One of the interesting things about wiki is that it is document based.

Immediately (2004-01-10), the primary Internet communications technologies are:

Of all of the above, only wiki is focused on Documents. All of the others are about Messages. (DocumentsVsMessages)

The closestest things to social document-based exchanges are:

There are, of course, also other ways of grouping technologies. Several are described in WhatCommunicationSoftwareToUse.

Also interesting that all the technologies listed as "message-based" are also "chronological", whereas wikis are usually not. (TimeInWikis.)

I suppose they are chronological, because- what else could they be? I suppose they could "disappear immediately," but- you know. There's always the possibility, "Hey! We can record this!" So, I think: Messages imply chronology. It generally takes to long to classify them by subject, yadda-yadda-yadda. "INCOMING MESSAGE: SUBJECT: Home Living Systems. Food supply. Absence. Could you pick up some Cinnamon and Salt? Sakura was just "cooking" again. Thank you! WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAVE THIS MESSAGE IN FOLDER: Home Living Systems : Food Supply : Absence ?"

We do sort e-mails into folders, and have subject-tied mailing lists. But the messages are parts of threads. They don't tend to be stand-alone documents.



Wikis simulate message-based communities using ThreadMode. Few wikis exclude some kind of thread-mode discussion. It's probably worth noting that even in a document-centric collaboration environment we feel the need to have some kind of message-based discussion, too. Probably pretty well wrapped up in ideas of identity, authorship, etc. --EvanProdromou

A manuscript is the artifact at the end of the collaboration process, not the process of collaboration itself. What's interesting is that a wiki can make a document a stigmergic base for collaboration, but that's a different way of thinking than most people can handle all the time. – SunirShah

That's an interesting point. I wasn't aware of StigMergy before, and I've been reading up on it – the mapping to wiki is pretty clear. --EvanProdromou

cf. IncidentalCollaboration. What's interesting to me is not wikis per se. Although I can't say I never really cared about wikis, I'm more interested in what is possible with digital media given what we need as a human society. So far wikis have been the best available medium for that, especially for the written word, but they aren't perfect. What other forms of IncidentalCollaboration are available? To pick my other artistic area, CopyLeft is one good answer for software, but that often requires forking to incidentally collaborate as one does not gain access to the source code repository without going through a gate keeper who ensures quality (e.g. it will compile, not crash, not be a virus). But is there a socio-software model that allows for incidental collaboration? I'm building a WikiAsSourceControlRepository very slowly. – SunirShah

I'm very interested in that. I've been looking into WikiFeatures:WebDav for doing the same kind of thing. I think the interface for wiki is only OK – it would be nicer to work with documents, images, etc. in client-side tool-of-choice rather than the ubiquitous Web form. Catacomb looks good – I want to get it set up on a public server ASAP. Sadly, right now my public server is chewing carpet, but it'll be up soon enough… --EvanProdromou

It'll be an enormous jump in wiki when we can draw on wiki as easily as we can write text on wiki.

Diagrams, models… It'll be amazing.

However, it'll still be document based. ;D – LionKimbro

(Conversation moved from WikiNodes:AnatomyofaWikiNode?; is there a better page for this ?)

Meta: Sometimes it goes further than merely that no wiki in that area exists yet – sometimes wiki-like technology is inappropriate. (MeatBall:AppropriateMedia) – DavidCary.

Can you give me an example of a subject that people might be tempted to talk about on a wiki, but that they should be referred to a non-wiki to talk about?

Some subject that can't be served with documents?

We've had a similar line of conversation in CommunityWiki:TooFewWiki, but it never reached a resolution.

I'm fine with the concept of "a subject for which wiki is fundamentally inappropriate," but I just can't think of any.


Situations where one can't use wiki:

  • If the computer is broken, physically taking it to a repair shop is more appropriate.
  • If one can't read yet, I'm pretty sure it's impossible to learn to read just from clicking around on a web site.

Situations where other things are better than wiki:

  • If 2 people are trying to coordinate something in real-time, using IRC chat or the telephone or a walky-talky or shouting across the room is more appropriate.
  • If someone is having a garage sale, posting signs in the local neighborhood is more appropriate.
  • If someone has a medical question (say he feels an unusual lump in his left leg), physically visiting his doctor is more appropriate than trying to describe it over the phone or some computer-mediated text.
  • a full-screen, full-motion Quicktime movie (or an actual movie theater) is a very different experience than a wiki.
  • … ummm … there's probably a few others I forgot.

That's all that I can think of just now. (people can write about IRC or telephones or doctor's visits or learning to read, etc. in a wiki, but that's very different than actually doing these things.)

I agree that it's difficult to imagine that anyone would be tempted to use a wiki for those things where wiki is clearly inappropriate.


Some things are only relevant to a specific time and place: "Move that to the left a little more". Other things will still be relevant a year from now, but only to a specific object or location: "Home Team Locker Room". Some things will still be relevant over year from now, and are not local to any particular location. That last category is the only one wiki is really useful for. Some people would say that is the most important category. (Is there a better term for these 3 categories ? "timeless" …). – DavidCary

I'm not sure that wiki is only useful for things relevant over a year from now- I could conceive of arranging a party using a wiki. Or at least, something like a wiki. The definition of "wiki" is going to become harder and harder to tell. (Futures:TheEndOfWiki?.)

… I've even seen wiki dedicated to particular towns. … for example, … I have often wanted to make a "Seattle wiki." I suspect that classifieds in the future will work like wiki, if not be wiki.

But it does shine best with the more timeless, because it's document-based (CommunityWiki:WikiIsDocumentBased,) and documents differ from messages, in that they are made to last.

So, it's clear that, for particular types of messages, wiki is inappropriate. But entire subjects? Unless the subject is tied to messages (short duration subjects,) I think it could benefit from having a wiki, and thus concern over the validity of the WikiNodesSystem? is something we don't have to worry about. It seems to me like the only thing we have to worry about is TooFewWiki.

We need to relocate this conversation somewhere else: Maybe WhenToUseWiki. We should connect it with TooFewWiki, because similar objections were raised. This response is an answer to both of them.


BTW, there is a Seattle Wiki now, conviniently located at – Matias

Eeeeeexcellent. Right on schedule. Spit spot!

Wiki is not entirely document based. The RecentChanges page is a very important part of the whole wiki. People are herd animals, when they don't see that there are people currently involved into something they will not participate themselves.

Zbigniew, I agree with you about RecentChanges being an integral part of wiki, and that is definately not document mode. :-) RecentChanges is kinda like the discussion page, or rather what people are working on, and yes one of the nice things about wiki is that can create synergy around certain topics, but I do believe people do work outside of herds. Wiki is good for both modes.

I'm tempted to add

  • telephone
  • fax
  • pager

to the above list. Maybe even television. This generalizes the list to "ways of communicating with people many miles away".

Wait; No. I've reverted the addition of telephone, fax, pager; This is about Internet communications technologies.

Outside of the internet, we have telephone, fax, pager. We also have books, papers, movies, and, "documents." :) This thread of thought is continued in DocumentsVsMessages.

The purpose of the page isn't to list media; It's just to make a point about why wiki is unique among online communications media.

In the material world, document-based communications media are not rare. (Uncommonly used, but not the medium (paper) is not rare.)


Define external redirect: AnatomyofaWikiNode WikiNodesSystem TheEndOfWiki MessageBoards

EditNearLinks: IncidentalCollaboration SunirShah WebDav UseNet WikiAsSourceControlRepository InstantMessaging