Wiki Philosophy Faq

Use the EditText link at the bottom of this page to add your own questions (immediately after this note!). Try to add it to the most appropriate section.

Use the WikiBadge AnswerMe if: ... and someone will get to it eventually.

This is only one part of the overall Faq; if your question isn't answered here, see WikiWikiWebFaq for more.


Q: Why nobody edited this page for almost 2 years?

A: AnswerMe

Q: Why is WikiWikiSandbox called WikiWikiSandbox?

A: A "sandbox" is a place to play, and where anything you build will probably get stepped on. In computing it's a term to indicate a safe arena in which to experiment without adversely affecting other parts of the system.

Q: Some wikis call it 'SandBox', in fact, MOST of them I have seen use this name. Why does this one do it differently? And as this is the original wiki, why did they adopt a different name?

A: A non-definitive answer ...

To some people "sandbox" is a single word. For someone who believes this, WikiWikiSandbox would be the natural form. Others feel that "sandbox" is actually two words - "sand box" - and for them the natural form would be WikiWikiSandBox. It's largely a matter of convention, and partly a question of which camp you belong to. Being largely convention, however, different sites and implementations can use different conventions.

You may (quite reasonably) feel that every site should settle on the same, consistent choice. To that the usual reply is WabiSabi - it's not perfect the way it is, but it's GoodEnough, ItWorks, and there's no pressing need to change it.

Q: So what is this WikiWiki thing exactly?

A: A set of pages of information that are open and free for anyone to edit as they wish. They are stored in a database and managed using some Perl CGI scripts. The system creates cross-reference hyperlinks between pages automatically.

Q: Is Wiki like a big book that everyone can write into?

A: Yes. And you can erase any text (even if you didn't write it, originally)!

Q: I'm interested in using wiki technology to help organize a software project... but would using wiki be better than, say, a plain vanilla message board? I've already decided it's better than a chat room, since the text is more permanent.

A: Compared to a plain vanilla message board, a wiki's advantage is in DocumentMode. In a message board, somebody writes, somebody answers, somebody else answers, somebody asks a follow up question, ... . You end up with a whole lot of messages but not an integrated story.

On a wiki, somebody can start a wiki page by asking a question. Someone can come along and edit that page to answer the question. Somebody else can come along and edit the answer to cover an additional point, or clarify a point, or whatever. If somebody edits the page by adding a followup question, it can be left on that page and then answered. Maybe it makes more sense to move it to its own page.

Somebody looking for an answer does not have to read through a long series of messages to see all the nuances of the answer, they just read the Wiki page where all of those nuances have been continually edited into an integrated whole. Now, sometimes people will treat the wiki page much like a message board - somebody will post a question, somebody will add the answer below it, somebody will clarify the answer by adding a note below that. This is called ThreadMode. It is OK, and sometimes it is a necessary step in the evolution of a document mode answer, but document mode is better. If you are lucky, someone will come along and edit (refactor) the threaded page into an integrated document mode page.

Wikis also have risks, for example, someone can maliciously edit material. There are ways to deal with this, but I've gone on far too long in this FAQ. Hope this helps. If you try wikis, you'll learn to like them. -- RandyKramer

I guess I should have said "read some of the other answers on this page".

Q: What is all this "noise vs signal" stuff?

A: In electronic communications, one can find a lot of cases of interferences to the electrical devices, also called "noise", that disrupt the "signal" or the actual communication. In normal situations, if the signal is stronger than the noise, the communication can take place, thus even in bad links, you can have a communication link. However, in some cases, noise is much greater than the signal and no information can pass from that link. Metaphorically, in a mailing list thread or in a newsgroups thread, when the actual discussion on the raised issue is not happening and people divert to other subjects, the noise ratio is more than the signal.

Q: This is pretty radical, but give me some REAL examples where you can use wiki effectively. Are we just talking about a kind of dynamic brainstorming session ... so if you want to come up with some ideas, use wiki ... OK great ... but what else?!

A1: Most of the grass roots wireless networks use wikis. See SeattleWireless, PersonalTelco, etc, etc.

A2: WikiPedia is using a wiki to build an encyclopedia.

A3: See also TheWikiWay, by Bo Leuf, Ward Cunningham, 362 pages, Addison Wesley, April 2001, ISBN 020171499X . This book discusses the theoretical and practical uses of wikis, as well as a lot of other stuff about them. It might be a good place to get some ideas.

A4: See PracticalWikiApplications.

Q: Is it okay to change someone else's writing? If that's okay, then what's the point of writing anything?

A: People commonly edit other people's writing here. Indeed, many people here would consider it an honor that someone else cared enough about their ideas to edit them. This wiki community generally discourages individual ownership of contributions, especially anonymous ones. The idea is that by leaving our egos out of the discussion, the ideas will be given full attention.

Q: I am incredibly amazed how this could possibly work. What if someone abuses the Wiki and starts using it as a place to link indecent material, post spams, etc? Even if someone tries to edit those out, nothing prevents him from doing it again. Or is there some kind of protection scheme? Please explain this!

A1: In short, people are nicer than you might think. Also, those who aren't nice are outnumbered by those who are willing to clean up their messes. See WhyWikiWorks or WhyWikiWorksNot.

A2: For those interested in more details, see http://usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?SoftSecurity. Note that WikiWiki has less security than many other wikis. "An open door is the best lock."

Q: What are the conventions for signing contributions? What about the use of italics in ThreadMode?

A: In general, the consensus seems to be to sign individual contributions when speaking in the first person. When making spelling corrections and so on, some sign as a contributor, some don't. ThreadMode usually alternates between italics and normal text. This can become confusing if there are more than three speakers. See ToSignOrNotToSign.

Q: Sometimes "wiki" is capitalized, sometimes not. Why?

A: WikiHasManyMeanings. In short, "Wiki" is short for the WikiWikiWeb; "wiki" can refer to any wiki, or the general concept of wiki-ness.

Q: Where can I find the famous WikiIconCollections?

A: Maybe WikiIconCollections?

Q: How does one go on making the Wiki website?

A: By editing it - like this.

Q: How difficult is it to set up your own Wiki?

A: About as difficult as getting married. Scratch that...it's much easier than getting married.

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