Maintaining Wikis

Posted by Andy Gavin on Wed, 2006-03-01 15:03

Wikis can often suffer from the Tragedy of the Commons, where the individual's needs aren't necessarily the in the common interest. So it important to think about who is reading the wiki and what they're likely to look for. Wikis are good at producing highly navigatable the pages can be highly interconnected. Here are some common failures:

  • Lack of interconnection: Wiki's like wikipedia are most powerful when related concepts are linked together.
  • Separation of Concerns: Better use of indexes/categories and recent history means that pages of lists are less necessary. Wikis should be arranged heterarchically rather than hierarchically.
  • Duplication: the same explanations appear in multiple places. These are either new pages, or in some wikis templates of content can be created.

In particular I see some Wikis now have a tendency to have large pages of lists. This is counter-productive. The author intends that information is easy to find as it is all on one page. But this is not how people work. Hicks Law for instance illustrates this; in essence this says the time it takes to make a decision given some options increases with the number of options. As the brain is associative anyway it is better to place your content near or linking to subjects that relate to it. Navigation as most web-geeks know is better through tagging and searching than lists.

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