Wikis - FAQs
What is a wiki?
The term "wiki" refers both to a set of interconnected webpages that can be edited by anyone
(with appropriate permission) from anywhere; and also, to the software that enables open editing in a collaborative way.
Why use a wiki?
Wikis are important educational and collaboration tools through which students and instructors, or other self-organized groups, can participate in developing and sharing knowledge locally (or globally) using the web.
The objective in using a wiki is to collaboratively build a shared repository of knowledge, with the knowledge base growing over time. A well-known example of a successful wiki is Wikipedia.
Wikis are easy to learn to use and act as an immediate and wide ranging source of information. They provide:
- The opportunity to share skills and content from geographically disparate locations; wikis are online so wiki pages and attachments can be shared anytime from anywhere.
- Flexibility; the nature of wikis as well as usage norms allows groups to customize their space(s).
- The potential to alleviate the "spam" associated with back and forth e-mail or instant messages common to collaborative study or work environments; everyone's contribution is seen and can be commented upon.
An accessible and ongoing history of all modifications, updates and additions to space is maintained.
- A secure environment; it is virtually impossible to lose information and you can choose who views and creates comments on your spaces and pages. Inappropriate or offensive entries can be removed.
- Self-service online help that can guide the novice user.
How did the University of Saskatchewan choose its wiki tool?
In March 2006, ICT provided a wiki tool with minimal support, documentation or assistance; at the close of 2007, the amount of use, available features and suitability of the existing service were assessed.
The review of the "bare bones" wiki pilot established the University community's interest in, and need for, an institutional wiki service to support educational collaboration. Without active promotion of advantages in
using a wiki, nine public wikis and 68 private wikis were created by the University community during the period. The technology had been embraced by research groups, faculty and technical support personnel within the University; access and contributions were focused on specific peer groups.
As part of the review process, a group of wiki implementers participated in a formal requirements gathering process. Using the representative requirements and online resources available at wikimatrix.org,
ICT identified four wiki tools with strong potential for an institutional wiki service. At that stage a project was organized to complete selection of an enterprise wiki tool; to implement a suitable technical environment that can differentiate between
registered and non-registered users, letting us keep non-registered users from making changes; and to develop the capacity to provide the University community with ongoing support of the selected wiki tool.
The Atlassian Confluence product was selected and rolled out in mid-August 2008.
The many features of the Confluence wiki tool, can be found here.
for more information about the U of S service or to request a demonstration.
What are the benefits of a centrally-supported wiki tool?
A partial list of benefits includes:
- A campus peer support community for ongoing idea generation and sharing online resources.
- Access to the user-friendly software, as well as development, testing and production environments.
- Access to support services, including hardware, software, database, plug-in and wiki tool support. The collaborators all benefit from ICT's applying upgrades as required to maintain a robust service.
- Access to best practice and guideline documentation, including converting or transferring existing MediaWiki sites (used through the 2006-2007 pilot period) to the Confluence tool.
- Training and consultation to support successful use of the wiki tool, including workshops, one-on-one sessions and training manuals.
- Supported integration with other IT systems on campus including PAWS; this integration provides instructors and students with automatic authorization into a wiki based on class registration or group membership.
What do I need to do to use the University of Saskatchewan wiki service?
The wiki is available to "anonymous" (non-registered) users as well as to "members" (U of S Members and Guests). By using your NSID username and password, or your guest username and password, you can log in as a member of the wiki service. As a U of S member,
you will have more editing and contributing access than an anonymous user. Guests will require additional access privileges from wiki owners.
Non-U of S Members will need to register as a guest and pass their guest username to the wiki owners so it can be added to their space permissions.
When should I use a private wiki?
We recommend a private wiki be used as part of online collaboration that is not intended for public viewing or participation. For example,
when an instructor wants the students in a class (a pre-defined group of people) to use the wiki for discussion, keeping it private is suggested.
Wikis will be private by default when created or migrated by the University on behalf of a class, group, or user.
What is a wiki space?
Spaces are the hub of the wiki. They may be created for project collaboration, personal interest groups and even your own personal use. All wiki spaces have three levels of access:
Group, Individual, and Anonymous, which may be configured with varying permission capabilities.
A single personal space may be created for private use. Personal spaces are available to UofS Members.
