Jeremy Smith's blog

Entry Is Labelled

Don't Misuse Wikis

The (mostly) wonderful world of Wikis

"[Wiki] software is not magic," Wales said. "You can't throw up a wiki and hope a miracle will occur. It takes thoughtful people to make it run."

I'll say.

I keep seeing more and more of this as wikis become all the buzz. People throw up wikis at the drop of a hat with no clear purpose. If you are setting up a wiki, it should have a clear and defined purpose and serve a user community. A wiki just for a wiki's sake is a useless piece of software.

On the other end of the spectrum, I see many people misusing wikis. Building too much complexity, infrastructure, and workflow-like-concepts into wiki engines. The more complex a wiki system becomes, the less clearly defined its purpose is.


The most unsuccessfull wikis are the ones that are misused. Wikis are good at being wikis. You shouldn't try to use a wiki engine to create a presentation or as an IM client any more than you should use a wiki engine to iron your clothes. If you try either one of those, you'll be disappointed with the wiki software. And if you try steering your user community towards wiki-misuse, you'll find your user community confused and reluctant to use the wiki for what it is rightfully for.


  1. gravatar

    I like that featuritis image you posted.

    It applies to pretty much all software and technical devices. Why does the iPod have such a large market share? It hit the featuritis peak. Sure there are other devices that do more for less money, but that's not what the masses want.

  2. gravatar

    At the core, a wiki is just a publishing engine. When people ask if a wiki can do something, my response is "probably, but..." Wikis CAN do almost anything. The question is whether they are the right tool for the job. If you hammer hard enough, you can make something work with a wiki. Whether it is a proper fit on the other hand...

    What is happening is that people love that wikis provide the ability for anyone to edit content. There is no other product quite like it. People are infatuated by this ability and say "gee, this product is so cool I must use it."

  3. gravatar

    I like wikis not because of the ability of anybody to edit, but rather due to the real easy way to create new pages just by how you type(whether its camel code, or what have you).

    In Japan, they actually have a provider that offers free Wiki space: LiveDoor Wiki. (It is in Japanese)

    FWIW, I have seen that image before. Just a quick google seems to indicate that the originator of it is
    . I first saw it

  4. gravatar
    FWIW, I have seen that image before.

    Yea, the image links to the originating post.

  5. gravatar

    Ah, yes the image does link there....sorry, didn't notice that.

  6. gravatar

    Are you sure 56452 about this?!?