An Outsiders Review Of Wiki

Wiki Wiki Web: An Outsider's Review

by LarryIsrael 20031003 http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?AnOutsidersReviewOfWiki

I wrote the following for a community college web design course. The assignment was called Navigation Discussion:

Find a site that is a "navigational nightmare." For example, it is confusing, hard to find desired content, and not easy to use. Describe what you would do to improve the site and make it more usable.

I looked all over the web for a while, then I remembered my visit here several months ago.


Wiki Wiki Web I was very excited to discover this site several months ago. The site is about Wiki, a web-based discussion system in which anyone (including "visitors") can fairly easily and instantly create new pages, and anyone can edit or delete any web page. The Wiki software also powers this site (and thousands of other sites). Wiki is quite an interesting system, and I may even implement a Wiki web site sometime, but navigation is definitely not its strong point.

This site has the most atrocious and difficult navigation I've ever encountered. (It's a huge site with over 25,000 pages!) To its credit, there are several not-so-hard-to-find pages that provide useful navigation tips and other introductory information. There are also quite a few unusual, innovative navigation features. And fortunately, there is a search link at the bottom of every page, just about the only thing that makes it possible to find what you're looking for.

Believe it or not, you won't find a menu anywhere on the whole site!

With the exception of a couple links in the footers, all links are in the body text. Of course, the body text is different on every page. The site has no hierarchical structure whatsoever. Without hierarchical organization, there's no such thing as "you are here" - that's impossible - there's no there there (as Gertrude Stein once wrote). It's a massive collection of unorganized pages, although there are some navigable relations between them. These relations are quite unorthodox and interesting, perhaps even brilliant at times. I'm sure many of these linking features are quite useful, but it takes quite a while to figure out how they all work. There are categories, but they don't result in any kind of menu.

It's all very chaotic, but kind of cool at the same time. If you're the type of person who loves to use the web for free association and spontaneous browsing by clicking whatever link happens to catch your fancy at the moment, with little concern for a goal, you will probably find navigating this site to be interesting, maybe even enjoyable. But for those of us (like me) who expect the world and the web to be at least a little structured, this site is the ultimate navigational nightmare.

Navigational chaos seems to be part of the plan, and while I happen to like much of Wiki's decentralized philosophy, this site could be vastly improved by organizing everything hierarchically into categories and adding menus to every page. Some categorization already exists, but it's being used only minimally as a way to organize the site. Many people could organize the site over time. I'm reasonably sure that it would be possible to design and build into the Wiki software a multi-participant navigation-creation and -maintenance method that would not violate the free-spirited nature of The Wiki Way (as the Wiki community likes to call their way of doing things). The participants are probably quite capable of that, but seem to have little or no interest in it.

Wiki appears to be a great community-building tool. Despite the fact that Wiki is touted as being simple to use, I think Wiki's navigational complexity serves as a major barrier to entry that weeds out all but the most-dedicated outsiders; a barrier that seems to be desired by the close-knit community within.


Discussion follows Much of which should be refactored to WikiWikiSuggestions or WikiWikiSuggestionsResolved

So what recommendations did you make to improve it?

While I freely admit that there are no menus, I cannot understand why people think they need them. There is a search, there are links, and there are pages with starting points. Why do you want menus?

It seems to me that people are accustomed to using menus to navigate, and are confused when there aren't any. It's like saying - "that can't fly - it doesn't flap its wings!"

HelpMeToUnderstand

Interesting that this comment originated in an exercise for a "web design" course. Seems possible that the NavigationalMenusAreGood? and YouAreHere ideas come from that part of the world where HTML over HTTP is being used to write thin clients that look and feel as much as possible like desktop apps. Whereas Wiki takes the WWW on its own terms: LinksAreContent, indeed links are (almost) first-class with pages, rather than being the invisible implementation used to simulate events on the thin client.


