Getting wiki with it: Wiki types (AboutUs included) collaborate on universal wiki edit button

Universal Edit ButtonAs home to Ward Cunningham, father of the wiki, Portland has a special place in the world of wiki. And, of course, we’ve also got AboutUs here—Ward’s current employer—which holds the promise to be one of the leading wikis in the world.

So when something momentous happens with wikis, it affects Portland. And today’s announcement definitely fits the bill.

Introducing the Universal Edit Button.

What is the Universal Edit Button? Well, you know how we’ve all become conditioned to look for the little RSS chiclet as an indicator that an RSS feed is available? This is that same idea—only it’s an icon that indicates a page is editable.

And while the conversations around the concept have been circulating for a few years, like wikis themselves, the actual development took place quite quickly.

“We were at Recent Changes Camp in May, when the discussion about this concept came up again,” said Mark Dilley of AboutUs. “And suddenly it was like ‘Let’s just do this.'”

That was a little over a month ago. And now, 20 different wikis are participating. That’s mind boggling to me. And a testament to the wiki community.

So how will it work? The Universal Edit Button wiki describes it this way:

The Universal Editing Button (UEB) wiki.png will allow a web surfer to more quickly recognize when a site may be edited. It will be a convenience to web surfers who are already inclined to contribute, and an invitation to those who have yet to discover the thrill of building a common resource. As this kind of public editing becomes more commonplace, the button may become regarded as a badge of honor. It may serve as an incentive to encourage companies and site developers to add publicly-editable components to their sites, in order to have the UEB wiki.png displayed for their sites.

Portland’s Marshall Kirkpatrick put it this way:

Leave it to people in the wiki market to know how to collaborate. Nearly 20 different wiki providers have teamed up to offer a new Firefox extension that will notify users whenever they are on a page that is publicly editable, using a standard icon that sits in the same place the RSS autodiscovery icon appears. Clicking on the icon… will take you to that page’s editing interface.

Again, I think this is a huge step forward in wiki collaboration and its great to see. But what I remain even more impressed by? The speed at which this whole thing took place. And the collaboration that helped them achieve it.

I think there are any number of open-source and open-specification pursuits that could stand to learn from this.

For some of the history and discussion of this concept, you can see some of the dialogue on the AboutUs Universal Edit Button page. For more on the sites supporting this fledgingly concept and information on how to participate, visit the Universal Edit Button wiki. Convinced? Here’s the Universal Edit Button Firefox extension.

  1. there is an update, it is on it’s next version and it has a new icon! https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/7804

    (granted this happened over the summer!)

  2. […] the little orange RSS chiclet, the Universal Edit Button—launched last week—is, in my opinion, one of the most promising promotional tools for raising the visibility of […]

  3. The very fact that you can ask what types of websites besides wikis can be edited helps explain why this is such a good idea. Separate from the convenience of the tech, it spreads awareness that many website have – or could have – opportunities for readers to become contributors.

  4. @Mark Yep, that helps! Thank you!

  5. One such instance is that Brian Kerr wrote the plugin (minus the plugin casing) for his wordpress weblogs. So now when he is logged in, he can edit from the URL bar.

    He will upload the code soon to this FutureLink :


    Is that what you are asking? Best, Mark

  6. @John Abbe: Interesting. Could you provide another example or two of types of sites–beyond wiki–that might employee this edit button? Thanks in advance for the additional insight.

  7. I see a lot of commentary about this framing it as a wiki thing. While it clearly comes from the wiki community, the tech itself is entirely general – so it’s about raising the visibility of editability *anywhere* on the web, not just on wikis.

  8. I think there’s an important “promotional” element that’s intrinsic to this whole thing. Like RSS feeds adopting a common icon, this move raises the visibility of, well, “editability.”

    RSS really took off when it became more obvious and there were easy ways of managing feeds. Wikis only have the problem of becoming more obvious, because the editing is part and parcel of the form.

    It will be really interesting to see if this moves wiki participation in the same direction as RSS consumption. At the very least, hopefully it will help people better understand what they have the ability to change.

  9. @Jmartens: the question you bring up is one of the culture within the individual wikis, not really a problem that is related to the Universal Edit Button. Like most aspects of wiki editing, it just depends on the community of that wiki. The same question already applies to any wiki that already prominently features open editing.

  10. I agree that this is a cool and important step.

    However, I worry about 1 possible negative effect. It has been my experience that most wiki pages are monitored and edited by an ‘elite’ and tight knit group of wiki-enthusiasts. What happens when people not part of this elite community start clicking on the edit button? Will the elite’s effectively block the regular guys contribution?

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