A wiki is a body of ideas that a community is willing to know and maintain. That community has every right to be cautiously selective in what it will groom. This particular wiki has been blessed with thoughtful, diligent, diverse and open-minded volunteers, who have invested years learning what works here and what doesn't. When volunteers tire and depart, others take their place. I remain amazed that this works without mechanically enforced authority. Possibly it works because there is no mechanically enforced authority. In any event, I remain grateful to all volunteers, past, present and future. -- WardCunningham
Here you can rely on encountering playful minds. Putting up a wiki page is like tossing a ball of yarn into a basket of kittens. -- PeterMerel
There is, however, a strong commitment from the WikiCommunity to keeping the Wiki clean and nice. We all use Wiki, so we all try to maintain it in a usable state.
Any information can be altered or deleted by anyone. Wiki pages represent consensus because it's much easier to DeleteInsults and remove WikiSpam than indulge them. What remains generates new ideas by the interactive integration of multiple points of view.
Anyone can play. This sounds like a recipe for low signal - Wiki gets hit by the great unwashed as often as any other site - but FromFertilizerComeFlowers. Only good players have a desire to keep playing.
Wiki is not WysiWyg. It's an intelligence test of sorts to be able to edit a wiki page. It's not rocket science, but it doesn't appeal to the VideoAddicts. If it doesn't appeal, they don't participate, which leaves those of us who read and write to get on with rational discourse.
Wiki doesn't work in real time. People take time to think, sometimes days or weeks, before they follow up some edit. So what people write is often well-considered.
Wiki participants are, by nature, a pedantic, ornery, and unreasonable bunch. So there's a camaraderie here we seldom see outside of our professional contacts.
So that's it - insecure, indiscriminate, user-hostile, slow, full of difficult, nit-picking people, and frivolous. Any other online community would count each of these strengths as a terrible flaw. Perhaps wiki works because the other online communities do not.
It's unstructured by nature. I've recently been trying to capture some of the fun my sister and I used to have as children in the computer games that I write. Over the years since we played in boxes, the games we played became more structured, more competitive, and less fun. Where once we created a world with words and imagination, I felt the need to impose order: double lines mean walls, single lines mean windows. It was once easy for me to make up my own games, but now it's not so easy. Wiki helps restore that freedom to make your own rules and follow them. Wiki is a world where anything is possible; the possible uses of the wiki were not dictated at its creation. There's a particularly big contrast with systems like FaceBook and MySpace which are very constricting: after using them for a while they start to feel like one of those games or puzzles in which the point is to do each thing exactly the way the designer wanted you to until you've finished, and then that's the end, at which point you throw them away and find another one.
What stops impolite individuals from just deleting whole bunches of pages?
The previous version of a page is always available, and edits from a single IP are rolled into a single change, so one person from one IP can't by themselves irretrievably delete material. There are also backups, which are very rarely necessary. See WikiErase, WhyNobodyDeletesWiki.
Deleting pages that have bots keeping them up is futile. Wiki pages will be maintained by multiple independent bots which serve to keep the pages that the original author or group of authors intend to stay forever. These pages can only be added to, edited, or whatever the group running the bot decides should be done for that page. Deleting a bot-maintained page just gives the pages a higher ranking on the RecentChanges page, so DisagreeByDeleting will be counter-productive.
IP-level blocking is very simple to enable. Most wikis, including this one, use such a facility for people who insist on being destructive. (IP-level blocking can be so effective that it blocks everyone on the same ISP as the offender.) Some of these blocking mechanisms are quite elegant; for example, the crew on GreenCheese used to deny no-one read access, but forward edits from nuisance IP numbers to the corresponding C2 edit page, so that they are not denied a voice should they ever wise up.
It doesn't give anyone a thrill to be just plain stupid and delete some wiki content. In contrast, outsmarting someone that invented or installed some serious security hard/software seems to be quite a lot of fun for some folks. Deleting wiki pages is about as much fun as removing water from the ocean with a coffee cup.
Usually, courtesy wins over principle. If someone really wants to keep pages and if the pages are not too off-topic, we leave them. Better make someone happy than arguing for hours over 1K of disk space!
I think that's bull, as there's a cabal who edits others' work, under the guise that it's OffTopic. But let's face it, it's that cabal that sets the topic and determines what fits within it and what doesn't. That tends to stifle creative comment. The only justification for the removal of OffTopic comments or WikiPages is the lack of server space or bandwidth. That may indeed be the rationale (albeit unstated), but it sure looks to me like the academic community which moderates this wiki has set itself up as the arbiters of what can and what can't be posted here. (Correction, what posts will and won't be allowed to remain here.) That, to my mind, fundamentally thwarts the concept of what a wiki is. But don't take my word for it - coz it'll be deleted shortly. Won't it? This thread belongs in WhyWikiWorksNot and, in fact, is already partially there. ~ MontanaRowe
This is why wiki sucks. Instead of many people collaborating to provide a comprehensive, intelligent, well-written and digestible document, it simply turns into a page where many people add their own contributions. A new idea or contribution isn't integrated, but simply added at the end, perhaps repeating or contradicting points made before.
There are many pages where that is simply not true. Many pages that have real, valuable technical content end up being refactored and condensed into DocumentMode. If you feel that the wiki concept sucks, go back to UseNet or forums. Alternatively, become a WikiGnome and start making it better right here and now. FixYourWiki.
[Keep in mind that WikiIsNotWikipedia. The dissertations presented here come from the collective conscious of the participants. The bulk of Wikizens here are software development professionals with years of experience and the wisdom to separate what seems to work from what actually does. That wisdom gets distilled into DocumentMode pages when enough arguing and offline cogitation has taken place.]
Shouldn't all cogitation about wiki take place OnWiki?? Isn't that part of the point?
See: WhyWikiWorksNot, WikiResponseTime, GotDeleted, WikiPatterns, AlchemyOfWiki.