As far as recommendations for improving the navigation, they are in the review above (which I don't think I need to restate). It's not only navigation, but site organization that is lacking. Certainly, it's no easy task to organize a site as large as this, I'll grant you that, but I think the community here has the skills to do so, if they so choose (as I stated above). The lack of menus that contain hierarchical navigation not only makes navigation very challenging, it means that I have no sense of place when I'm here. I have a general sense that I am on this web site, yes, but nothing more specific than that. At no time am I in any particular area of the site, so far as I can tell, because there are no areas on this site; they don't exist. The structure is flat; 25,000 pages all at one level of organization.


Hi Larry, thanks for this review. I think it provides a good impression of what many people outside of the long-term Wiki community think of Wiki. Here are some thoughts in response. I happen to think that this view of Wiki is largely due to its minimalist nature, which tends to make important features unobvious to newcomers.


Also check out CategoryCategory.


I've noticed a general sentiment that too much navigational aid might stifle the free association qualities of the Wiki. We're very concerned about the LimitsOfHierarchies. You'll probably be interested in reading PleasePleaseDontCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki and PleasePleaseDoCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki. If you're of a philosophical bent, WabiSabi is a good read.

It is mentioned elsewhere that BackLinks are the second most important navigational aid, after the FindPage. I submit then, that links are the zeroth most important navigational tool.

I'm worried about us appearing like we are bashing your research; this is not my intention. -- JoeWeaver


The single most obvious improvement is a delete button that fixes up all the links. Lack of a delete is one the most confusing issues for people I try to evangelize. For the life of me, I don't understand why the resistance on the very obvious delete feature. It would certainly be one the first user stories if one were to practice what is preached.

I don't think I understand what you're suggesting. Why should deleting pages be easy? People generally seem to suggest that deleting pages should be really, really hard as a measure of security - you seem to be claiming the opposite. That confuses me.

You can have an "Are you sure button?" You can keep deleted pages pending for a while.

When refactoring it's common for pages to need to be deleted. It's also common to misspell a page name at which point you want to delete the offending page. People can sort of delete pages now just by emptying them, so it would cause no harm to actually be able to delete a page.

[The original suggestion was not that deletion should be easy. It gave the condition "that fixes up all the links". We already have a page deletion mechanism, but "fixing up all the links" to the deleted page couldn't be fully automated satisfactorily.]

It clearly can be fully automated.

But automated fixing of links is not necessarily desirable. A DanglingLink might be converted from a WikiWord to plain text, changed to a link to a more appropriate page, or left intact, prompting someone else to contribute on that topic. The best choice usually depends on the context.

Many things are not desirable, which is why we make tradeoffs. For new non-geek users, the wiki choice of the tradeoff doesn't make sense.


The next most obvious improvement is to add a page create box and button at the bottom of every page. The biggest turnoff to new people is that they don't know how to create a new page. The initiation process may be ok for geeks, but it's not cool for the general user at a company. They just say this is stupid and give up. Yes, I still want them to use it even if they are not alpha geeks.

The present facilities for page creation at least attempt to discourage OrphanPages.

If you really care then make people login and get edit capabilities. Along the same lines as there is no security through obscurity. If anyone can add a page then make it obvious and easy. My desire is to get pages into the wiki. I can't do that if people just give up because they don't know how. Links will take care of themselves.

Part of WikiPhilosophy is PiecemealGrowth: one idea leads to another. Wiki's page creation mechanism, which forces you to first create a link from an existing page, promotes this.

And you don't care how hard it is for other people to use? My priorities are for ease of use so that I can get a wiki adopted. Your concerns are a bit to abstract in the face of marketing concerns.


It's not so much SecurityThroughObscurity as it is InterfaceInfluencesCulture?. In the quest for ease of use, we have to be careful that new features don't destroy the various ways Wiki exhibits a QualityWithoutaName. Without those qualities, a wiki may be easier to accept, but become much less worth accepting. -- JoeWeaver

That's a little mystical for me. As wikis have not worked the way described, you can't say they would fail without trying it first. My guess is the opposite. People who have something to contribute will feel more comfortable so they will add things. The marginal user often has great content but is easily scared off.

