What is it about wiki that makes it a successful technique for creating Web sites?
First and foremost, the energy and persistence of the community drives a wiki, whether it be dealing with content, organisation, or conflict.
- ManyHandsMakeLightWork?. Having many people work on a Web site means that each person does proportionately less work. The more people that can work on a page, the less each one has to do.
- LowBarrierToEntry. Of course, there are many ways to collaborate on a Web page or a Web site. The interesting part of wiki is that, because AnyoneCanEdit? and there’s ReallyEasyEditing?, the barrier to entry is almost zero. This increases the number of hands, making for (you guessed it!) lighter work.
- RapidTurnaround?. If something is wrong with a wiki page, the reader can correct it – instantly. No bug reports, no reporting problems to the “proper authorities”, no insiders and outsiders. There is no WebmasterBottleneck?. If there’s a problem, it can be fixed by the person who found it. This improves quality.
- WikiIsDocumentBased. In a message-based system, (see DocumentsVsMessages,) the same information can be exchanged over, and over, and over, and over again – each time getting lost in the stream of messages. DocumentMode? means that contributors work on one document. Repetition of the same answers to FrequentlyAskedQuestions isn’t needed – instead, people can work on new answers to new questions, or better answers to old questions.
- IterativeDevelopment?. Wiki tends to foster an iterative development process. No single contributor is on the hook to write an entire wiki page; instead, each one adds information a bit at a time. The work is shared, and the page improves (almost) monotonically. (The downside of this is that readers who see a page in its early stages may be turned off.)
- ContentOverForm. Wiki tends to abstract out the fancy parts of making a Web site – bit-twiddling HTML tables, futzing with pixel borders in CSS files, fiddling with strange Apache commands. With wiki, the contributor worries about just one thing: the text. This tends to make the SignalToNoiseRatio? higher (although, conversely, some people think WikisAreUgly).
- MicroContribution. Many Web publishing systems require a high level of commitment. Because a wiki contributor is free to add as little or as much as they want, with a LowBarrierToEntry, someone without a lot of time, energy, or interest can still share knowledge.
- TheoryBuilding & LinkLanguage. People working on a wiki build language as they communicate and form concepts. The language that is built is documented, rather than requiring re-explanation (ExplicitInformation, not CommunityLore.) The benefit carries out beyond the wiki- the words and language used elsewhere link back into the wiki (see WikiDebateBase,) continuing the conversation (HyperTextApproximatesConversation.) People who speak from the wiki’s language stand on the shoulder of giants– the collective work that has come before. People don’t have to rewrite the same introductory text over and over; they just add new and interesting ideas at the end.
If at this point you’re saying, “Yeah, but it’ll never work”, you should investigate WhyWikiDoesntNotWork.
See also: StraightenThePaintingSource
I guess I’m a little tired of WhyWikiWorks pages being about how SoftSecurity works. SoftSecurity is important, but it’s really more about WhyWikiDoesntNotWork. I tried instead to think of some positive principles that make the wiki process a success. I dunno – I guess the rearguard action of always talking about WhyWikiDoesntNotWork invites too much suspicion. I wanted to say, “Hey, these things are what make wiki so successful,” not “these are the things that keep wiki from failing miserably.”
I guess there’s two seperate WhyWikiWorks threads:
- Why wiki works, despite anyone being able to edit anything. (Vandalism.)
- Why we like wiki. Why wiki is neat tech, what it can do for you, what’s so cool about ConsolidateInformation, stuff like that.
I was thinking of an analogy: WhyCarsWork? would describe 4-stroke engines, pneumatic tires, transmissions, and drive shafts. WhyCarsDontFail? would describe bumpers, safety belts, and airbags. Similarly, WhyWikiWorks covers how this medium moves forward, and WhyWikiDoesntFail? describes how this medium keeps from crashing into walls (or, rather, from falling apart when it does).
I guess I’m looking for something like, “Why use cars? Because you can go anyplace that roads go to.”
Something like that, but for wiki. Perhaps: “WhyUseWiki?.”