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This is part of the WikiLifeCycle. When you start your own wiki, it will be empty. No content. There will be nothing to attract more people.

This is where the founder, the GodKing, starts their creation. The founder creates content. If done right, this will attract other people and a new OnlineCommunity emerges. Be a CommittedFounder.



Your wiki needs a name to attract people. You will have to choose a name before you start. If you know people from other media (UseNet, InternetRelayChat), then you can enlist their help for simple questions such as the name.

Usually the simplest name is best: Foo Wiki.

Use a name that is free of collisions (google!), pronounceable and free of special characters. Use CamelCase, so you can create corresponding pages with all wiki engines and have InterWiki links. Make sure the corresponding domain name is free and register it.

Mission Statement

Even more than a name, you need a vision to attract people: a GoalStatement for the entire wiki. They have to know what the wiki is good for (hopefully it will be good for them!) and what part they can play in it. It is important that the wiki not be temporary or experimental. The character of the author and the mission should make it clear that the wiki is here to stay. Better to choose a mission that is "for people" (c.f. TargetGroup) not "for an idea". Ideas won't contribute, people will.

Put all these details on a 'GoalStatement' page or an 'about' page. Of course you should also place a couple of carefully phrased sentences at top of your main page, explaining what your wiki is about.


You don't want to talk about rules and regulations, you want to be open, but you have to talk about the limitations. According to the mission you will have to decide what's off topic. If you don't, you will get into trouble when somebody first talks about esthetics or cooking recipes. But there are other boundaries you have to make clear: How should the contributions look like (define your style)? Who owns the copyright of the contributions? (See 'License' below). Will you accept pseudonyms or urge for the use of RealName? Who is welcome as a member of the community?

Meta Pages

It's tedious, but you should include some meta-information: pages explaining what a wiki is, and how to use it. This is important, even if it starts off as mostly links to other wikis' explanations. Remember that part of the beauty of wikis, is that they are very easy to use. This means your community is potentially open to everyone, not just technical people, but if you want everyone to get involved you may need to explain it a little.


It takes time. In the first two weeks, friends will create their home-pages and leave a few kind words for you on the wiki. Be prepared to spend three, four or more months adding content all by yourself. You will be contributing at least 95% if not 98% of all content. That requires about 1-2 years of 1-2 hours of daily work.

Like the turtle who raced the rabbit in Aesop's Fables, a community builder must toil on at their seemingly thankless task. Or like Johnny Appleseed, planting groves of trees that will not bear fruit until many years in the far-flung future.

At some day the wiki will have to live on its own. There is a time when you have to take a step back and let other people join.

Do not kid yourself. Only a dozen people will actively contribute to the wiki in the beginnings. They write the remaining 2-5% of the content. You might start to see a change after a year or two and 1000 or 2000 pages written.

See SeedPostingExample.

Other people

You don't want to create a wiki just for you, do you? The wiki will act as a public space for the members, empowering them. You will give an initial direction, but the rest depends on the community.

If you want others to contribute, the wiki should become a common effort. Contribute only to create the necessary daily traffic, to give examples, to welcome visitors, to open space for contributions and discussions, to create structure.

It is a difficult balance to strike. Resist the temptation to always fix other people's spelling. Let it stand for a few days. A good indication would be RecentChanges. If you have already written hundreds of pages (frantic seed posting period is over), and still your name is the only one on RecentChanges, something is wrong.

Founding Requirements

Be prepared to spend a lot of time online (at least twice a day), and be prepared to write a lot of pages.

Find a hosting service that works. Ask around.

Know your WikiEngine. Install it at home; play with it. If possible, use the same WikiEngine as other people. UseMod is a good starting point as it only requires one Perl script and will create everything when called. No database required. Almost every hosting service has Perl installed.

But: If you can avoid to be host and developer at the same time, then do it.


As you start out, spend some time thinking about the organisation of your wiki. Things that worked well are Categories. Instead of manually creating a site-map with interesting starting points, use the list of categories as your site-map. In that case, your site-map contains the list of categories, so you do not need a CategoryCategory page.

On the category pages, list some of the pages with the specified category. Thus, newbies will see the wiki as a huge directory. Power users will note that many more pages can be found by clicking on the title and searching for real back-links.

Here's a suggestion for the page called CategoryCode on the EmacsWiki:

Click on the header to search for all pages belonging to the writing of lisp code. These pages contain information for would-be authors of new major and minor modes: EmacsLisp style, coding conventions, pointers and documentation to existing features. What follows are some suggestions; find more appropriate pages by searching for back-links via the header.

How to start writing a new major mode:

GenericMode -- for very simple modes including font-locking and comments
DerivedMode -- for new modes very similar to existing modes
SampleMode -- complete elisp example for a real major mode

Questions of Style:

QuotedLambda -- there is no need to quote lambda expressions
VariableDefinition -- how to define variables

LocalFunctions -- evil hackery when implementing local functions

. . .

You need an Introduction

As you start, you need to explain three things:

  1. A mission statement explaining what is on topic and what is not.
  2. A copyright statement explaining what you intend to do with the content written by other people.
  3. An introduction to wiki newbies teaching them how to contribute and how wikis work.

You need to do this, in order to attract people, so you will have to do this yourself, usually.


As you start writing your first pages, you will probably spend a lot of time doing research on the web, linking to other good resources. That will increase the value of your wiki as a reference site. Careful, though. Too many references and the wiki turns into a directory. Too few references and the wiki turns into a discussion board. Depending on what your goals are, you might want this. Usually, however, a wiki is a knowledge repository.


If you have any good ideas, tell us!! -- AlexSchroeder

A wiki is a social system. It doesn't live in a vacuum, it exists in a neighbourhood. Find this neighbourhood, create good relationships, contribute there and invite them to your wiki.

When your wiki is 3-6 months old, has 10+ members and a few hundred pages, a clear mission and a founded position in the neighbourhood: join the TourBus.


Make sure you adopt a licensing scheme early on. If you do not enforce a licensing scheme, everybody retains their copyright and it would theoretically be possible for other people to prevent you from changing their contributions. Even if this is hard to enforce, your site might have to close down. These are unacceptable legal risks.

There are three general schemes currently used by wiki communities: CommunityCopyright?, PublicDomain, and CopyLeft.

A CommunityCopyright? or DefaultCopyright policy allows wiki contributors to maintain the copyright of their individual contributions while licensing them for use on the wiki. Because of the nature of wikis, the contributor must allow the wiki community to modify their work. In order to redistribute the content outside of the wiki or make derivative works, people must seek the permission of each individual contributor.

A PublicDomain policy states that by contributing to the wiki, the contributor disclaims all copyright. The content of the wiki may be used by anyone in any way, including copying, redistribution making derivative works. A variant is the PrimarilyPublicDomain concept, in which content that does not have a specific copyright notice is considered PublicDomain.

A CopyLeft policy has contributors licensing their work under a specific copyleft license, such as CreativeCommons ShareAlike. This allows anyone to use the content of the wiki for any purpose, and to make derivative works, with the stipulation that all copies and derivative works are released under the same license as the original. The contributor maintains their copyright.

Deciding which licensing scheme to use depends on the goals you have set. PublicDomain and CopyLeft give people permission to reuse content, but also the RightToFork; the ForkingOfOnlineCommunities can be harmful. See WikiCopyright for further discussion.

Whatever you chose for licensing, you must make sure that your potential contributors understand the policy before they contribute. One way to ensure this is to link to the policy from the edit page with a note requesting that all people read the contribution policy before submitting material.

See also: SpellingConventions.



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