of the users. Wikis can serve many different purposes, utilized by both public and private entities. Wikis may act as knowledge management systems, notetaking software, community websites, and intranets. Some allow varying levels of access to different functions. For example, editing rights may permit changing, adding, or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control.

For more about what a wiki is, view the following video:

Wikipedia is one of the most well-known public wikis, and it also uses MediaWiki software. LIMSwiki bases many of its policies off of the Wikipedia model.

For more about what Wikipedia is and how it's used, view the following video:

Uses and benefits

Increasingly, both students and their professors see the challenges facing the world as multidisciplinary, and the need for collaboration great. Over the past few years, the emergence of a raft of new (and often free) tools has made collaboration easier than at any other point in history.[1]

Why would I choose a wiki?

  • Wikis support simple, collaborative authoring.
  • Wikis can be edited by anyone with access to the wiki system you are using.
  • Wikis are about collaborative resource development and easy sharing.
  • People in many professions are using wiki platforms to collaborate with the community on building shared knowledge bases as part of a professional skill set.

Academic uses

  • group authoring on a topic
  • peer review/editing
  • class resource development (building a shared resource/knowledge base for a class)
  • documentation development (resource manuals or guides that need to be updated regularly)
  • presentations (embedded media like slides, video, and images can be added to a wiki page)

Professional uses

  • author a topic collaboratively
  • disseminate information to a broader audience
  • develop a body of knowledge (BoK) for a company or industry
  • provide consistency to information, its presentation, and how it's shared


Above are five LIMSwiki articles using different structures to provide information. The first covers a type of software tool, while the second lists vendors of that tool. The third article describes a not-for-profit organization, the fourth a commercial software vendor, and the fifth an open-source clinical laboratory program. Briefly examine each article.

  1. Is it easy to determine what the pages are about? Why or why not?
  2. Can I easily find what I am looking for using a table of contents or description?
  3. Do I feel invited to edit the pages? Which pages look easy and which more difficult to edit?
  4. What elements do I like most on the pages?
  5. What are some of my concerns after looking at these pages?

External links


  1. Johnson, L.; Levine, A.; Smith, R.; Stone, S. (2010). "The Horizon Report - 2010 Edition". The New Media Consortium. ISBN 9780982533437. Retrieved 20 October 2013.