The mystical thing is attributing certain features to QualityWithoutaName without evidence. This doesn't bug me as I have used wiki for a very long time now. My concern is with getting new people to use it in a corporate environment. They aren't really moved with QualityWithoutaName discussions. They just say I can't do this and that, your tool sucks.

Ah, I understand now. Well, TheyreJustRules. I'd do the bare minimum of changes to get a wiki accepted.


About hierarchies

Hierarchies are not well suited to navigating this sort of data. Any hierarchical organization of these pages would be arbitrary. There is no single hierarchy that fits this information. A large set of hierarchies could be created, but that's essentially what you do when you navigate links on this wiki now. -- EricHodges

I am also a believer of categories and hierarchies I am afraid. I'll probably never concede on this one.

But I agree with Eric Hodges: "classifications are arbitrary" but nevertheless they have to be offered perhaps with the understanding that they are arbitrary.

One possibility is to have drop-down list boxes at the top of a page that show topics and categories, and "jump" to a category when selected. This can be easily accomplished using JavaScript. The categories themselves can be forward indexes or use the traditional wiki backward index scheme.

"PaperStationeryRoadmap" would be better, as all the current roadmap pages are named in that fashion.

OK, I want to respond to just a few points that others have made in their responses to my critique of this site's navigation. As to <name elided>'s point, "do not ever reject wiki principles before you understand them fully," let me just say a couple things to clarify what I meant (or have concluded since).

The responses to my critique confirm one of my conclusions, that the site's users think organizing it hierarchically is undesirable as well as unnecessary. They think they already have plenty of good navigational options.

My point was not so much to say that some people (such as those who choose to hang out regularly on this site) can't effectively use the navigation that is provided here to get around the site. In fact, I'm sure wikizens (citizens of Wiki) are able to navigate the site. That doesn't mean that many potential wikizens do not choose to inhabit this space for a variety of reasons, including the difficulty of navigating, and learning how to navigate, this site.

Instead, my main point was this: The navigation on this site is not usable. Look up the term in all sorts of places if you're not sure what it means, but to restate what I mean, navigation here is not "user-friendly," NotIntuitive.

Maybe not, but it is certainly more effective than other forms. I'd rather learn how to use an effective tool than Intuit how to use a less effective one.

To navigate this site effectively (rather than just haphazardly, or impulsively) requires a great deal of learning. The navigation cannot be understood intuitively. To understand and know how to navigate the site, you need to study and use the many navigational features, because most of them are very unintuitive.

What's more intiutive than reading, and following links when anything interesting is mentioned? Have you considered that you're simply accustomed to a different way, which isn't necessarily better?

In other words, my point was primarily about *new users,* not about how effective you wikizens find the navigation.

Secondly, I do believe that, even for you wikizens, the navigation could be greatly improved - it is not so good for you either.

I disagree, I highly doubt you could come up with anything better than what we have! You obviously still don't understand why we like it!

But those of you staying here have managed to learn it already and seem to like it and have little reason to change it. Conservative resistance to change is not solely a characteristic of the mainstream, or of "others."

It's not about resistance to change. Wiki is better than your way, we don't want to regress.

Putting these points together is exactly what I did in the concluding paragraph of my original critique. People here don't want to make the navigation more intuitive for new users. Instead, you want there to be a barrier to entry that new users must traverse, and so there is such a barrier.

It's only a barrier until you realize it's better, so of course we don't want to change it.

Therefore, those who stay have, by necessity, proven their *desire* to be here. That desire is a requirement because they must pass through a lot of difficulty in order to learn how to use this site. Many societies, clubs, and organizations have entry requirements so that new members must prove their devotion in some way. Maybe this goes along with creating a strong sense of community, as likely does exist here. I happen to generally prefer more open and less exclusive social relations, at least in theory.

When I wrote the critique, I was already aware of most of the navigational features that you have mentioned, at least I was aware of their existence and had tried to use and understand them at least to some extent (not alway successfully!). I had also read many of the discussions such as those pointed out and know about this nav bar that some of you have created in various forms (although I have yet to install it, or understand how to).