To learn how to use the Confluence wiki tool, a member can reference our User Guide or sign up for a
For more information please contact
to learn more about the system and request a demonstration.
What is the difference between a webpage content management system and a wiki?
The primary difference is that wikis focus on collaboration and flexibility in how space and information is organized.
- A webpage content management system is very well suited to formal "authorized" sites where branding and image are cultivated; they work well in an environment that follows a
formal approach to site structure, navigation and content contribution.
- A wiki is very well suited to informal sites where pages can be user-created; the hierarchy and structure of the site is created in an ad-hoc way. The content
is published directly by the author in all cases.
For example, collaborative project and knowledge repository sites for internal documentation are often restricted to a team and are therefore well-suited to using a wiki.
Why does a wiki work?
- Anyone can contribute to a wiki.
- The self-organized group has an interest in keeping the content focussed on a specific topic. There is usually a strong commitment
from the community contributing to a wiki which keeps it clean and relevant.
- Wiki pages represent consensus because it is easy to remove wiki spam or other unsuitable content. What remains on the wiki
generates new ideas by the iterative integration of multiple points of view.
- Wikis provide the freedom to express thoughts, ideas and perspectives, which can then be edited, corrected or shaped into information
that is relevant and useful to the community.
What do I need to get started?
Some things to look for on the Dashboard:
- From the left hand side of the Dashboard look for getting started materials such as a demonstration space and User Guide.
- The "Wiki Sandbox Space" can be used by anyone wanting to become familiar with the product – separate test spaces are no longer needed!
The sandbox will be refreshed every month.
- The Log In is found at the top right hand of the Dashboard. After logging in using your NSID and password, as a U of S Member you will have access to
UofS wiki's and more features such as the ability to customize your Dashboard. Log in and look for the ‘star’ symbol that adds a wiki space to your
How does Confluence send me notifications?
Can I create and manage ad hoc groups?
At this time it is not possible to create and manage ad hoc groups. Defined organizational units and class groups are managed and supported by central services.
Wiki space "owners" are able to manage who has access to their wiki space by adding or removing users. You must know people's NSID in order to add
them to your wiki space.
Contact the ICT Help Desk for assistance with groups.
How much space do individual users have on the Confluence server
Each Wiki space is restricted to 300 MB by default. The largest individual attachment size that Confluence can
support is 100 MB per attachment with a restriction of five files per upload.
How do I upload a class list to a Wiki Space?
Instructions on how to upload a class list to your wiki space can be found in our wiki documentation section.
- Class groups can now be added to the wiki permissions which precludes the necessity to upload class lists. When you use the new class groups, membership is maintained by class registration and will automatically be updated with changes in class enrollment.
- Wiki spaces can be created from Blackboard or PAWS Course Tools and the membership of the wiki permissions is controlled automatically.
Where can I find some ideas for using a Wiki
What do I need to know about moving a MediaWiki wiki into the new system?
- If you are an instructor using wikis in your classes, we are able to help convert your site; contact us at
- Working with the Confluence product prior to converting an existing site is recommended. We have a test "sandbox" available that is refreshed every month for any registered user's use at any time.
- The conversion process from the MediaWiki system to Confluence is not exact. It will support basic wiki markup language conversions, but not HTML conversions. Page histories are not converted as they are stored differently;
the history for the wiki starts when it is moved into the new system. In addition, there are the following limitations to the conversion process:
- Not all attachments are being included in the migration. This seems to be the result of a size constraint. You may need to re-attach files once the wiki is in Confluence.
- E-mail addresses have @ converted to "at" during the conversion. You will need to manually fix any e-mail addresses included in your wiki.
- If there is no Confluence equivalent translation for the wiki syntax/markup (e.g. TWiki tables allow column spans while Confluence does not currently) the conversion is imperfect. However, no data should be lost.
- Image galleries that are housed outside of standard wiki pages are not converted.
- Converting the page groups, hierarchies, categories or other page metadata does not occur.
- Forums are not converted.
- User profiles are not converted (unless they are wiki pages).
What will happen to my 'MediaWiki' wiki?
- Approximately 80 wiki spaces were created during the pilot which used the MediaWiki software. ICT will assist with migrations
to the Confluence wiki system where possible, and new wiki spaces will be created in the Confluence product.
The Confluence dashboard provides access to any MediaWiki wiki.