Biography:Ward Cunningham

From HandWiki
Short description: American computer programmer who developed the first wiki (born 1949)
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 74)
Michigan City, Indiana, U.S.
Alma materPurdue University
OccupationComputer programmer
Years active1984–present
Known forWikiWikiWeb, the first implementation of a wiki
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development (document)

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, he started coding the WikiWikiWeb in 1994, and installed it on (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 employment

Howard G. Cunningham was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 26, 1949.[2] He grew up in Highland, Indiana, staying there through high school.[3] He 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] He 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] Cunningham left CitizenGlobal and is now 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] He created the site (and software) WikiWikiWeb, the first internet wiki, in 1995.

When asked in a 2006 interview with 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."[13] File:Ward Cunningham, Inventor of the Wiki.webm

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."[14]

In 2011, Cunningham created Smallest Federated Wiki, a tool for wiki federation, which applies aspects of software development such as forking to wiki pages. He signed the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.[15]

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."[16] 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.[17] Although originally referring to interactions on Usenet, the law has been used to describe how other online communities work, such as Wikipedia.[18] Cunningham himself denies ownership of the law, calling it a "misquote that disproves itself by propagating through the internet".[19]

Personal life

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.[20][21][22][23]

Cunningham is Nike's first "Code for a Better World" Fellow.[24]


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

See also

  • Christopher Alexander – Cunningham cites Alexander's work as directly influencing his own.
  • PatternShare


  1. "Wikimedia Developer Summit 2017 Program". 
  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". 
  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. 
  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". March 31, 2011. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Ward Cunningham Joins the New Relic Family". New Relic Blog. 2013-04-05. 
  12. "Introduction to the Technical Debt Concept". 
  13. Kerner, Sean Michael (December 8, 2006), Q&A with Ward Cunningham,, 
  14. CubeSpace, Portland Oregon (December 7, 2008). "Ward Cunningham, Lecture". Cyborg Camp Live Stream – Mogulus Live Broadcast. 
  15. "Manifesto for Agile Software Development". 2019-06-11. 
  16. "Jurisimprudence". Schott's Vocab Blog. May 31, 2010. 
  17. McGeady, Steven (May 28, 2010). "Cunningham's Law". Schott's Vocab. New York Times. Comment No. 119. "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." 
  18. Friedman, Nancy (May 31, 2010). "Word of the Week: Cunningham's Law". 
  19. Cunningham (2015-10-18), NOT CUNNINGHAM'S LAW,, retrieved 2017-12-20 
  20. Federal, Communications Commission. "K9OX". United States Government. 
  21. Federal, Communications Commission. "Ward Cunningham". United States Government. 
  22. Federal, Communications Commission. "K9OX, Expired". United States Government. 
  23. TenTec, Wiki. "Ward Cunningham". Ten Tec Wiki. 
  24. "Nike Materials Index: Open Data Hackathon". San Francisco Chronicle. August 6, 2009. 

External links