Ward Cunningham

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)
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, 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.

Early life and employment

Howard G. Cunningham was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 26, 1949. He grew up in Highland, Indiana, staying there through high school. 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. He is a co-founder of Cunningham & Cunningham, a software consultancy he started with his wife. 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. 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. He remains "an adviser" with AboutUs. Cunningham left CitizenGlobal and is now a programmer at New Relic.

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. 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."

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."

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.

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

Personal life

Cunningham in 2023

Cunningham lives in Beaverton, Oregon. He holds an amateur radio extra class license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, and his call sign is K9OX.

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


See also

This page was last updated at 2023-11-03 02:53 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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