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A common problem among wikis with a large and ongoing scope: they have too few contributions, they lack traffic. This is natural in the beginning but often the feeling "we'd like to have more traffic" continues and never ends. This can be noted from an inside perspective ("we are tired") or from outside critics ("boring place"). Of course one can argue about what "enough traffic" means. One could research or speculate why some wikis have or don't have this problem, analyze forces, and suggest solutions. Anyway it's interesting that this problem hasn't been made a major topic in the existing wiki communities. Maybe it's natural because no-one likes to talk about his own problems in the public.

Note that there are many wiki applications - like using wiki for a project group or for PIM - where this page doesn't apply. Every wiki has its own goal, and every goal has a different "required" amount of traffic.

Assumed overall "wiki for online community" goal

Enough traffic

Elements that guarantee traffic

Elements that increase traffic

Types of traffic

Fundamental problems


The main reasons that wikis die is because of too much insistence on specialization. When too many nonsensical rules and restrictions on what is OnTopic and what is OffTopic are insisted on by BrainDead? and ClosedMinded? individuals that think a wiki should be run like a military camp. In order for wikis to grow, the topics must grow and change with the interest of the community. Need to curb refactoring and curb the heavy-handedness of over-bearing wiki police. Take away the fun and the play ground, and everybody goes someplace else.

So the problem is the community? The smaller the community becomes the less variation there is in members and so there are less topic of a shared interest which in turn makes it harder to extend the wiki? -- AC

Yes, that is part of the problem. Need to let topics grow, need to allow people freedoms to be who they are and to talk about what interests them. Wikis die when they get strangled to death by self-appointed-wiki-police.

I also think that OffTopic should be handled with a lot of tolerance, but there will alway be a limit that a wiki can take (for example WikiSpam) and then it will have to defend itself. Any system has borders from SystemTheory, so there is no way around some rules. If the rules make sense and if they are applied with care, nobody will feel hurt. But wikis are new systems, anybody can install a wiki for free without a "founder licence", so a lot of errors occur. -- HelmutLeitner

On an unrelated note, the "no days without contributions" idea seems overly specific to wikis that need to be big and active. What is the right amount of traffic for MeatballWiki is not the right amount of traffic for, say, my own wiki which is used by my close friends and I to write up a setting for a roleplaying game in an easy and collaborative fashion. We might not contribute for days or weeks. There are less than ten of us who care about the project. When the project's done, we'll have a big party and burn the thing to a CD for everyone. Between my wiki and WikiPedia, there's a vast continuum of what the right amount of traffic and activity should be. -- anon(2)

You are right that there are many wiki applications where LackOfTraffic doesn't apply. "wiki for project" or "wiki for personal information management" are perhaps the most evident ones. This page is meant for "wiki for online community" only. I'll add a sentence to the introduction to make that clearer. -- HelmutLeitner

Aren't participators in my project in an online community? And again, are wikis that are "built to grow an online community" really what you're talking about here? A wiki like MeatballWiki needs a certain minimum amount of traffic, but that's because of the MeatballMission - which, in turn, isn't primarily concerned with "growing" an online community. If MeatballWiki had 600 active, posting members, each of which was focused on BarnRaising and exploring what it means to build an online community, it wouldn't need any more - "growing" from that point on would be spiritual, not numerical. How much traffic you need is a function of your goal, not TheAudience. All wikis "grow an OnlineCommunity", but they all have different levels at which that OnlineCommunity has the "correct" size.

In addition, the lack of discussion of the effect of the WikiNow on this subject is surprising. If nobody contributes to a wiki for 5 years, and then I (speaking generally) accidentally discover it, because of the WikiNow I can certainly still gain a great deal of benefit from it. Yet if RecentChanges is the only place where TimeStamping can reliably occur, I normally won't know immediately if I'm looking at a conversation that took place long ago or something that happened yesterday. As noted on this page, that makes a difference to my willingness to contribute.

I have changed a few sentences throughout. See what you think. -- anon(2)

About "online community": typically this term means openness, so that anyone (within certain restrictions) may join. With a project group this is typically not the case, it's more a real life community that moves online, including the status structure. I call that situation a CommunityOnline. Such projects have a different setting, quite different problems (still they may have traffic expectations).

About growth: this page is not meant to judge wikis from the outside, it is about how founders feel. Every founder is happy, when there is life in his wiki, discussions and content growing without his intervention. Every founder is happy, when his wiki develops, even without him working. It's like a child that grows up. Of course every founder is free to say: "no, I feel different about that".

About WikiNow: this is a reader perspective. The special wiki quality comes from interaction with the ideas, the people behind the text, the system of content and community. If a wiki is quiet for 5 years, the authors have probably moved to other places and have different ideas or interests. So you won't find people who identify with the texts, who are able to interpret the texts and continue the discussions from that point.

About your changes: I've no problem with them. -- HelmutLeitner


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