Wiki movement is close to being dead. We all know that. One can only imagine how this wiki used to be years ago. Lively, pulsating. Something like that. However, since Epoch 2020, CommunityWiki seems to be getting back on legs!
But what’s not dead? Atlassion Confluence (a proprietary product), WikimediaFoundation and wikis on wikifarms like Fandom (used to be Wikia) that describe modern media. Even wikis on services like GitHub or GitLab? are not widely used.
We have a dream. We have a dream that one day wikis will be a dominant form of collaboration. We want communities to be centered around wikis, not chats or source code repositories. We want people to lose their FearOfEditing and just write.
And we think it is going to happen. It won’t be the same as in the days of WikiWikiWeb, of course: wikis will become more personal. Note the whole DigitalGarden, SecondBrain? and [[Memex?]] discussion circulating around the nets. People are starting to realize they need something wiki-like. Perhaps, a vast network of loosely connected wikis is what we really need.
🍄 TimurIsmagilov: Do you have your personal wikis? I started one in July or August or something like that. I tried MediaWiki and MoinMoin but ended up developing my own engine MycorrhizaWiki. So far my home wiki (called CyberRachel) has around 1150 pages. It’s enough for someone to spend a noticeable time consuming all the content I’ve generated. That’s the plan. I will tell my family to publish a snapshot of Cyberrachel to the net when I die. Something for researchers to research. Part of legacy, yeah.
And more and more people start their personal wikis or similar projects. It’s something to explore.
The revival of the wiki technologies is knocking at the door.
So, what do we do? How do we revive wikis? I think developers and users of smaller WikiEngine, not something big like MediaWiki, should unite. Here, on this wiki, for example. There are at least two of us: TimurIsmagilov with his MycorrhizaWiki and AlexSchroeder with his Oddmuse and Phoebe and the whole TransjovianCouncil concept. Let’s find more people and bring them together. We’ll figure out what to do, maybe. And if we don’t, well, so be it.
Who do we call here? Who’s developing wiki engines nowadays?
Assuming the whole personalization of wikis trend, here are some things features modern wiki engines should seriously consider.
For every user, perhaps. Fandom used to have it. I’m not sure about now, the site is so difficult to navigate that I don’t know how things have changed. alexschroeder.ch has a Diary. Afaik, CaseDuckworth? ~acdw seems to running Phoebe which also has blog-like functionality. Doubleloop has their site separated into Stream (blog) and Garden (personal wiki).
GoogleDocs? has it! People use it. People need it.
I also want to add copying of data from other sites. Something like cloning tweets, posts, whole webpages. It’s really convenient for personal wikis. See Mycorrhiza:Idea/Import
Also, bots that remind people of new edits on wikis should be made. For example, I’ve made a Discord bot for KlavaWiki that checks for new edits on the wiki every 10 minutes and notifies people in a special channel if there are any edits. It made people more aware of the existence of the wiki.
This may include showing just a subset of context pages from the table of contents: all siblings at the same level and all child pages, for example. Examples include MycorrhizaWiki, Notion, EverNote, GitBook, etc. A common feature.
Here’s how it works on mycorrhiza. For example, we have this structure of hyphae/pages:
For hypha a, this is what is shown:
For hypha c, this is what is shown:
Intersite backlinks can be done with something like Webmentions. Seems like a great way to connect wikis together.
Yeah, wikis are problematic, and we’ve known this for many years. Let’s talk about these issues. Let’s spell them out, and admit that we don’t want to solve them and why.
Search is an unsolved problem, specially when not all pages are equal. Sure, on Wikipedia they are. But in an environment with blog pages that age, with projects that shut down, those pages are not as important as other pages. Integrating this information into search engines is hard.
One way to solve this for blog wikis is to sort wiki pages by date descending (followed by all the non-date pages), and search them in that order. Hardly a generic and resilient technique.
Another way to solve this for projects (common endeavours by groups of people) is to put each project into a separate namespace, like the RPG campaigns on Campaign Wiki, for example. That works well for self-contained projects.
If the projects are overlapping, there’s additional overhead: where to put new pages, how to link pages in other spaces, and so on.
A special syntax could be introduced to indicate how important a page is. A page which starts with this ⬇️ would be on top of search results:
Results could also be viewed by view count for the last year. Popular pages are probably what you want.
New stuff is added but nobody maintains the forward indexes (menus), nobody adds tags, nobody cleans up tags, nobody deletes outdated text, nobody rewrites related pages because everybody prefers dumping a new page into the wiki and hopes that readers will know which ones are the deprecated pages and which are the current pages. Needless to say, this is why wikis fail.
It is morally acceptable to edit other people’s signed texts. BeBold. But people don’t really do it.
A wiki engine that enforces a form of structure could facilitate this problem. See MycorrhizaWiki’s tree structure. You just end up categorizing everything.
Writing a page on your blog is a way to get credit. People like you, they subscribe to your feed, they leave comments on your posts, you, you, you! You are king!
On a wiki, not only are you limiting your audience to your fellow wiki members (probably no more than a handful of readers), but it will get drowned, reworked, vandalised and forgotten. There’s a lot of work you need into the system for it to work. The only reward is when the current wiki editor crew is jiving and jamming and there is joy in seeing that interaction, there’s joy in seeing your text improved by others. But seeing is believing and when you’re starting out, it is hard to believe.
Perhaps that’s why PersonalWiki have become more popular.
Wikis for community work great if they describe something in particular. A popular TV show, book, etc.
We’ve recently started a wiki called KlavaWiki for an active keyboard community in Russia. Really active community, I mean. There were accounts created for each and every one. Now go to https://klavarog.tk/recent-changes and see that it’s not that lively (still more lively than most wikis out there). I’ve heard people talking things like ‘Yeah I’ll finish writing the stuff and publish a polished version to the wiki later’. Until then, they are posting thoughts into chats and discuss it there. Well, it makes sense, of course, but then you can’t find anything. Chats are ephemeral. Wikis are the true power. Over time, surfing a big, aged wiki is so much better than scrolling through messages in a chat room.
NB. The keyboard community I mentioned spent two weeks configuring the discord server. Several hour-long voice calls, detailed discussions, etc. I played an active role in that. And it’s still nowhere as good as an active wiki could be.
Update: slowly the wiki has become more filled with content.
For a while developers thought wikis might be the solution. Anyone who has used a wiki for this purpose has probably discovered that not very much knowledge actually makes it into the wiki, and what does is not particularly useful, doesn’t get updated, and honestly it just feels like a bunch of homework to write a bunch of wiki documentation about your code when you don’t know if it will ever help anyone.