Friday, December 9, 2011

When is Wiki not a Wiki?

If a wiki uses an opaque format for storing its information, is it still a wiki? This question was prompted by discussions on an Atlassian blog post "Why We Removed the Wiki Markup Editor from Confluence 4.0". The summary is that a new version of Confluence changed so that you can't directly edit the text in its pages.

Wikipedia  has this to say about the subject of tools that do this, e.g. Google Docs

"the markup of a newly edited, marked-up version of the page is generated and submitted to the server transparently, shielding the user from this technical detail. However, WYSIWYG controls do not always provide all of the features available in wikitext, and some users prefer not to use a WYSIWYG editor. "

but I think there's a deeper issue here. Some people don't care about what's under the covers since they always access it at a higher-level such as a WYSIWYG editor or a browser. Other people expect to be able to manipulate the underlying content with other text-based tools. Using an opaque format will always alienate the latter group.

The tension between the two viewpoints is at least as old as Word and WordPerfect in editors, and surely has parallels in other human endeavours, though I can't think of them right now. I find myself in the open format camp since I want to be able to tinker with things.

1 comment:

  1. I mulled this over with friends for a few days. I think what bothers me is that decisions like this say to users "you must use our editors" and ignore fifty years of tools designed to manipulate text. Many, probably most, users of such tools won't care, but for some reason I do!