What's missing from this site's navigation? A menu that shows at a glance "what's here"; what this web site contains, enable you to quickly go to any of those places, and tells you where you are within the site (within that structure).

At the risk of ridicule for doing so, I'll quote from course materials.

Good Navigation answers these 3 questions:
Where am I?
What's here?
Where can I go?

In my view, the navigation on this site does not answer any of these questions. "Where am I?" has two meanings. This site does answer the first meaning: what page am on on. But it does not answer the second meaning: where am I within the site in relation to other areas. "Where am I?" means the same thing in the physical world, where to really understand where you are, you must understand your location relative to other places. Each web page is not an isolated island, it's related in some way to other web pages on the site.

I'd say those are the wrong questions. Better questions would be... What am I interested in, how does that relate to what I know, what related area's don't I know about. For those questions, Wiki beats the crap out of anything else! You're still approaching Wiki as a regular website and judging it by regular standards, so of course you're disappointed, you're still asking the wrong questions!

I can understand that folks here are resistant to hierarchical grouping of this site's content. Perhaps (as some have said) the content here, and the vast quantity of it, is not conducive to such categorization. Just perhaps (though I still disagree).

So dispense then with the hierarchical organization idea (as you have already, and long before I arrived), and dispense even with the concept of knowing where you are on the site. Given that you reject all of that, here's my scaled-back proposal:

Why not put on every page (preferably floated in the top-right corner) a menu containing links to the most important navigational features. These would be script-generated so that they are pertinent to each page, and would contain the features that several of you have listed above: the pertinent Category, backlinks, EditPage, Help, FrontPage (or WelcomeVisitors), Search / Find, and probably a few more. This would help everyone, both new users and wikizens.

In other words, Wiki has a whole bunch of navigation features. Wny not put all of these navigation features into a menu, so everyone can instantly see and use them?

Why keep these cool features scattered all over the page as they are now -- some in the footer, some in body text, some not on every page, one in the page header (for heaven's sake) and not called "backlinks."

That's my proposal as it stands at present. I've added an example to LarryIsrael. However some things are not shown properly there, because it's currently impossible to do them in best way; not without changing the Wiki software; or at least, I don't know how to do them. This menu would ideally be floated top right, as I said, so that the page heading and other text can still continue on the left.

-- LarryIsrael (Oct. 3, 2003)


Larry suggested each page have these links:

What specific navigational problems do you want solved?
OK, sure. Let's try this. How about if we take those links, give them unusual names, mix some of them in with the body text so that they are spread all around the web page, then add dozens of *other* miscellaneous links, some of which have similar names. What's the problem? The links are all right there on the page, all you have to do is click them.

Or, then again, why not name them in the most intuitive way we can think of, then put them together with a few other useful links (and *only* with links!) in one place on every web page. The concept is called a menu, and it's used at web sites everywhere for a reason. It works. An example is at LarryIsrael. --Larry

Everything except back links is already in one place (at the bottom of the page). The names are intuitive as far as I can tell. Can you describe a specific navigational problem that isn't being solved by the current system?

One issue is that the same apparent link in different places leads to different pages. VisualTour, EditPage, and EditCopy mean different things in the body of a page than they do in the footer of a page, for example.

Right. I suggested a solution over at LarryIsrael -- changing the explanatory versions to AboutVisualTour (etc.). I also have a proposed menu on that page, a draft of a menu that could go on all the pages (preferably floated in the top-right corner). -- Larry


re: "Therefore, those who stay have, by necessity, proven their *desire* to be here."

I'm sure that wasn't the intention, but I do like that it happens. If you look at PopularWikiPages, the most defaced ones are generally the easiest to find via navigation. Gentlemen, the barbarians have been and are at the gates; fortunately the gates aren't very many, and are very hard to pass through.

