FAQ: Web 2.0 publishing

Your blog and wiki questions answered

What is Web 2.0 publishing?

Web 2.0 publishing differs from earlier versions in decoupling the page itself from the content on it. Rather than containing one continuous piece of text, page contents tend to be created and added to templates in stages over time. Content generally passes through Web-based publishing tools.

Who are the players?

The toolmakers hold the cards in the blog segment of Web 2.0 -- Google, Typepad and similar services. There are a number of wiki providers (ably compared at WikiMatrix), but the iconic example of the genre is of course Wikipedia. Flickr, the popular photo-sharing tool, could be regarded as a Web 2.0 publishing site. And remember, publishing can take on non-electronic forms; the e-commerce site CafePress has a Web 2.0-like reliance on user creativity, while Lulu.com offers small-run publishing on demand. Yes, onto paper.

What are blogs?

Blogs (weblogs) are a means of creating and updating Web pages with a minimum of fuss.

Who blogs?

Despite a reputation for being the province of adolescent navel-gazers and political gadflies (often inhabiting the same bodies), bloggers are currently writing on any topic you can imagine, and many you probably wouldn't.

That said, many of the most-read blogs currently online cover technology topics. These include Engadget, Boing Boing, Techcrunch, Gizmodo and Slashdot. Collaborative political blogs such as DailyKos and "The Huffington Post" also rank high on lists such as those kept by Bloglines and Technorati.

What's RSS?

A tool to manage the inevitable expansion of the number of blogs you want to keep up with. Please see the RSS section in the Web 2.0 Newsgathering FAQ.

What's a wiki?

Any one of a number of extremely simple collaborative publishing systems, which can be password protected or open to the world. A wiki (from wiki-wiki, a Hawaiian word for "fast") can provide one or many pages that are easily moderated. It can also maintain a list of changes so questionable entries can be traced and/or rolled back.

Aren't wikis unreliable?

The content is as reliable as the contributors. (The software behind the scenes is generally pretty solid.) Collaboration can lead to irresponsibility, as discussed in the Web 2.0 collaboration FAQ. However, a celebrated study in Nature in late 2005 compared Wikipedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica and found them to contain about the same error rate.

Those interested in Wikipedia's internal error-correction process can get a good look by selecting a controversial subject and looking at its talk page. As of March 2007, we suggest the entry for American singer and activist Paul Robeson.

Have any wikis been published in printed form?

When it was time to update Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (Basic Books, 2000), copyright law expert Lawrence Lessig fired up a wiki and invited contributions. The results were incorporated into the book, which was published in late 2006.


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