WikiVsEmail

This page collects common misconceptions, fear, uncertainty and doubt related to wiki


If you want to read or speak to the other side of the spectrum, see ForumVsWiki.


19th century:

When the telephone was invented, most asked this:

Why would I want to talk to someone who is not there with me ?

People did not understand first that there is point in passing over information geographically. Most didn't have relatives living far, and just thought that they can easily walk to anyone who they want to talk to.

21st century:

People will take more time to understand that there is point in passing over information in time ( for future, persist it in a sane way). Most think that anything can be looked up in the list archive (forum) anyway.

Wiki is the tool that helps summarize and persist the best bits of information instead of burrying it among noise.

I felt the same why-s with wiki (as 19th century people) before I realized its potential and learnt more (easy) ways of usage (including how it can completely substitute older ways of info-storage).

This is not for comparison of people in any way. It is purely for comparison of time required for a given (complex) task. Because of the nature of the issue, some causes (why we tend to like L despite L is scientifically proven to be inferior) must be understood. It does not make sense to take it personally.


Mailing lists are used - see ListsAndForums

Because some people prefer mailing lists for different reasons (such as an aggressive firewall they cannot remove, or maybe without any good reason).

For any good invention, it took a while before people realized how it can be used for their own benefit (and some might never realize it or not admit).

Please consider saving yourself and others a huge amount of time and use tools that make more efficient collaboration possible.

Remeber that one can do anything with wiki that one can do with a forum:

These provide the same working model as mailing lists (or forums), with the same serious problems:

Note that these are very inefficient ways to work.


But email and chronological forums have these inherent shortcomings, they cannot do better. Why do people still love email and chronological forums ? Because mailing lists and chronological forums have some miserable properties that fit human nature perfectly

Feeling important - This is the primary factor.

Neglegance

Lazyness

Property

Certainty

With a mailing list, it is very clear how to reply: trim old message to the reasonable minimum and answer each part at the bottom of that part. This is the best that can be done, still far from good. With wiki the same is possible, but there are better ways and it forces a choice: what to do with the work of other people? Don't worry, anything you do is better than it would be in email. Do what you feel appropriate, this will get easier after some practice. In most cases the questions should not be answered with an answer, but rewritten as a statement (question goes away). Atleast in the main Wiki (under MembersPage we often leave it on the owner to do a summary and cleanup from time 2 time). If answer is short, look around if it can be grouped with other similar issues. For long answer, consider if it needs a paragraph or even a page of it's own. If you try to answer to your best, noone can take it as offense or taking away credit.

These characteristics that make a mailing list appealing can be understood, but it would be poor to justify bad ways of working and communications by these.

Communications made human from the animal, and we should not stop looking for more advanced and time-saving tools.

Of course forums and email can be used until a user understands how his project must be summarized properly so he can get the best results and best support. But we should not pretend that it's a good way, and kindly propagate to do it properly - at the minimum with answer at the right place (in wiki) and provide just links to the forum. Useful info just into a forum (without entering into the wiki knowledge-base) is a mistake: consider the forum what it is: a junkive, work down the drain.

other reasons

Patching the Mailing list - not a perfect solution but make the bad usable

These concepts are useful in wiki too, but require much less effort: a properly used wiki is converging to a knowledge base naturally.


GenBoard/Manual is very important.

Some people misunderstand this, so better to state it clearly: there is no such question like "wiki or manual is better". Manual is a (knowledge base) "product" which is clearly needed . Wiki is a tool that can be used to create that product. Mailing list cannot be used to create it (only to assist) but wiki is more efficient in assistance too.

There are good tools that help in any case.


Wiki is not a miracle tool that creates value by itself. Wiki just provides methods that (when used properly) make a higher value out of the same amount of input effort. The exact same usage patterns that are available in wiki's competitors (forums and mailing lists) are available in wiki as well. As long as just these usage patterns are applied (and advanced ones are neglected), the wiki will be the same trash efficiency as the competitors.

Wiki cannot ensure that sufficient work is put into a certain subject. Wiki can only guarantee that the results will not be worse than with a forum given the same amount of effort (manhours). Either way, one needs some cleanup sooner or later to provide anything useful and permanent. Fortunately, cleanup is easier in wiki and least likely to be forgotten (not needed in the ideal wiki case but practically needed).


more advanced Version Tracking Systems

Wiki can be considered a "version tracking system", with some embedded formatting. The above advantages can be utilized in other version tracking systems as well.

There are more advanced version tracking systems (like CVS, GenBoard/FirmWare/CVSUsage ). Programmers use them all the time, average persons rarely. Since they're just a storage / version tracking tool, users are free to choose usage rules, formatting, semantics. There is nothing about them that couldn't be learnt from IQ > 95 (Bush could learn it easily, so you too), but it is just not widely known. VEMS uses CVS for firmware, and SVN (subversion, another similar version tracking system) will most likely be used for storing the manual source in the future.

While wiki is about 10 times more efficient (measurably) than mailing list, the difference between wiki and other version tracking systems is marginal. The info a given team can organize in wiki in 10 man-year would cost about 100 man-years with a mailing list (since the mailing list does not converge to a useful book-like set of pages, some people will need to sum up from time to time: but most of the resources are just burnt when reading outdated, badly formatted info and searching inefficiently). The difference, 90 man-years is about 9 million dollars. You can easily find mailing lists in EFI (or other) topic (with over 1000 subscribers) that burnt more resources than that. I wish they used better tools...


New tools needed most likely XML

Version tracking by itself is just not enough. We have proof :-)

By doing all the Q&A in the wiki we have a bunch of trash all over the place and constant maintenance is required. Unfortunately this is true. Draining resources with absolutely inefficient forums would make the problem much much much worse. The clutter would be missing but so would 90% of useful info (at least if we fairly compare 10 manhours of maintenance L way to 10 manhours W way). The only good solution is to mark the information as Q&A while editing so it can be hidden from users at will. XML comes to mind.

Some believe that to get all of the discussion and questions outside of the wiki would serve to clean it up and make it a better tool. It would worht to name the outside wiki part. If it's forum or mailing list, it's easily proven that this belief is just wrong. Someone who cannot do in wiki cannot do it with mailing list either (remember to compare fairly - same manhours). Remember that anything that's possible in a mailing list is possible in wiki the very same way in every case.

The only solution that was proposed and seem to attack these issues is markup, eg. XML.

Some of the clutter should just be removed. It's no use to put it anywhere. It remains in history if needed for any reason.

Are there other secret tools that HELP THESE PROBLEMS NOT MAKE THEM WORSE ? - let's name them

If someone feels the need for something better for day to day chat and tech help, it would worth to mention something that is better. The only good way is scientific (in this case pure economy) comparison. Try to tell your boss that solution L) costs a million bucks more than W) and takes longer, but you want to do A) because ... feel ... and collegues like it also... Good luck.