Editors can exercise various degrees of control over a wiki.

There seem to be three major types of wiki, arranged in order of degree of editorial control:



A “Scratch Wiki,” is a wiki like WardsWiki.

The quality of pages on WardsWiki is highly variable. A few may be detailed and refined works of art, but most are chicken scratch. ThreadMode predominates. OffTopic is heartily accepted.

There is refactoring, and there is order. OnTopic content is likely to be organized. But, it can be a bit distracted, since there are constant pot-shots, and it’s hard to “protect” an area from the barbarian hoards.

Scratch Wiki can easily support hoards of wiki-zens. Little commitment is required, on anyone’s part.

Suggesting pages by spontaneous link patterns is acceptable, even encouraged, on a scratch wiki. See PageProlepsis and AccidentalLinking.


A communal wiki is occupied by a clique or community. (See CliquesAndCommunities.) It is managed. It is kept relatively neat.

The community takes responsible for what is present. The community tidies up. There is generally some sort of WikiProcess, stated or unstated.

Visitors come over, and contribute. This is a burden on the maintainers, but it is accepted, as long as too many people don’t come at once.

Pages are of a higher quality, and there is a good integration system.

Things are still “fuzzy,” though.

MeatballWiki and CommunityWiki are Communal wiki.

Links to non-existant pages can exist in a Communal wiki. However, it implies a certain promise to make an explanation for the link target, eventually. It also implies a certain authority- you don’t fill out other people’s unmade link targets, since the person probably had something specific in mind.


The “Managed” wiki likely has security measures, like Access Control Lists. You could say that the wiki is only “barely” wiki, since a large part of the goal is to keep documents the same, and carefully guard access to them.

(That said, you could still do it with wiki. You’d just have to perform a lot of reversions.)

OffTopic is only minimally accepted- enough to allow essential conversations, but likely swiftly deleted afterwards.

Contents are tightly integrated, and carefully deliberated over. There is likely a formal submission process.

WikiFeatures is “managed,” to a degree. Conversation is kept focused. Though, you can still edit every page.

Links to non-existant pages are almost never made.

PublicWebJune2004Map CategoryWikiTerminology


(I’ve moved much of the conversation to PublicRefineryProcess.)

I think the degree of editorial control depends a lot on how many people are writing on a wiki.

A wiki can be very focused and unified and self-consistent only if one person is doing the majority of the editing.

A wiki can have a short response-time to questions and vandalism only if there are a lot of editors in the community.


I think that it’s easiest to support lots of people on a Scratch Wiki, and about 1-3 cliques on a Community Wiki. Hard Wiki are usually special things. I do think they tend to be ordered by only one or two people. I think they’d also make use of WikiFeatures:TemperedPages (WikiFeatures:IdeasToPlace #118).

I think it’s the other way around: The degree of editorial control determines how many people are going to write on a wiki. People are attracted to sites with low editorial control. Around wiki with higher and higher degrees of editorial control, people decide not to contribute.

That’s one of my arguments I want to put on ScratchWikiFirst.

But I think you are right about being focused, unified, and self-consistent- it probably requires one person doing the majority of the editing. That doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t accept contributions, and that people have nothing to add. Only that, one person is the main editor.

As for fixing vandalism: It doesn’t really require editors. “Readers” are content to revert damage, I think, provided they know how.

I’ve changed the name from HardWiki to ManagedWiki. Heather & I talked about the terminology on WikLossary, and we felt this was a good name. I hope nobody else minds; Judging by IRC chatter, I think everyone likes the new name.

The name isn’t so popular yet that we can’t change it. May as well strike now, while the iron’s hot.


I’m going to cram some thoughts here about the WikiProliferation of wiki-like web sites, BigBucketsFirst style, even though I’m going a little off topic. Is there a better page for this?

The essay "Mixing Oil and Water: Authorship in a Wiki World" discusses Stack Overflow, which is not quite a wiki, and “authorship” (is this related to the AuthorshipModel ?). Some wiki (and wiki-like web sites) are CommunityOverContent that emphasize who wrote what; others (such as the original wiki) are ContentOverCommunity that make it almost impossible to discover who wrote what.

Some sites mix both on the same page – it’s usually obvious who wrote a blog post (the blog author), but sometimes anonymous comments are allowed to the end.

Some sites mix the various DegreesOfEditorialControl – the “main page” is often locked down so only a few people can update, while some other page (like QuickNotes) allows everyone to edit and allows people to ramble on about just about any topic.

A PersonalWiki may technically have all the same software and hardware as a wiki, but it misses the social interaction of a public wiki.

The idea of a CommunityProgrammableWiki starts out very wiki-like, but it has the potential to grow to something far better (or worse).

When deciding to build a web site that allows “the community” to post information to the web site, there are a huge variety of options. You’re going to pick some initial page layout ( CommunityWikiPageLayout ). You’re going to pick some initial one of the 3 DegreesOfEditorialControl. You’re going to pick some initial license. You’re going to pick whether or not to ask people to use RealNamesPlease. You’re going to pick …

… Hey, haven’t I already discussed all this stuff (“wiki options”) on some other page on CommunityWiki or WikLossary? Or am I mis-remembering some comments at SimilarToPageMaintainer ?

EditNearLinks: WardsWiki AccidentalLinking RealNamesPlease MeatballWiki