This is the thirty-second installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.
What this wiki is for: WikiWikiWeb is the first wiki forum ever, and the current name of the first wiki engine.
But it's more than just a couple of cultural artifacts. The brainchild of software innovator/wiki inventor Ward Cunningham, WikiWikiWeb is a virtual repository of many of the ideas and discusssions that shaped the approach and indentity of wikis. The aggregate is an approach that many people in the wiki world now call "The Wiki Way."
Why we like it: So what is the wiki way? I met Ward Cunningham at a now-infamous night of parties at Web 2.0 2005. I was struck by how shy, humble but friendly was the father of wikis at a gathering of software honchos often known for other qualities on the human spectrum. I felt like I was meeting a gentle wizard. I say this with great respect: Cunningham represents a middle-earth of software development known for a more enlightened approach to the craft. Turns out that Cunningham and his brood were influenced by the deep and intuitive thinking of architect (buildings not software) Christopher Alexander, whose teachings I was introduced to years ago (1978) by another gentle wizard, a close friend of mine at Princeton (an architecture student) who was struggling to commit to a career he was certain he would hate. Alexander, then Cunningham, and then others, taught many people to find a higher purpose in their craft. For Cunningham, it has always been about "creating technologies that connect people."
Here's one thing you will learn on WikiWikiWeb: the utter simplicity of a good wiki. That's one of the early, controlling concepts that Cunningham helped to advance. Possibly his most famous quote, "what is the simplest thing that could possibly work?" A great question for a movement that would later take this technology to the masses.
What we all can learn from it: if you are truly committed to building a wiki, and are looking to understand the first philosophical impulses that brought this form into being, WikiWikiWeb is worth a visit. The conversation has evolved over the years -- most recently into the world of "extreme programming." Still, there's enough here to satisfy the curiosity of the most wiki-committed but technologically-challenged. It's a great walk for anyone, along the wiki way.