Irrevocable Thread Mode

Sometimes it is hard to determine if signal has been lost or if it ever existed in the first place.

A WikiPage that is so deeply entrenched in ThreadMode that it thwarts any and all effort made to put it into a format that has value to readers who are not (or were not) engaged in the discussion.

This could mean a ThreadMode page with no clear point of view or a ThreadMode page whose arguments are so intertwined and predicated on one another that they resist being summarized into a cogent document. It is our hope that IrrevocableThreadMode be seen as a challenge rather than a final determination for many pages.


This section maintains three lists. The first is a place to enumerate pages that are considered by at least one person to be in IrrevocableThreadMode. This can be viewed as the challenge list. All ye brave refactorers, summarizers, or WikiAuthors, take note. Pages thought lost to chaos or of value only to those involved in the fray that you think have been revived to the benefit of the general readership should be removed from the first list and added to the second. If you disagree with a page having been put in either of the previous lists put it in the third, with a quick note as to why.

IrrevocableThreadMode Defined by Example

IrrevocableThreadMode Defied

IrrevocableThreadMode Disputed


There are many different opinions on this topic. This section attempts to capture them with as little signal loss as possible.

I would challenge the very presupposition that documents are better than threads, but that has been discussed to death. Just improve the readability of content, don't force it into a document if it doesn't need it. In fact, you lose a lot of information that way too.

We don't presume that DocumentMode is better than ThreadMode. We do, however accept that many ThreadMode pages have degraded into more noise than signal and have lost any point of view. Furthermore, some ThreadMode pages simply become forums for people to practice debating -- where the topic isn't even of importance -- the arguments have become the focus instead of the content. They are of value mainly to the debators and some SelectVoyeurs?. The idea isn't to put everything into DocumentMode but to work towards creating content that is of value to more than those involved in the threads.

We do not say that all threaded discussions are bad, in fact, they can be terse and cogent or in DialecticMode such as in a FAQ or WikiNewspaperAnalogy. Some threaded discussions don't naturally transform into documents; but they should transform into content that has a greater audience than just those who join the fray.

Irrevocable means something that cannot be reversed, for example an irrevocable decision. Nothing implies that the decision is wrong (much less that the word decision is wrong). In this same way IrrevocableThreadMode does not say anything about the value of ThreadMode. It merely asks if there are pages that are irrevocably in ThreadMode.

Some ThreadMode pages start as ThreadMode, such as where a Wiki User asks for feedback. They were intended to start this way. An example of this is CollectionHierarchies where the contributor presented a problem and solicited solutions. Others start off as DocumentMode and are overrun by debate because the ideas are controversial or otherwise encourage passionate input. In either of these cases the signal may or may not be not overrun by noise or posturing. What we are interested in are those pages where the threads have more signal than the actual ideas being discussed by the threads. In other words, let's not debate formats or structures here. This page attempts to be concerned with the QualityOfContent? more than its presentation. In general, we agree that some DocumentMode pages are badly written and can have less content signal than well worded ThreadMode pages. It is just that this page, attempts to address one aspect of the whole equation -- IrrevocableThreadMode. [I'm not happy with the wording of this paragraph, somone please help! Sorry gave up a couple of paras before. Maybe next time.] [The problem with this paragraph may stem from the fact that the page's name is off the main topic that needs discussion here. How about looking directly at QualityOfContent??]

Some pages may come out as "IrrevocableThreadMode" using the above definition but continue to have value to a small subset of Wiki readers (hopefully but not necessarily greater than the set that took part in the page). For instance a page may be unintelligible to others without the necessary background knowledge of the subject in question. (Some of the pages on GoedelsIncompletenessTheorem might be an example of this.) Thus, although most IrrevocableThreadMode pages should be viewed as a legitimate challenge by seasoned refactorers, not all should necessarily viewed this way.


