Why Bother To Structure

Leaving a hyperdocument open for anyone to edit is a little like leaving a Smalltalk image available to the net. The Smalltalk environment is so "hot" that one can do an amazing amount of damage very quickly.

This hardly ever happens. Can you provide examples of times when Wiki has been seriously damaged? And in each case explain why additional structure on the site would have mitigated that damage?

Likewise with an open hyperdocument. Certainly, a hyperdocument can never crash. But it could easily become an impenetrable mess (like the WWW itself). Sure, searching tools can help, but a little bit of foresight and discipline can amplify the usefulness of these search tools, and make it easier for users to see the scope of what's available, to find what they want, and to update existing documents.

Students of library science have for a long time recognized that often readers find their most valuable resources serendipitously, just by poking around. Can you provide examples of people complaining that they can't find things on Wiki?

That is what WikiPatterns are for.


But if the cost of restructuring stays low, you can defer making decisions on structure until after you have enough concrete examples to make those decisions with the confidence born of experience. See DrivingMetaphor.

Incidentally, adding imposed structure would very likely increase the cost of refactoring, making a SelfFulfillingProphecy.

"But it could easily become an impenetrable mess (like the WWW itself)."

Not when the user has the tools to untangle the mess. Here's an example from real life:

You see a reference to "William Shatner" on the IronChef webpage. You EditPage, change William Shatner to WilliamShatner, follow that link to the WilliamShatner page, EditPage there, add a reference to the IronChef page.

Of course, while you're cleaning up little messes, other people are cleaning up their little messes. Since you tend to visit those pages you are interested in, you keep your part of the garden nice and orderly. <- I love this analogy for Wiki :)

And when someone decides your beloved flowers are weeds and kills them? Don't say it doesn't happen. Your example is pretty trivial and is not representative. -- AnonymousDonor

But it could easily become an impenetrable mess (like the WWW itself).

This is a telling observation. The web is not an impenetrable mess. It is a large, complicated network. It's easy to navigate (by design) and easy to search (much easier than I ever imagined it would be). Don't be intimidated by complexity. Embrace it. Simple structure is a crutch. Here's a great article about how it fails for cities: http://www.rudi.net/bookshelf/classics/city/alexander/alexander1.shtml. This wiki is a semilattice for good reason.
For users with low confidence with IT, even using a search tool daunts them - too many results! For them, using a drill down directory is a useful, essential addition to the search function.

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