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A Wiki is no place for a conversation

27 August 2008 One Comment

In my experience, when it is suggested that a conversation be moved from a mailing list to a Wiki, nine times out of ten the conversation ends immediately without making it to the Wiki. When a conversation is transferred to a Wiki, nine times out of ten the conversation dies within a day.

Please don’t disrespect your co-workers and end a good discussion by asking that it be moved to a Wiki.

A Wiki is no place for a conversation. Just take a look at the conversations on the C2 wiki and see what an utter mess they are. Nobody can follow the conversations, yet we all know they contain valuable information. The most important technical criteria for encouraging participation in online conversations are distribution, presentation, chronology. In my opinion, conversations should be distributed in a push fashion, presented as discrete responses (ideally as a threaded conversation), and should appear chronologically so that people can see the history of the conversation. If these things don’t hold true, people don’t contribute to the conversation. These criteria are much more difficult to achieve in a Wiki than through a mailing list.

In addition to the criteria that promote participation, making your conversations searchable and archivable is usually a good idea. If you are asking for a conversation to be moved to a Wiki because you feel like its important and you want it to be captured, then you might consider using forum software (or an online newsgroup) instead of plain e-mail distribution.

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