There are many techniques for saving a pages whose content has become lost in IrrevocableThreadMode. Some users are concerned that several of these methods will cause content to be removed. But the idea is not to remove content or signal but to move away noise so that the signal can be more effective. Sometimes, one can use a gore bag to do this. Move the discussion, wholesale to the gore bag (i.e. a discussion page) and filter the signal back into the original page by factoring it in bit by bit -- incrementally. This can be done by copying rather than removing the signal from the original discussion page. This will prevent sensitive people from feeling content has been deleted. The original page will remain in-tact. See MoveThreadModeToDiscussionPage for more information on this technique.

Another common technique is to sort the page to SummariesOnTopDiscussionBelow. Descriptions of this technique can be found on ThereforeBut and TentativeSummary.

There is a lot of controversy about what some call noise reduction and what others call content deletion. Those in the latter group say "why delete when it is so easy to move?" For those we suggest the techniques described in the first paragraph. Those who advocate signal accentuation (or noise reduction) may prefer TentativeSummary or ThereforeBut. These are more in the spirit of the Wiki traditionalist.

One great advantage of moving the old discussion is it allows the refactorer to not use all of the good ideas within the threaded discussion. Some pages just have too many good ideas. The strongest pages are usually those with a point of view -- too many can make the page confusing or lacking a punch. If there are many good ideas, one can create multiple pages to capture their signal. Documents that try to address all the good ideas of a single ThreadMode into a single DocumentMode page are rarely effective. Consider YouArentGonnaNeedIt as an example of not trying to put too much into a single page. Rather than deleting possibly valuable contributions because they are outside the scope of the pages point of view, one can instead add references to new pages that focus on these peripheral ideas. You may also be able to factor some of the good content into existing pages. If you use a gore-bag (that contains the original highly-threaded page), readers will still have access to the original page if they are unhappy with your refactoring.

Just move the ThreadMode into a new page and try your hand at factoring signal back in. Over time, if the result is good, the saved discussion pages will simply be forgotten.

Contributors: CliffordAdams, RichardDrake, PhilGoodwin, RobertDiFalco, anonymous

See: MoveThreadModeToDiscussionPage, TentativeSummary, ThereforeBut

Experiences refactoring YouArentGonnaNeedIt

At this the next generation of Wiki refactorers were FiredWithEnthusiasm?

See the new YouArentGonnaNeedIt for an example of MoveThreadModeToDiscussionPage. The original ThreadMode-centric conent was moved into YouArentGonnaNeedItOriginalPage?. This would have normally been named YouArentGonnaNeedItDiscussion?", but that name was already used. I haven't gotten rid of the thread-based page, but at least 199 fewer pages point to this version.

This "refactoring" (actually it was more of a factoring into the new page) took about two and one-half hours. Most of this time was spent tracking down links for to populate the list of related pages. The hardest decision I made was deciding between the original ExtremeProgramming-centric description at the top of the page or the more generic scenario presented by RonJeffries. I went with the more general scenario, since I'd like the YouArentGonnaNeedIt concept to make sense even if one hasn't studied all the other ExtremeProgramming concepts. I considered including both, but I thought it would be too much. In the future, it might be better to split these into two pages -- one general and one XP specific.

If I had tried to reduce the page by simply deleting the old content, I'm certain I'd still be agonizing about what to keep and discard, especially as several of the sections are directly from the authors of XP. ("Am I inhibited about deleting KentBeck's writing? Certainly!")

Finally, if this attempt doesn't work out, the only loss will be another page that says "See also: YouArentGonnaNeedIt", rather than an IrrevocableDocumentMode page with its ThreadMode permanently destroyed.

-- CliffordAdams

What was shown by the refactoring of YouArentGonnaNeedIt?

Perhaps this page should be moved to IrrevocableBadThreadMode, if that is what is being argued against? The original examples of BigDesignUpFront, TheSourceCodeIsTheDesign, and ArchitectingWord seem to be in the same category as YouArentGonnaNeedItOriginalPage?. (Although none of them have "Discussion" pages...yet.) --

Call me pedantic but IrrevocableThreadMode is defined as "A WikiPage that is so deeply entrenched in ThreadMode that it thwarts any and all effort made to put it into a format that has value to readers who are not (or were not) engaged in the discussion. No way YouArentGonnaNeedIt was that before the summary. Mind you, it would be hard thing to prove of any page that it will never be of any value to anyone who didn't contribute.

