Ward Cunningham


Ward Cunningham is an American computer programmer who developed the first wiki.  A pioneer in both design patters and extreme programming, he started programming the software WikiWiki Web in 1994 and installed it on the website of his own software consultancy, on March 25, 1995.

He is currently a programmer at New Relic in downtown Portland. Previously he was the Co-Creation Czar for CitizenGlobal, he is Nike’s first Code for a Better World Fellow. He has authored a book about wikis, titled “The Wiki Way” and also invented Framework for Integrated Tests.

A Look Inside the Creative

In my own wiki, I took issues to the extreme. I made as much as possible editable, and didn’t keep a record — so that ‘Delete’ really worked, so that you thought about it when you used it. I’m pleased that people have accepted that challenge, and figured out what they can do that way. In creating wiki, I wanted to stroke that story-telling nature in all of us. Second, and perhaps most important, I wanted people who wouldn’t normally author to find it comfortable authoring, so that there stood a chance of us discovering the structure of what they had to say.

All the time we find ourselves in situations where people know things about the program, but they can’t apply that knowledge to the program. Why? Because the knowledge runs counter to some organizational decision that was made before they had that knowledge. In other words, the program becomes resistant to that collection of knowledge. Often as you move comments around and have similar comments adjacent to each other, you find that half of the words can be cut out. Because a sentence says it all if the sentence is in just the right place.

His Work

Cunningham is interested in tracking the number and location of wiki page edits as a sociological experiment and may even consider the degradation of a wiki page as part of its process to stability. “There are those who give and those who take. You can tell by reading what they write. Advise given by Cunningham in the early 1980s, “The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is

not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.” This soon became known as, Cunningham’s law. Although Cunningham was referring to interactions on Usnet, the law has been used to describe how Wikipedia works.In 2011, Cunningham created Smallest Federated Wiki, a tool for wiki federation, which applies aspects of software development such as forking to wiki pages.

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