uncommon knowledge
You think your thoughts are your own. You're wrong.

You've come to the right place if...

  • You are a UW20 student enrolled in Ryan Jerving's "Uncommon Knowledge" sections at The George Washington University
  • You are looking for the public class wiki on which you'll be able to read and edit materials produced for the class (for other materials, you may have to log into the private class Blackboard site, available at http://blackboard.gwu.edu).


  • To the left, you'll see a menu of the main sections of the site: postings for in-class discussion, drafts of class-produced materials for this wiki, sections for each of the semester's graded projects, and a growing list of common objects in which intellectual property issues are embedded.


  • Below, you'll find guidelines to getting started on writing for a wiki, and this wiki in particular (with some links to more in-depth descriptions).

Working on a wiki

You may find it helpful to open a second browser page (or tab) to test out the things described below as you read about them.

The basics

  • GETTING STARTED: To work on this wiki, you'll first need to register a login and password with wikispaces, and then respond to an invitation to join this particular site sent by the site's administrator -- in this case, me: your instructor, Ryan Jerving. (You'll be doing both steps at once if you wait for the email I'll send you through Colonial Mail. If, for some reason, you don't get this email, you can invite yourself by clicking on Join at the upper right of this page, though you'll have to wait for my confirmation to be able to edit.) To make a comparison to what I expect is a platform more familiar to you: "registering" is like signing up for a Facebook account, and being "invited" to this page is like being "friended." All of this you'll only ever need to do once to work on the site.

  • EDITING: Each time you come to this site -- and this is how it differs from other wikis such as Wikipedia -- you'll need to sign in (see link in upper right corner of screen) in order to contribute material to pages, edit those pages, or post to the discussion boards. (Though you can read everything without signing in.). Then, to edit, click the big green-trimmed "edit this page" button to the upper right of the page text. You can also start a new page of your own (click "New Page" on the menu to the left of this page). See the tips below for some basic guidelines and etiquette -- important if you want to avoid accidentally erasing someone else's work.

  • MAKING SENSE: A wiki tracks all changes and keeps old versions of all pages (called a "history"), so you don't have to worry about destroying your work or anyone else's if you make a mistake (click "history" on the toolbar above to see how this works). You'll notice that the history page also displays any "metadata" the writer included as an editor's note when they saved their changes (i.e., their description of what they did, such as "fixed some typos" or "added new paragraph on trademark cases"). You should do this every time you edit: adding this half sentence of commentary (scroll down when you're ready to save) allows other writers to visit the history tab in order make sense of previous work, and know what to do next.

  • KEEPING UP: It's also worth noting that you can set each page to send you an email when its content has been changed, with the changed text included in the email - very useful for working on group projects (click "notify" on the toolbar above).

Some Tips

I'd recommend two things to make your life easier in working with this wiki:

  • GUERILLA EDITING: Try to work on a page when others aren't. When you go to edit, a notice will come up telling you if someone else currently has the page open to edit. If they do, you should just try again later. The reason: if two or more people are editing simultaneously, only the person who saves their changes last (i.e., closes the page after everyone else) will see their changes on the page -- the other contributions will be written over and effectively erased as though they'd never happened. (For this reason, it's also a good idea to save often rather than leave a page open all night as you work on it.)

  • CUTTING AND PASTING: Don't draft in another word processing program and then cut and paste your text into the wiki. The software has trouble making sense of all the extra formatting stuff that comes along with the text and it will look weird on the wiki. This is especially true for Word. If you want to draft outside the wiki first and then import it, do so in Notepad (or its Mac equivalent TextEdit) which gives you plain text without formatting stuff.

  • TELLING US WHAT YOU DID: As noted above, it's good to get in the habit of adding a bit of commentary after you edit. When you're ready to save, scroll to the bottom of the page and type something into the box labeled "Optional: a note about this edit for the page history log" down when you're ready to save. Then, contributors after you can quickly scan the history to know what you and everyone else before you did, and have a better sense of what to do next. Indeed, when you go to edit a page, it's a good idea yourself to visit the "history" of the page first.

More "How To"