Wiki etiquette

Jeneane responded with her opinion about the statement that many more men weblog than women. I think that we can safely assume that she doesn’t quite agree with this statement.

Jeneane is also one of the happy, hardy volunteers for Kitchen duty, and is coming up with some interesting sounding ideas. Damn interesting in fact. She asked about where to focus her writing, and whether to write to the wiki or the weblog, and I thought a comparison between the two might be good for a weblog post.

Of course we know what a weblog post is. It’s a long-form, short commented link, featuring photos, not having photos, written, spoken, seen, commented, not commented, about one’s cat, and about anything but one’s cat. Well, maybe if we’re really honest, we don’t know what it is; other than I think we can all agree that it has a unique author, and it’s rarely edited after publishing. These are the key differences between a weblog and a wiki.

(And that anyone can usually sign up for a wiki user account, but most weblogs only have invitation only author list. The Kitchen, however, is completely open – anyone can sign up for their own account, and start writing as soon as they do.)

In a weblog, you identify the author of a post. The author may be writing under an alias, but there’s still (usually) one author. A wiki, on the other hand, actively discourages identification of an article with a specific person. In fact, following traditional wiki protocol, names are usually removed from contributions to a main wiki article page.

(They are, however, encouraged within discussion pages associated with the article, if the software supports this. The software we’re using does. To sign your name, sign up for a user account, login, and then when you want to add something to a discussion page, just type in four tildes: ~~~~. This puts in your username, a link to your user page, and the timestamp of the edit. )

In addition, the writing in a wiki article page is open to editing. Weblog posts are edited by their author, but usually not edited after posting. Wiki articles are continuously edited, and usually not by the original contributor.

Now, wiki discussion entries are not edited, or in my opinion, shouldn’t be edited; because these are comments and notes made by contributors, or readers, about the contents of the ariticle. If you want to see a good example differentiating between material in a wiki article, and the discussion associated with an article, check out Wikipedia’s George Bush page, and it’s related discussion pages. Right now, the article is ‘protected’, and under mediation to discourage vandalism (see Wikipedia’s fascinating discussion about protecting pages).

I will be following the procedures and guidelines established by Wikipedia because, frankly, this site and the people who maintain it know what they are doing. Which means encouraging multi-author contributions in the articles, discouraging editing of comments in the discussion, and protecting pages that get too hot to handle, until the participants cool down.

For the Kitchen clinic, I will be writing essays daily to the weblog, and most likely will be copying the contents of the essay to the appropriate page in the wiki, in order to hopefully jump start topics not already started. If a topic has been started then I may only add a link to the essay in the weblog.

Now, my enthusiasm for this wiki in this circumstance, doesn’t mean that I’m enthusiastic for wikis in all group efforts. In my comments, Sean Conner brought up the obvious enthusiasm I have for the Weblogging Wikipedia as compared to my oft stated reluctance and criticism of the wiki-driven effort with Atom.

I felt, and still feel, that the Atom effort didn’t suit a wiki. In fact, it didn’t take long before most of this effort left the wiki and became focused in the mailing list associated with the Atom syntax.

Atom was seeking to create a new specification in an environment that had been heavily contentious in the past. As such, it tended to attract fairly aggressive participants who would barely wait for the ink to dry on the paper before going in and editing whatever was written all to heck. Wikis should encourage editing, but not at the expense of each person having a right to have their voices heard. If a wiki is dominated by a small group of very aggressive editors, much of the beauty of the community participating in the wiki is lost.

In addition, the Atom effort was to form a specification, not necessarily to document existing information. In my opinion, and people can and probably will disagree with me, that a wiki is better suited to documentation and dissemination of information, than resolution.

In addition, as I’ve said previously, a wiki is a great way to document the ebb and tide of this very transitory medium we call weblogging. In fact, I had an email today asking for a summary of the contretemps that happened earlier in the year; the person wanted this for an article he is writing. This is the perfect demonstration of the benefit of the wiki for weblogging because once the event is documented, and all links scouted out and linked in, in cases like this, we just point the person to the relevant wiki page.

Only thing now, is I have to decide if I should add a new category to handle it: weblogging warfare.

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