I really don't understand what's so hard. As the person above stated, if you know how to click on links...
NotIntuitive

I agree that Wiki is definitely, absolutely not intuitive. When I first came here, I had no clue what it was. It was only after I was referred here a few times from external sites (I was looking for info on programming) that I realized, "There must be something about this site that's important." That's when I got determined to figure it out. It took several hours for the general idea to sink in, and then several months before I really understood the ins and outs.

ObjectOrientedProgramming is also NotIntuitive. It takes a lot of theory and experience to really understand it. And to get good at it, you have to invest a whole lot more experience and read some good books on it. I'm still not even close to GrandMasterProgrammer level, but I aspire to reach it one day.

There are programming languages, such as VisualBasic, that try to make 'object oriented programming' simple, something that any moderately technical person can do. The end result is very popular (VB is one of the most popular languages in the world), but really limited in its power. There are other languages that go the other way; they try to push object oriented programming to its ultimate ideal. SmallTalk is an example. The end result is not very popular (Smalltalk lost the war to C++ and then Java), but very very very influential (I spent a few hours playing with Smalltalk and learned a whole lot of interesting ideas in those few hours; most of the really cool ideas come from Smalltalk and its developer community).

What I'm trying to say is that Wiki is not intuitive because it's not a traditional site. To make it intuitive would be to make it more traditional, and hence it would lose a lot of its power of influence. The web should be more like this Wiki. Wiki is approaching an ideal of usefulness (if not necessarily usability for newcomers). The concepts you learn here are very powerful, and if they were sugar-coated, I never would have learned them. For instance: You can have a web site that anyone can edit. Before Wiki, this was a silly, ludicrous idea. After Wiki, Wow! It's amazing that such a thing is possible. If this site had logins and moderators to make it 'easier for newcomers', the true lesson would not have been learned. Some other lessons: You can have a website without a standard menu, LinksAreContent, TheBestIsTheEnemyOfTheGood, etc. To make Wiki more traditional would be the wrong course of action. The correct course of action is to change tradition in light of the lessons we learned here at Wiki. This is already happening.
I suggest that this wiki is as intuitive as most web sites. It isn't like most web sites, so it confuses folks who have come to expect similar behavior from web sites. I don't think it has anything to do with intuition, though.

Personally, I find this wiki more intuitive than a lot of web sites. At least the links are obvious - many web sites make it impossible to tell which parts of the screen are links, and which are not.

It's also intuitive to me that the links are right where I am reading, and not on some menu half a screen away. It's also nice that the links are in the context of a sentence, so I have a very good idea what the link is about (as opposed to many menu systems where you must think the same way as the author of the menu).
Wiki as a conversation between geeks

Another possibly useful metaphor I wanted to bring up is this. In some ways, you can consider Wiki to be a conversation among a bunch of geeks who use pretentious phrases, jargon, and FingerQuotes? when they talk to each other. The nice difference is that, instead of losing track of the conversation if you're a little behind on your jargon, you can just follow the link to find out what the jargon means. If you look at any of the discussions about XP, you'll see what I mean. So, it allows geeks to have their geeky conversations without excluding half-geeks the way normal geek conversations do. In that way, Wiki's usability for newcomers (compared to geek conversations) is much higher. -- Fellow Geek
ThankYou Larry!

This page helped me a lot to think up a system to help casual visitors grasp my web diary (which is a wiki). I still think, though, that your critics have a point: wiki does not have the structure of an ordinary web site and thus the navigation of an ordinary web site doesn't fit it very well.


There's an important distinction to keep in mind. In most websites # readers >> # writers, which makes navigation tools like menus much more feasible. There are a few ways to have # readers ~ # writers, each with strengths and weaknesses.

Wikis are a good choice when you have a large amount of information-rich content.

I'd argue Wiki's are the best choice. Prior to finding Wiki, I was a google freak. Any time I needed to know something, google groups was the first place to check. Problem with usenet however is the signal to noise ratio sucks, most conversations degenerate into flame wars and it never goes away. That's what's so great about Wiki, the signal to noise ratio is awesome, tons and tons and tons of content. Even better, it's all hyperlinked both forwards and backwards by related content, IMHO, far far better than any hand build hierarchical navigation system. Frankly, I think this is the best navigation system I have seen yet, menu's and categories suck in comparison. IMHO, intuitive is far less important than functional. Form should follow function, and Wiki is more functional than any of the other options!

