Positives and Negatives of a Wiki

Posted on Mar 11, 2019

Jack Baty wrote in a tiddler recently:

Have you ever felt that if you have a wiki you don’t really need a blog?

I have been waffling around this very thing recently. TiddlyWiki has totally up-ended the tidy little posting routine that I thought I was settling into when I joined Micro.blog. Putting stuff in the wiki feels more publicly worthwhile than hoarding it in text files that only I can see, but writing in a blog (which I often forget to do these days) feels more like writing a letter to the world, like carving something in digital stone that is unlikely to change much once it’s posted. I especially feel the lack—and the missed opportunities for better writing—when I read things like Anton Zuiker’s To Give Attention, which is a lovely sentiment expressed in equally lovely language. (Also, Anton’s blog is gorgeous.)

I blasted out these bullets below to try to quantify what I think can be good and not-great about a wiki (specifically TiddlyWiki, which I have the most experience with). I didn’t get into the positives and negatives of using a proper blog.

Wiki positives:

  • No feed, and doesn’t appear on a timeline => no annoying a large audience.
  • Entries aren’t frozen in time when they’re posted. Can refactor, reorganize, and update previously-entered information, potentially uncovering patterns.
  • Truly agile, fast, and nimble. Encourages quickly getting things out there. More likely to get a real-time picture of what the author is obsessed with.
  • Can map well to the way the author thinks.
  • Sheer high volume of tiddlers/entries means you can cover a lot of ground, making it likely that you’ll help people other than yourself, even if only by accident.
  • The audience (though vanishingly small) is highly interested. You may get nice feedback on the tiniest little things.
  • Correspondence with others is slow, which invites contemplation, serendipity, and patience.

Wiki negatives:

  • No feed and no timeline means that most people won’t see what you put in it.
  • Large amount of content entered means that refactoring takes serious effort and is usually not as immediately fun as putting new stuff in.
  • Doesn’t lend itself to long posts.
  • The sheer high volume of tiddlers means that any “pearls of wisdom” are probably less discoverable by the public.
  • The audience (though highly interested) is vanishingly small. You may labor over a post and get zero feedback on it.
  • Correspondence with others is slow, which can lead to procrastination on the part of the writer.