Wiki Interpolated Comments

A page is in ThreadMode. Someone writes a long, multi-paragraph position statement on a WikiWikiWeb page. You want to add a comment specifically to the second paragraph. For want of a better name, call this an interpolated comment. How to do it, and make it clear what's happened? In particular you want to make it clear that the material you've added is not by the original author.

There are six main techniques.
  1. The first is Quote and respond -- append your comment to the end of the page, but precede it with enough of a quote from the original paragraph that people can see which bit you are interested in.
  2. The second is to insert your text into the middle of the other fellow's work, but to change the font by putting it in italics (occasionally people use bold too).
  3. The third way is like the second, but indenting the new text. In practise this means making it a bullet or numbered list, because Wiki does not support pure indentation. (If you try, you get <PRE>-formatted text.) Actually, you can do this - but there is a trick to it. See SimulatingQuoteBlocks.
  4. The fourth way is like the second, except that signatures and paragraph breaks are used to indicate the change of authorship and line breaks indicate the change of subject. These elements are added until the sequence makes sense.
  5. The fifth way is like the first, except the new comment is put on a new page. The new page may have a name ending with "Discussion" or similar, and it will usually begin with a quote and reference back to the page it came from.
  6. The sixth way is like the third, but using strict indentation for each reply. NestedThreadMode.

The first technique -- "Quote and respond" -- is generally preferred because it preserves chronological order, and some people believe this technique makes it easier to ConvertThreadModeToDocumentMode later.

This stuff applies only in ThreadMode, and only when the flow is not linear. Most of the time it is enough just to append your comment to the end of the page.

Actually, I'm the only person I've seen using bullet lists like that. I wrote this note to explain what they mean. I don't like using italic insertions, partly because it really only works with two people and partly because I prefer to reserve the italic style for emphasis. (And I think putting whole paragraphs in bold looks ugly.)

Indentation is more scalable. If someone comments to the comment, it can just follow on at the same level of indentation. The idea is that all the indented stuff becomes a little Wiki page embedded into the big page. -- DaveHarris

Good thinking! I can go with, er ...

Actually, I wouldn't indent something that just followed on from what came before. It's only needed when the linear flow is usurped. -- DaveHarris
There was a longish comment here which Wiki corrupted. It sang the praises of unsigned comments, and, true to its nature, was not signed.

Yes - adding a signed comment, interpolated or not, may not be the best way to increase the value of a page. It might be better to delete a few comments and replace them with a summary. I see this issue as orthogonal to the question of how to present a signed comment once you've decided to make one. For that stuff, see DocumentMode. -- DaveHarris
WikiRefactoring would be to take an existing page and re-arrange it according to such conventions (or others). Sometimes it takes a newcomer to realise that a page has become incomprehensible to newcomers. -- DaveHarris
The more I see of the indented approach, the less I'm convinced it works. I think now it should very much be kept as a last resort. I quite like adding rules and signatures into the middle of someone else's comments to refactor without much changing the content or order. -- DaveHarris
Note that even if someone considers ThreadMode is harmful to the value of the Wiki, threaded topics like this one compell authors to adopt threaded mode. It's a kind of feedback cycle. One of the ways out is what WardCunningham did some months ago with the TragedyOfTheCommons when the issues about Wiki structure took vogue: he refactored the topic, and moved comments to other topics many of which, like this, have taken a life of their own.

It would seem that ThreadMode (SpaghettiCode) is best while hacking new concepts, and refactoring required to preserved the gained knowledge.
You could also take the WikalongExtension'ed view of the wiki page and add an external annotation.
See also: ThreadMode, DocumentMode, WikiConversation, ArgueAgreeIdiom, HowToWriteAndEditThreadMode .
CategoryWiki CategoryWikiEditing

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