You have a solid experience and a very interesting point of view. How would you compare and rate the info you got from forums, wikis and Google. Did you get any info on forums? What are comments sections?

I loved forums and Google, still do, but they don't compare to Wiki. I've learned more about programming in the last 8 months from this site than in the past 5 years everywhere else. I can pick any topic I'm interested in, find a page about it, start reading and surfing all related content. It really helps to solidify ideas when related material is just a click away. What better way to learn than by exploring, we're human, exploring is natural to us, Wiki takes advantage of that. LinksAreContent because no computer could ever relate ideas as well as a human. Wiki's value lies in it's navigation system, to change it would destroy it's value. This is a place where people actually discuss ideas, rather than just technology, IMHO, that's huge and not really found anywhere else. The stuff I read here has completely changed the way I program and the way I see the industry. Most other sites are far too focused on specific technologies and libraries rather than on good ideas and solid programming. Wiki has taught me to be an eternal student, to have a more open mind, and to explore different way's of doing things just because. Of course there is a dark side to Wiki, it's rather addictive and takes up far too much of my time, but I just can't stop reading!

Since adding a "Create New Page" button to my wiki user acceptance has risen dramatically. People still think it is weird not being able to delete a page or rename a page, but it's the obviousness of how to create new content that makes the biggest difference.

I'd bet that button will burden your Wiki with unlinked pages that are related to nothing. Wiki's page creation mechanism is brilliant, and is an improvement over buttons! I have a Wiki at work also, and it was hard to get them to accept it, but after enough screaming and yelling they finally get it. We now keep our documentation and project management info on our Wiki and it's great. I'd much rather educate the user than break the Wiki!

Brilliant for nerds or brilliant for marketing and admins and programmers who are busy with other things? They are different customers. I don't scream or yell. I meet my customers needs without trying to stuff a philosophy down their throat. Lots of programs and consumer products have died trying to "educate" the user. And unlinked pages are fine. Somehow the world will spin another day if meeting_notes_1022003 isn't linked to anything. They can search, know the key, or look in the index. If you want to convert somebody without your screaming and yelling you need to go about it a different way.

I don't actually scream and yell, I didn't mean it like that, I meant it jokingly. I don't want to convert anyone, I want to use tools that actually work and were built for intelligent people rather than dumbed down for new users. You can either cater to the newbie or to the power user. Programs that cater to newbie's may seem easier, but are usually far less functional. Programs exist to help us work, why settle for software that is less functional and more complex when the simpler alternatives are usually also more functional, i.e. Wiki. People need educated, how are we to ever improve things if we're constantly held back by the way people are used to? People can get used to new things you know! What's the point of inventing new things if guys like you just come along and try to make it work like everything else? It isn't like everything else, get over it!

Someone isn't intelligent if they don't want to adopt your tool philosophy? You see, customers have a choice. If you say "get over it" they say screw you. And if i yell and scream at them they just say screw you quicker and louder. You say a create button is not an improvement using the very weak unlinked pages and purity of vision arguments. I disagree and so do my customers. Guess what matters?

Guess what, this Wiki isn't for customers, it's for programmers, it's about programming, this page is about this Wiki. What matters is that Wiki works because it's different. The things you're suggesting would break Wiki and would not be an improvement.

This wiki is for programmers. Mine is not. This isn't my wiki and ward can clearly do whatever he wants. I said for my customers adding a create page made a big difference in adoption rate. That's good. Be happy for me.


Re "you can cater to the newbie or to the power user"

Most programs try to do both. I know many wikis make it hard for the newbie to see what is the "page" (almost everything) and what is the "metadata" or "site" (mostly wiki logo, backlink link and the standard footer). I added a menu in my wiki that comes on every page, not because I use it but because it looks "metaish" to the newbie. I try to make this menu have all information a newbie needs when e comes on any page, and try to stuff EditText page with link on information about why, how and when to edit.

