[Home]PostNow

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Have an idea that will belong on this wiki? Unsure exactly how to say it? Or how it fits in to the dialog? PostNow.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't make an effort to write well, stay on topic, and relate your ideas to others'. But, if these issues take so much thought that they delay your post for more than a couple of weeks, consider if the community might be better off having your idea as is rather than not having it at all. If you can't post your idea this month, there is a good chance you will never get around to it. See WorseIsBetter.

Contrast Wiki:WalledGarden. Perhaps a Wiki:WalledGarden is a better outcome than not getting the ideas out there at all.

The popularity of personal WebLogÿ?0ÿ notwithstanding, PostNow is an approach that does not work as well in static forums, such as WebLogÿ?1ÿs. First, PostNow makes more sense when you know that your writing can be refactored later. Second, time-oriented forums, few people will hear your idea if it does not relate to a topic of current interest. Thanks to the WikiNow, on a wiki you can post ideas tangential to RecentChanges and still know that YouWillBeHeard.


If you're going to PostNow, do it in BrainstormMode. -- SunirShah (after much consideration after the comments below)


An AntiPattern?

Unlike a brainstorming session when empty ideas disappear leaving only the strong ones, on a wiki both the good and the bad ideas remain--possibly for a long time. When people write before they think, they write poorly, create needless WantedPages, create shallow pages, and span their thoughts thinly over too many pages. The impatient passion, the sometimes arrogance of believing your half idea is a full idea, and the miscommunication of poor writing can even spawn flame wars.

The impatience is unnecessary. The wiki exists in the LongNow. The wiki will be here ready to accept your idea in the future. There is no hurry. We can wait. Important ideas can wait for someone to write them clearly.

In fact, this is a central aspect of wiki. You can continue a conversation left off years before. You can also easily leave a conversation suspended for a year. Everything is in the WikiNow. There is no hurry.

Therefore, if you don't have a well formed idea, you should wait until later when you have a complete thought. We need to increase clarity, not create more confusion and mumblings. Don't create garbage expecting others to clean up after you.

I recognize that it's impossible to expect people to keep complex ideas in their head until they are ready to spring forth like Athena from their forehead. That's not the point. There is a real difference between just writing lazily, expecting the readers to do the heavy lifting for you, and writing well. Remember that a single idea isn't as complex as the space station. It is only a single sentence. Work on making each word count.

But, some people are incapable of holding ideas in their head. A decent intermediate place to write half thoughts is on your own home page, say in a diary like MeatBall:SunirShah#diary, or on a page like EricScheidRandomThoughts. At least then the mess is in your own room, instead of all over the house, so to speak.


I think the mindset of PostNow is currently active on WikiWiki, which is why the PageDatabase has tripled in two years, mostly with redundant and ShallowPages. The call Wiki:FixYourWiki comes from a tiny minority (including me), and is usually considered somehow pejorative. I wouldn't want MeatballWiki to descend into coffee klatsz. Think in the LongNow. -- SunirShah

I am not a regular at WikiWiki so I can't really comment as to the situation there. However, I believe that redundant and shallow pages are most properly dealt with by refactoring, not by not creating them in the first place. (of course, if you know a page will be redundant, don't create it). If there are too many bad pages, they may be deleted if the community is willing.

If the community is not willing, perhaps they don't understand the need to refactor. Or, alternately, perhaps there is not enough agreement on which pages are "bad". In the first case, you should attack the root problem and evangelize refactoring; inhibiting people from writing bad pages (at the expense of inhibiting them from writing good ones too) won't solve everything in the long term (because even with well thought out, good writing, heavy refactoring and a good amount of deletion is necessary; I don't think Wiki:FixYourWiki goes quite far enough). In the second case, there is nothing to be done, and maybe there isn't really a problem anyhow.

It is true than in a brainstorming sesssion the bad ideas "disappear" and that is often good thing. But temporary "junk" pages are not really that bad for a wiki. The existence of a page doesn't take up many GlobalResources (server space and crowding of fulltext searches). So a merely incoherent page does no harm. It is when redundant pages integrate themselves into the fabric/link structure of a wiki that harm is done, because it becomes a pain to remove some of the redundancy without breaking references to the removed page. Ultimately, however, I view even that as a question of communal will.

So, I believe that PostNow is a pattern, not an antipattern. It does, however, require a community willing to refactor and delete. However, for me that is to me not much more than saying that it requires an active community, and since all of Wiki really requires an active community, that is no disadvantage.

We agree about ideas which are not well-formed; if you are not sure what you are trying to say, then only in exceptional circumstances should you PostNow. But, if you know what you want to say but simply aren't satisfied with your means of expressing it, give it a few days and then go ahead.

As for writing clearly, certainly the author, not the reader, should do the "heavy lifting". Let an idea gestate in your head or some sort of personal space for awhile. However, if the contribution is being postponed for more than a week, let it out. It is true that the wiki will still be here for you or someone else to write later. However, then your contribution could have been out there having a positive impact.

-- BayleShanks

I think you overestimate refactoring. See ReworkingProblems. -- AlexSchroeder


I have changed my mind about this. One should PostNow, or rather ActNow?, but only in a small, limited, prototypical, experimental way in order to learn something. This helps build experience, and if your action turns out to be mistaken, it will LimitDamage. Further, if it is a mistake, a small act will not overwhelm the PeerReviewers who can then constructively work with you to learn how to do this better, in a larger scale. A LearningCommunity works best through limited yet confident acts that are openly discussed. It stands to reason that the BehaviouralNorms? of all communities are taught through a very special subcase of a LearningCommunity. As a CommunityMember of a LearningCommunity grows in experience, they will (naturally) learn the best way to act within that community.

In particular, a wiki must encourage individuals to act now, because that is how they remain resilient (since all actions are social, not technical) and how a wiki gains VestedContributors. Particularly difficult skills like refactoring and editing other people's text and facilitating a discussion need to be taught both through RoleModels and through active experience. This requires action. The only caveat, then, is that action should be scaled to experience. And if action exceeds experience, as happens when people don't know how difficult something may be until they try it, expert PeerReviewers need to step in and make the task more manageable for the learner--but not merely revert it. -- SunirShah


Discussion

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