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Wiki vs. forums
Posted by diegoeskryptic [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 09:13:56 AM [Sorry, Neumman, I accidentally deleted your post! Here it is. --taubz]
Posted by Neumann at June 17, 2003, 09:20:50 AM
Please, I invite anyone reading this thread to write their reasons why the forums should stay and I'll carefully reply to each of them (on the wiki of course), in an ultimate attempt to convince everyone that wikis are better.
i havent even taken the time to understand the purpose of the WIKIs yet. To tell you the truth, I still dont know exactly what it is and how it works. I believe it allows any one to change a page? But why? Doesnt make sense.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 09:47:01 AM I have created the page at:
I will carefully write my answer later in the day. You can still find answer to that question yourself if you start using the wiki.
It took me 15 minutes of fun on first PhpWiki test site to understand why it was the best thing.
Posted by ItinitI [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 11:45:40 AM Is there really much difference? In a wiki you create a page rather than a thread...You edit the page to reply, rather than by posting.
But, the BBS, as of now, looks quite nicer than the Wiki, I will say that.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 11:57:57 AM "Is there really much difference? In a wiki you create a page rather than a thread...You edit the page to reply, rather than by posting"
You are speaking of wiki thread mode. What is really different from forums is that you can refactor a threaded page with questions and answer into a more-readeable document. In this forums, useful informations posted on this forum are kinda 'lost' over time.
"But, the BBS, as of now, looks quite nicer than the Wiki, I will say that. "
If this is just a matter of how it looks, I agree. The wiki is rather ugly.
But if you look on your userpreference page, you'll see that you can use your own stylesheet or completely remove it. This is something I would like to see change since the current default stylesheet has few quirks.
You could propose a better default stylesheet.
I also thought about what logo could replace the MoinMoin guy in the upper left corner but I haven't been satisfied by the ideas I had.
Posted by ItinitI [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 12:15:43 PM Yes! Brown just doesn't hit my as a proggin colour... =/
For CSS, something like http://www.tpu.org/black/tpu.css coulors might be a bit better IMHO, though the white/light grey tables near the top look a bit odd.
Yeah, I dunno if something similer to the TPU logo... Maybe like a crest or something...
Posted by CViper [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 12:58:40 PM IMHO wikis can be a great source of information, but if the main goal is communication, I'd prefer forums.
(just a random comment)
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 01:20:26 PM Tell me how forums are better than wikis for communication?
Like ItinitI said, you can use a wiki just like you used a forum, using thread mode ie: appending text on a page.
Posted by regretfuldaydreamer [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 01:26:22 PM I think the problem is:
The older ones around here are fustrated that this place is used for immature teenage chatting.
This is perfectly understandable.
I suggest that TPU be handed over to be run entirely by teens and the older ones around here move over to HProg. The TPU regulars could also contribute to the wiki.
Smerdyakov said "I believe we have mostly a consensus that at least ALMOST everything in TPU is wasted in restricting it to a young audience."
I believe when he was initially promoting TPU people put up the same opposition to a teen orienated organisation.
In my opinion to a non-teen, a teenage based organisation will clearly be a setback, however if this place returns to its true, full of teens existance, the teens here may work better as a group and as it is not influenced by non-teens, the teens may actually discover a way to rekindle TPU.
This is just my two cents - Whats your opinion? - Keep this place around just for teenagers.
Posted by regretfuldaydreamer [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 01:29:44 PM Neumann - Why use Wikis instead of Message boards for communication? Message Boards are more suited for communication, and if you go aroung with that attitude, the wiki will just turn into a more awkward message board.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 02:01:17 PM I would like to see how 'more suited' they are. I haven't found any good reasons yet.
Maybe I'm in "Smerdyakov Mode" by promoting the wiki that way but I'm not being nasty and inflexible on purpose. Keeping a wiki and a forum at the same time is largely redundant.
Posted by CViper [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 02:50:07 PM Well, message boards were designed with this "special kind" of communication in mind - i.e. where you "leave" a message to which other users can respond at will (instantly or days later, unlike IRC etc).
Wikis are more general, and sure you can use them as a message board substitute, but as rdd already pointed out, it's rather awkward (mainly for new users).
Wikis are a great way to collect information and allow people to add their stuff.
Facit, the wiki is cool, but it's not a real substitute for message boards (and probably was not created as one either). I'd prefer to have both, but that could shift too much attention from the wiki to the forums.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 03:08:45 PM If you have a look at the original wiki in c2.com, all you see is page after page of [Text, idea, something, ...] + [Reply] + [Reply] + [Reply]... And everything in linear mode on 1 page, just like this forum.
