10 Things I Hate About Wikis
OK, so wikis are a great idea. I have “embraced the wiki” as a great communication tool, and there are many, many benefits. But still they manage to get to me. It’s almost always down to one thing: execution. Execution by the implementors of the wiki, and execution by the people creating the content. So here it is:
10 Things I Hate About Wikis
- Wikis are the easiest way to create awful documentation. Lowering the barrier to entry is good, but if I see another open source project throw up a wiki and think they now have documentation, I’m going to scream! Perhaps we should call it lowering the barrier to stupidity (arrogance mine 😉 ).
- WikiWords. Not all wikis are affected by this blight, thankfully. But don’t you love those that are, especially the knots you tie yourself in to manufacture a WikiWord when you just want to use a single word!
- Every wiki has its own syntax. Sure, HTML is too verbose to be convenient for editing wikis – it ruins the whole idea. Unfortunately, however, this has led to a proliferation of custom wiki syntaxes, each with their own quirks. Hence, working with multiple wikis is a pain, and every wiki has its own learning curve.
- Wikis mark the return of the content management dark ages. Once upon a time, we formatted documents in our word processor with font sizes, bold text etc. Eventually we realised this was a Bad Idea, and styles were born. (OK, introduced. Back in your box now, Tex groupies. And make sure the troff monster stays in there.) These days, nobody in their right mind creates a significantly-sized document without using styles. Then there was the internet. Remember the early days? The <b> tags? Eventually we realise this was a Bad Idea, and stylesheets were born (easy there, troff monster). Now we are back where we started again. I hope there are no LISP programmers in the room, because they’re bound to mention they “told us so”…
- Inexplicably poor navigation. Come on, wiki implementors, this should be one of your strongest points! Too often I find myself deep in the bowels of a wiki without a sensible way to navigate around. Sure, some of this is down to the wiki author, but there are so many opportunities for convenient navigation that are missed, by either not allowing the navigation or by hiding it away somewhere.
- Could anything be harder to read than a table written in typical wiki syntax? This is where the simplicity of the syntax falls flat on its face. The syntax works for basic, inline elements, but start to create strutured data and you become lost in a sea of ascii art (and not the good kind).
- Editing in a browser text area sucks! Possibly the only thing that sucks more is the half-assed rich text editing facilities wikis sometimes offer. Unfortunately, we’re pretty stuck with this one. Maybe advances in web UIs will help…
- Poor support for versioning. One thing I always hated about creating documentation in word processors is the inability to track changes and merge documents (yes, I know Word has an “implementation” of this feature – if only it actually worked). On the face of it, wikis have both the opportunity (text-based format) and the motivation (strong chance of concurrent editing) to have strong versioning and merging support. However, most of them don’t. Wiki implementors: this is a (largely) solved problem! No excuses!
- Losing 30 minutes of typing because my browser crashed, or I closed the tab, or some other minor tragedy occured. Thank god wikis are starting to implement autosave! Dragging themselves just a bit out of the dark ages ;).
- Wiki discussions, e.g. those found in the original wiki. OK, so wikis were a cool new idea. That doesn’t override the fact that forums and newsgroups already existed as a much better medium for online discussion!
Phew, that felt good. Now wiki lovers everywhere, I’m ready for you to tell me how I “just don’t get it”.
Into continuous integration? Want to be? Try pulse.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2006 at 3:00 am and is filed under Opinion, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.