Wiki’s are evil

There, I’ve said it. Ok, so it’s a bit black ‘n white and reality is quite a bit more grey. But lately I’ve seen started seeing a trend where people think that putting information on a wiki is some how equivalent to having a conversation or disseminating information.

Both ideas are pure B.S if you ask me.

Let’s look at some problems with wiki’s:

  1. Wiki’s are inherently disorganized. Most people (especially developers) don’t consider organization when adding content to a wiki. Hence content gets thrown around in various corners and it’s virtually impossible to find what you’re looking for or to even determine if the information you seek is on the wiki.
  2. Wiki’s are publish & forget. After you add content, there is no incentive to keep the pages up to date. I have no means of detecting what is current and what is now so old that it is at best misleading and probably completely wrong.
  3. Just because I publish it, doesn’t mean you’ll read it. How am I supposed to know you wrote something and find it later?

Notice I’m not talking about issues related to trust or accuracy due to public editing. Not all wiki’s have these problems due to their trust models. Of course some of these issues aren’t limited to wiki’s either, but in my experience they are exacerbated by the inherent qualities of wiki’s. So what’s to be done?

  1. Decide who owns the organization. Don’t say it’s a “team responsibility” because that means everyone assumes everyone else will take care of it.
  2. Plan monthly reviews of the pages you’ve authored and it’s organization. Most wiki’s have features which allow you to view the history of the edits to help with this.
  3. Keep your pages up to date and clearly mark what is deprecated. If people learn they can’t trust what they read, they’ll stop reading.
  4. Make sure your target readers know what information is contained in your wiki. This means good organization, easy to navigate and using email and other documents to promote your wiki’s content.

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