I've observed people learning to use wiki. When they are put in the wiki, they ask "what should I do?". That one is easy: I say "read". But people who come to wikis from search engines and don't understand them, almost invariably click on the page heading, because it's a link and they usually want information on it. They can't see that the information is there, right before their eyes, because it's often in a form they're not used to seeing in a web page. This is why it is crucial for the newbie to have a "what is wiki" link on every page.

It's surprising, after all, how little it takes to take care of the newbie. I don't mind the menu. You don't need it, sure, and neither will they, when they become users (never mind power users). But some people never become power users unless you play their game just long enough to teach them to play yours.

The links that the menu should have, are something like: "what is wiki", "frontpage", "how to move around", and "how to contribute".

While I certainly understand your points, they're based on the premise that the Wiki should be trying to attract new users, by adding features that cater to them. I disagree with that premise. I don't care about new users, I care about existing users, and making things convenient for them, Wiki's been pretty good about that. While you're certainly free to do as you please with your own Wiki and your customers, the intent of this page was a review of this Wiki. To do any of those things to this Wiki would be a tragedy. If users aren't smart enough to figure out how to navigate Wiki, then they're probably not the people you want contributing anyway, so good riddance to them. Considering this is a programming site, I'd imagine it's users can figure out how it works without training wheels!

True. But being a programmer does not make it easier to understand that one can contribute, nor that other people are contributing too, nor that this "wiki" is actually a site even though it does not look like one, etc. You might be right that wiki does not need those users, but I don't think they're bad either and the cost of educating them is IMO very low. So I don't understand the militant attitude.

I think, though, that WardsWiki is GoodEnough as it is. Maybe a menu is not good here, if it will irritate many people. I just don't understand why it would...

Because it's not the SimplestThingThatCouldPossiblyWork, it would not be an improvement, it is unnecessary IHMO, of course, I could be wrong!

I think you think so because you've not needed those helpers as a newbie. You seem to base your thoughts on the idea that intelligent newbies become intelligent users, while the unintelligent newbies don't matter. But in my wiki (the wiki with a menu), abuse rate seems to have dropped when people can easily find the information, "why can everybody contribute", "how to be polite" and most importantly, "what is considered abuse". So I wouldn't think that newbie information does not have any value: it does, for it lessens the burden of the users of wiki. WardsWiki's easily findable introductory material is relatively technical, like how-to-format-lists and so on. And for the newbies, this introductory material should be linked to from everywhere, and hopefully so that it doesn't disrupt users. So a menu seems a great solution to me.


Someone isn't intelligent if they don't want to adopt your tool philosophy?

Your putting words in my mouth, I didn't say that!

But you did. You say you want to use tools developed for intelligent people. These people do not need a create page. Therefore if you do need a create page you aren't one of these intelligent people.

No, you're not quoting the whole sentence, I said, "I want to use tools that actually work and were built for intelligent people rather than dumbed down for new users". You're taking it out of context because you're projecting ill intent on what I said. Let me clarify, I don't want to see this Wiki dumbed down. I did not say anything that isn't Wiki is dumb, so please don't take it that way.


To do any of those things to this Wiki would be a tragedy. If users aren't smart enough to figure out how to navigate Wiki, then they're probably not the people you want contributing anyway, so good riddance to them.

Can you imagine that someone starting a new wiki at work might care about new users? That adoption is key. That these people are smart, but care about different things? That you and your agenda are not the only things that exist in the world?

Please note, he's talking about "this Wiki".

But I wasn't and that was made clear.

Like I said, do what you want to your own Wikis, but the writer of this page was critiquing this Wiki, WardsWiki, for being too large and having poor navigation. My defenses were of this Wiki, and I stand by them. I am not critiquing your work Wiki.

You are defending against alternate choices. It's helpful to know what those choices are, and if they work or not. A create page has been shown to work.

