Though I've never asked directly about this, I have sort of hinted around the edges and thought about it a bit, so I figure, it's worth bringing up. Here's the question:

You install a new wiki somewhere, and you have a blank "welcome to your wiki page." How do you go about editing these pages and developing a wiki from there?

The idea behind a wiki is that it provides a quick way to edit and create web pages, without needing to know very much about HTML and associated technologies. Right?

In addition to radically de-centering authorship, wikis also have profound effects on the structure and organization of websites/documents. While much attention has been paid to the former on a social and software level, [1] I think the latter has been mostly ignored.

I think the tendency is to think of the organization of data within a wiki as being largely emergent phenomena. I think this is more true when there are a lot of people starting a wiki and when the size/growth of the wiki is appropriate for the community size.

The truth is that I think this kind of approach ignores this huge data management problem because it's not an issue for 10% of wikis/documents/collections. I mean, if you throw up a wiki you can't just let it go the way that Ward Cunningham did for the first wiki (because the people who would contribute and the internet would come to the wiki from a much different place), and sites like wikipedia have a lot of very intentional structure. And while I like the idea of emergent structure, I'm not sure that it actually works in practice. [2]

And I'm not sure the question ofwhat is in the wiki matters a lot for the organization, because I'm more interested in how much and what kind of structure people create when they're editing in this kind of document, rather than specifics about naming schemes or the rationale behind a classification system. I guess, if I had to break this question down further I'd be interested in:

  • What kind of metadata (categories, tags) do you use?
  • How hierarchical is your document. Too much hierarchy and pages get lost at the end of trees, not enough and you have a mess of files and no way to tell them apart.
  • Do you use natural phrase WikiWord titles for pages, or do you have a less natural naming scheme?
  • How much do you use talk/discussion/commentary pages?
  • CamelCase Wiki words or not?
  • What kind of search tools do you use? Does this help?

Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Onward and Upward!

[1]Particularly in terms of administrative tools/responsibilities, social norms, and spam control which can be shaped and influenced by the engineering.
[2]Particularly when the contributor base is on the small side