Call me sloppy but I wouldn't try to distinguish good and BadIrrevocableThreadMode?. WikiNames are seldom that precise. This page has already prompted useful reflection and action and may prompt more in the future. -- RichardDrake

Experiences refactoring ReligiousWar

ReligiousWar was a mess, and only slightly refactored as of October 5, 2000. Some suggestions to delete most of the page faced objections. Writing the summary at the top took about 1 hour, largely spent carefully reading and considering all the points made in the text below. Now it has a relatively simple summary followed by the original content. Only those who are interested in details of the summarized claims need to read the original discussion.

In this case, since there were relatively few links to ReligiousWar and the discussion seemed unlikely to resume, I didn't create a separate discussion page. If the page had been much larger I would have split the discussion into a separate page. --CliffordAdams

Does BigDesignUpFront Need Refactoring?

Would anyone else like to give this a try, or shall I write another summary? Presumably the page was originally placed on the "Irrevocable" list because someone was not satisfied with its contents. I would like to give that person a fair chance to write the summary first. --CliffordAdams

[...] Whenever I'm reading a page that seems to have more debating than knowledge I throw it up on our pending list. I look at this as an opportunistic and collaborative work-queue that we all contribute to and take from. Whoever gets to it first gets to take it off the list. It they learn something interesting while refactoring, they write up a quick summary on their experience. However, if people disagree about a page it should be taken off the examples list. If most find a lot of value in BigDesignUpFront and do not feel it would benefit from a more focused presentation, then it should definitely be taken off the list. No big deal. Let's keep the pending (or examples) list to stuff we all agree needs could be refactored to have more knowledge and less information. --RobertDiFalco

I feel BigDesignUpFront could benefit from having a more focused presentation. When I recently reread it, I tried to view the page as a new wiki visitor. The point of the BDUF page was not clear until about half-way through the discussion. However, I don't think a focused summary requires editing the original discussion. Indeed, I think one can easily create a more focused summary if one leaves the original text intact. I've started a summary, and will probably finish it tomorrow. --CliffordAdams

I think that's a perfectly valid approach and I look forward to checking it out when you're done. I'm sure it will be great. --rad

[The next day:] Instead of completing a summary I decided to rearrange the ThreadMode contributions into clearly separate sections. Originally the page began with the peripheral issue of "Smalltalk as a design/prototype language", which I moved to the bottom to allow the central issues to be presented first. Some of the threads in the first section were split by other discussions, which I moved to other sections. Only minimal editing was required--trimming a quoted section for brevity, and adding a signature to a contribution that I split between two sections.

If someone wishes to write more in the summary, they should feel free, but I think the new sections have adequately untangled the earlier ThreadMode knots. --CliffordAdams

Discussion about Involvement

Multiple contributors have disparaged ThreadMode as "of value only to those involved in the fray", or having value only to those involved in the "conversation".

None of the wiki pages provide value for those who are not involved with them in some way. A good document invites the reader to read carefully, much as a good conversation (a ConversationYouCantStayAwayFrom) invites outsiders to follow along. Many pages on wiki (in both DocumentMode and ThreadMode) fail in their invitation. Some "documents" seem to be simply ill-considered opinions presented as objective fact, and are worth less than the well-considered conversation in pages like the YouArentGonnaNeedItOriginalPage?.

This seems more like an argument over which is better ThreadMode or DocumentMode. As stated, this topic has been done to death and we were hoping not to make any judgements one way or the other on this page. The argument seems like a nice continuation of the ideas in ThreadModeFalselyBlamed and may be more potent in the context of that page. I'm having a hard time trying to fit it into the focus of this pages "point of view" and opening statement.

If this page is not trying to make that argument, then perhaps the initial text can be rewritten (so that it does not use negative terms in regards to ThreadMode)?


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