Not here it hasn't.

When talking this about my Wiki, which was clear, the purity of vision and unlinked pages arguments were used on my Wiki. And by my Wiki I would extend the thinking to anyone trying to get Wiki adopted in a corporate environment.

Again, I'm not critiquing your Wiki, I apologize if I was misunderstood or wasn't clear enough.

I am curious though, aren't you interested in how wiki might be made more usable for other audiences?

WardsWiki or Wiki's in general? For WardsWiki, no, it's already perfect! For other Wiki's, sure, I'd like to see the idea spread more. Like I said, I've done the same thing at work, and it's great. I was just trying to stick to the page topic, which was this Wiki and it's size and lack of navigation.


I believe one of the reasons Wiki web sites don't provide categorization in the sense that LarryIsrael mentioned initially in this topic is because Wikis can contain topics about anything. It is very hard to create (meaningful/accurate) categories when the variety of topics is as large as the ones provided by this wiki.

A great example of how useless categories can be in an environment as dynamic as this, is the world wide web itself. Although there are search engines that allow people to go an search for information by categories, the most successful search engine (Google) does not use them.

For example, you can go to Yahoo and drill down by category to recreation + automotive + accessories + audio + mp3 players. But, How useful is that if you can just enter "car mp3 players" in Google and get better results?

I don't doubt that cataloging is a great way to organize information. There are great uses for it (including this Wiki.)

What I question is how useful they can be to tell you "you are here" (a point that LarryIsrael brought up.)

From a navigation standpoint, when you are in the CreepingFeaturitis topic you could be in the anti-pattern category but also in the things-not-to-do-in-a-project category and in the things-to-avoid category, and many more.

In my opinion, Wiki web sites are small "world wide webs" in the sense that you control neither its users nor its content. Visiting a topic is similar to visiting a web site in the WorldWideWeb. When you visit a web site you don't know where the site fits in the rest of the Web (i.e. there is no "you are here" with regard to the rest of the world wide web) there is even no point on it (again from the navigation standpoint.)

-- HectorCorrea


Recently, ie 2004-03-24, I implemented a kind of self-sitemapping wiki; please see YetAnotherWikiName. Cheers! -- DavidAumueller
Reading through the above, it's starting to sound like a ReligiousWar. It's also a ThreadMess, badly in need of refactoring. Maybe the following summary is a start in that direction?

It seems that the two sides are basically as follows: The ReligiousWar arises because both sides see their view as absolute, when actually the correct answer is ItDepends. If your goal is to serve primarily casual readers who come seeking answers to specific questions, then you want categories, hierarchies, indexes, and all the rest. Consider the extensive indexing of WikiPedia.

As I understand it, though, WikiWiki is intended primarily as a resource and community space for contributors. While casual readers are welcome, they are not the audience. The contributors have clearly decided that they like the current structure; if they didn't, either the structure would change or the contributors would go elsewhere. Among other things, the current structure promotes browsing, contemplation, and immersion in the community. All of these are worthy goals in their own right.

People who complain about WikiNavigation usually observe that it creates a BarrierToEntry for new users. Yes, it does. So what? Any community has barriers to entry. In some sense, those barriers define the community. The trick is to erect the barriers appropriate to the kind of community you want to have. (cf. DerekPowazek) WikiWiki seems to have done that. Other wikis with different barriers exist. ItsAllGood?.

-- KatherineDerbyshire


Google Model

Perhaps the problem is that wiki has a Google-like organization without the power of a Google-like search engine. (How have been attempts to hook Google up to this wiki, BTW?)


As I read this page, I was reminded of the general feeling I got when Apple's HyperCard program first came out - the geeks thought it trivial, but the public loved it as a way for them to create dynamic content. Now we have someone arguing that a very similar way of generating dynamic content is unsuited to the general public. IsntItIronic? -- PeteHardie


Pardon me, but wasn't the original idea of the "world wide web" a collection of documents linked forward and backward to content of the next logical thought.


CategoryWikiNavigation

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