On a wiki, it can be hard to follow threads of conversation, as who-said-what-when is quickly obscured.

In discussion boards, it is left immediately obvious (to the extent that posters are authenticated and non-anonymous) who said what, when, in what order. This linearity provides a form of temporal context for any comment in the thread. In a wiki, that information has to be dug out of the RecentChanges page or the page history, and fades over time when the oxymoronic KeptPages are in place (oxymoronic because the function of implementing KeptPages is not to keep pages). The social cost of this opacity can be high for those who are more interested in topical conversation and less interested in meta issues and in guarding against abuse (perhaps even unintentionally) of the MemoryHole? effect. The loss of linearity leads to a loss of context. Socially, it is very high-maintenance, and works against maintaining a DynamicEquilibrium? amongst experienced, but perhaps jaded or burnt-out old-timers, and inexperienced but energetic and enthusiastic newcomers. The opacity of the tracking isn't a barrier to entry keeping the inexperienced newcomer out, just a barrier to effective participation.

The formalistic timelessness of the WikiNow works against the maintenance of the temporal context provided to an ongoing conversation in ThreadMode.

With that said, some discussion boards do allow after-the-fact edits of postings, in some fashion. Motet and PicoSpan allow erasure (scribbling) of previous postings. COW allows erasure, and post "hiding" (which is different from the Motet or PicoSpan "hiding"). The software used at HowardRheingold's BrainStorms? reportedly allow[s|ed] post-hoc editing.

People are powerfully conditioned to experiencing conversation as a linear narrative: Person A speaks, Person B speaks, and so forth. Conversation, especially multi-party conversation in which players alternately leave and join the conversation at random times, can turn non-linear, but the establishment of things like RobertsRules gives evidence to the desire to linearize such conversation to productive ends. To the extent that the corpus produced on a collaborative web site is a conversation, the non-linearity of a wiki discussion exposes a sharp discontinuity with people's developed ability to hold a conversation. When the development of the corpus proceeds along lines that exceed their experience-based ability to cope with the discussion, they may abandon the discussion, or their frustration at the process may manifest itself in other ways.

See CopingWithLossOfThreadLinearity for how to discussion on how to deal with this limitation in wikis.

CategoryWhyWiki - does this really belong here?


Define external redirect: MemoryHole BrainStorms DynamicEquilibrium

EditNearLinks: HowardRheingold PicoSpan