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The wiki copout is an unfortunate misuse of wiki technology. It's a special case of the CommunityCopout.

Consider an organization -- company, FreeSoftware project, community group -- that has the job of creating documentation, providing customer or user support, writing a FAQ, etc. Since this takes time, energy, money, and the attention of knowledgeable people, they sometimes turn to wiki as a MagicBullet to let the documents write themselves. The organization simply installs some wiki software and says to its customer or user community, "Figure it out yourself."

The KnowledgeCommunity? that has information that would be valuable in the wiki has copped out of ever providing the information, and usually never bother to even look at the wiki. After all, wikis are for peons to gabber at each other, not for the knowledge elite to transmit anything valuable. The wiki owner organization is an AbsentLeader -- not doing anything more than keeping the wiki software running, if that.

Almost every time, the wiki established this way languishes. There are occasional plaintive posts like "HOW DO I USE THIS!?!?" or terse additions like "Upgrade to version 3.5.1" -- but no actual wiki editing action. Eventually, the wiki becomes a GhostTown.

Worse, when asked for the documentation, support, etc., the responsible organization now has an excuse. They can simply point at the wiki. If questioned, they blame their user or customer community for not populating the wiki with valuable information -- the very information that they have, and are choosing not to provide.

It's important to note that the fallacy is not that the founder chose to use wiki to provide support, collaboratively create and edit documentation, etc. Wiki is great for those kind of things. The fallacy is that the founder is really using wiki to shirk responsibility. The founder doesn't want to have to do the work necessary to communicate or exchange knowledge with their community. Instead, they tell the knowledge-poor community to communicate with itself, and wash their hands of the problem. A founder that actively participates in the wiki, acting as a RoleModel or a BenevolentDictator, isn't copping out at all.

The wiki copout is dangerous for all wikis. Copout wikis are usually the wikis that most WikiDetractor?s point to to prove that wiki doesn't work.


I don't think that PurposelessWiki is a good way to describe a wiki copout that isn't working. There's a purpose, all right, but the AbsentLeader (or leaders) is not actively participating in that purpose. Wikis can die for more reasons than just not having a purpose. Being a GhostTown is a symptom; PurposelessWiki can be one cause. --EvanProdromou


Are there examples for such projects?

I'd rather not name names, if possible. Are you questioning whether this is a real phenomenon, or do you really want to see examples? --EvanProdromou

I think we need a page to describe the general problem of TechnologicalDeterminism as that just keeps coming up. It's important to understand the difference between the wiki and the organization. IfYouBuildItTheyWillCome expresses it in part, but the page name is awkward.

Speaking of which, the slang "cop out" here is confusing, as evidenced by the variety of spellings it has here. Is there a better name? And, since you can replace the word "wiki" with anything, like say "discussion board", it's probably irrelevant that it happens to be a wiki you are thinking about. I think you only need to describe CommunityCopout, and then maybe wiki as a very tiny special case. I know your point was really

The wiki copout is dangerous for all wikis. Copout wikis are usually the wikis that most WikiDetractor?s point to to prove that wiki doesn't work.

But that's kind of oxymoronic. Fad wikis discourage other people to make more fad wikis? That doesn't really matter. Fad chasers don't really mesh with the WikiNow; they could never really make a wiki work. TWiki and WikiPedia are much more dangerous to "wiki culture"; but so is WikiWiki where said culture originated. So, maybe it's just better to stick with the term CargoCultCommunity?. -- SunirShah

And here you were just saying that the term WikiCopOut might not be understood by all :) I agree with the anonymous interjector that WikiCopOut deserves to be its own page; while the phenomenon may 'actually' be just an instance of CommunityCopout, if WikiDetractor?s are talking about it, then it takes on its own context. -- BayleShanks


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