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Ward Cunningham

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Ward Cunningham
A bearded man in his early sixties grinning while wearing eyeglasses and a fleece jacket
Cunningham in December 2011
Howard G. Cunningham

(1949-05-26) May 26, 1949 (age 75)
Alma materPurdue University
OccupationComputer programmer
Years active1984–present
Known forWikiWikiWeb, the first implementation of a wiki
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development (document)
Call signK9OX

Howard G. Cunningham (born May 26, 1949) is an American computer programmer who developed the first wiki and was a co-author of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. A pioneer in both design patterns and extreme programming,[peacock prose] he started coding the WikiWikiWeb in 1994, and installed it on c2.com (the website of his software consultancy) on March 25, 1995, as an add-on to the Portland Pattern Repository. He co-authored (with Bo Leuf) a book about wikis, entitled The Wiki Way, and invented the Framework for Integrated Test.

Cunningham was a keynote speaker at the first three instances of the WikiSym conference series on wiki research and practice, and also at the Wikimedia Developer Summit 2017.[1]

Early life and career


Cunningham was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 26, 1949.[2] He grew up in Highland, Indiana, where he completed high school.[3]

Cunningham received his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary engineering (electrical engineering and computer science) and his master's degree in computer science from Purdue University, graduating in 1978.[4] He is a co-founder of Cunningham & Cunningham, a software consultancy he started with his wife.[5]

Cunningham has also served as Director of R&D at Wyatt Software and as Principal Engineer in the Tektronix Computer Research Laboratory. He is founder of The Hillside Group and has served as program chair of the Pattern Languages of Programming conference which it sponsors.

Cunningham was part of the Smalltalk community.

From December 2003 until October 2005, Cunningham worked for Microsoft in the "Patterns & Practices" group. From October 2005 to May 2007, he held the position of Director of Committer Community Development at the Eclipse Foundation. In May 2009, he joined AboutUs as its chief technology officer.[6][7] On March 24, 2011 The Oregonian reported that Cunningham had departed AboutUs to join the Venice Beach-based CitizenGlobal, a startup working on crowd-sourced video content, as their chief technology officer and the Co-Creation Czar.[8] He remains "an adviser" with AboutUs.[9][10] In April 2013, Cunningham left CitizenGlobal to work as a programmer at New Relic.[11]

Ideas and inventions


Cunningham is well known for a few widely disseminated ideas which he originated and developed. The most famous among these are the wiki and many ideas in the field of software design patterns, made popular by the Gang of Four (GoF). He owns the company Cunningham & Cunningham Inc., a consultancy that has specialized in object-oriented programming. He coined the concept of technical debt and expanded on the idea in 1992.[12][13] He created the site (and software) WikiWikiWeb, the first internet wiki, in 1995.

When asked in a 2006 interview with internetnews.com whether he considered patenting the wiki concept, he explained that he thought the idea "just sounded like something that no one would want to pay money for."[14]

Cunningham during an interview in 2011

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."[15]

In 2011, Cunningham created Smallest Federated Wiki, a tool for wiki federation, which applies aspects of software development such as forking to wiki pages.

In 2001, he signed the Manifesto for Agile Software Development as a co-author.[16]

Cunningham has contributed to the practice of object-oriented programming, in particular the use of pattern languages and (with Kent Beck) the class-responsibility-collaboration cards. He also contributes to the extreme programming software development methodology. Much of this work was done collaboratively on the first wiki site.

"Cunningham's Law"


Cunningham is credited with the idea: "The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer."[17] This refers to the observation that people are quicker to correct a wrong answer than to answer a question. According to Steven McGeady, Cunningham advised him of this on a whim in the early 1980s, and McGeady dubbed this Cunningham's Law.[18] Although originally referring to interactions on Usenet, the law has been used to describe how other online communities work, such as Wikipedia.[19] Cunningham himself relativises his ownership of the law, calling it a "misquote that disproves itself by propagating through the internet" and by saying that he "never suggested asking questions by posting wrong answers".[20]

Personal life

Cunningham in 2023

Cunningham lives in Beaverton, Oregon.[11] He holds an amateur radio extra class license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, and his call sign is K9OX.[21][22][23][24]

Cunningham is Nike's first "Code for a Better World" Fellow.[25]


  • Leuf, Bo; Cunningham, Ward (2001). The Wiki Way. Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0201714999.

See also



  1. ^ "Wikimedia Developer Summit 2017 Program". Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  2. ^ Harry Henderson (2009). Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology. Facts On File. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-8160-6382-6.
  3. ^ "Ward's Home Page". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  4. ^ The Wikipedia Revolution - Andrew Lih, page 46
  5. ^ Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution, p. 58. Hyperion, New York. ISBN 9781401303716.
  6. ^ Bishop, Todd. (January 26, 2004) Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Microsoft Notebook: Wiki pioneer planted the seed and watched it grow. Section: Business; Page D1.
  7. ^ Rogoway, Mike (May 18, 2007). "Inventor of the wiki has a new job in Portland". The Oregonian business blog.
  8. ^ "Our Proven Leadership Team". Citizen Global Website. Archived from the original on May 12, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  9. ^ Rogoway, Mike (March 24, 2011). "Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki, has a new job in SoCal". The Oregonian business blog.
  10. ^ "Ward Cunningham Joins CitizenGlobal". Blog.ratedstar.com. March 31, 2011. Archived from the original on October 16, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Ward Cunningham Joins the New Relic Family". New Relic Blog. April 5, 2013. Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  12. ^ "Introduction to the Technical Debt Concept" (PDF). Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  13. ^ Ward Cunningham (December 1992). "The WyCash portfolio management system". ACM SIGPLAN OOPS Messenger. 4 (2): 29–30. doi:10.1145/157710.157715. ISSN 1055-6400. Wikidata Q123074959.
  14. ^ Kerner, Sean Michael (December 8, 2006), Q&A with Ward Cunningham, internetnews.com, archived from the original on September 16, 2012
  15. ^ CubeSpace, Portland Oregon (December 7, 2008). "Ward Cunningham, Lecture". Cyborg Camp Live Stream – Mogulus Live Broadcast. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009.
  16. ^ "Manifesto for Agile Software Development". June 11, 2019.
  17. ^ "Jurisimprudence". Schott's Vocab Blog. May 31, 2010. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  18. ^ McGeady, Steven (May 28, 2010). "Cunningham's Law". Schott's Vocab. New York Times. Comment No. 119. Retrieved August 30, 2012. n.b. named after Ward Cunningham, a colleague of mine at Tektronix. This was his advice to me in the early 1980s with reference to what was later dubbed USENET, but since generalized to the Web and the Internet as a whole. Ward is now famous as the inventor of the Wiki. Ironically, Wikipedia is now perhaps the most widely-known proof of Cunningham's Law.
  19. ^ Friedman, Nancy (May 31, 2010). "Word of the Week: Cunningham's Law". Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  20. ^ Cunningham (October 18, 2015), NOT CUNNINGHAM'S LAW, archived from the original on December 11, 2021, retrieved December 20, 2017
  21. ^ Federal, Communications Commission. "K9OX". United States Government. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  22. ^ Federal, Communications Commission. "Ward Cunningham". United States Government. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  23. ^ Federal, Communications Commission. "K9OX, Expired". United States Government. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  24. ^ TenTec, Wiki. "Ward Cunningham". Ten Tec Wiki. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  25. ^ "Nike Materials Index: Open Data Hackathon". San Francisco Chronicle. August 6, 2009. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2011.