For now, HProg contributors have been focused on producing well-formed documents but nothing keeps you from "replying" to a question or a topic like in:
just like you would reply to somebody on this forum.
Awkwardness was my first concern about the wiki but after thinking about it for a while, I realised that the only thing that could discourage a new user is the absence of a clear 'Message board here' sign. A newcomer doesn't even have to sign up, unlike on this site. Action for action, this makes the wiki easier to use.
I'd like to thanks C_Rdd to making me realise I should not advertise the wiki as a messageboard. What makes the wiki harder to use is the total novelty of it for most people: it's not really a CMS, it's not really a messageboard, it's not really anything else than a wiki but it's better than both CMS and messageboard for the HProg Community.
Posted by ItinitI [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 03:09:29 PM Yes, I like both... Wiki for information... BBS for questions and such...
Posted by regretfuldaydreamer [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 03:37:19 PM I say separate TPU from Hprog formally and leave message boards here for those who want to use them and more or less suggest that everyone contributes to the wiki.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 03:42:47 PM Split of TPU and HProg is not something I want to pronounce myself on.
But I hold on to my opinion saying that keeping a forum and a wiki for the same community is redundant and bad for users of both systems.
Posted by split [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 04:27:14 PM I think people find forums easier to use, but those who refuse to learn how to use the wiki don't usually post meaningful messages anyway.
Posted by diegoeskryptic [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 04:58:38 PM Im turning this place into a python safehaven :-)
Posted by taubz [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 10:07:54 PM Wikis are not good communication tools for the following *good* reasons that Psion has already rejected in a conversation we had (except I will explain it better here):
Interpersonal communication occurs in standard modalities. In friend-to-friend speech, you talk whenever the other isn't. In very formal conversation, you take turns. In formal letters, you are careful about your grammar. In instant messages, you abbreviate whenever the listener will understand. You can't have successful communication without an agreed-upon modality.
Forums are a standard modality for communicating on the Internet. Almost everyone understands the forum modality, and it's intuitive to pick up by simply glancing at the layout of a forum webpage.
People with good nettiquite (read "manners") have been trained to not enter into a communication unless they are comfortable with the modality. This is the familiar "Don't post unless you know the rules" that we repeat here every time someone posts a homework question.
Static Internet sites also have a modality - it's the forum of communication where the listener doesn't interfere with what the speaker is saying. ("Read-only" communication if you will.)
Wikis are a counterintuitive modality for communicating on the Internet because they contradict the "normal" Internet modality: Users are *supposed* to interfere with what the speaker is saying. This makes the modality difficult to be comfortable with (unless you've become used to it). And, if a user isn't comfortable with it, he won't stay on a Wiki long. This isn't to say it's a bad form of communication, only that it's a turn off if you're not already familiar with it.
The type of communication that we have on the forums is a linear, temporal process. Wikis have no support for linear, temporal communications.
Why is linearity important? If the communication isn't presented in the order in which it was communicated, then it's impossible to understand. Furthermore, if it's not obvious that the information *is even in an order* then the viewer may not recognize it as a linear, temporal communication.
Why is time important? You don't want to reply to something time-sensitive that is years old, and you want to see what communications are new. Not everything needs a timestamp, but certainly some topics do. And, a visitor can't be expected to search an entire site to find things to respond to. New postings need to be centrally listed if they are expected to be addressed by others.
Wikis can emulate this, but hprog.org isn't emulating it now and those who like hprog don't want it to.
Posted by taubz [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 10:12:25 PM Clarification of the first sentence: Wikis are not good for handling the same type of communication we have on the forums.
Clarification of a later sentence: This isn't to say Wikis are universally a bad form of communication, only that it's a turn off if you're not already familiar with it.
Posted by unknown_lamer [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 10:32:34 PM How about keeping the forums and then writing up a wiki page using the information from the thread when the thread ended (if anything good comes of the thread). Sort of like Kernel Traffic for TPU if you will.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 10:34:48 PM You have raised good points taubz. I agree on 1 of the 2.
I agree with reason 1 but I think the wiki has enough other advantages to counter-balance this. It goes a bit with my idea of the lack of 'Message board here' sign.
If we don't get the user into using the wiki, they will never leave the comfort of the message board and the content available on the 2 sites will be severely diluted, formal documents being posted on the wiki and questions/answers being posted on the forum. Documents can generate questions and questions can help produce more useful content, this is how a wiki become useful over time.
TPU people don't want to leave their forums because they are used to it and this is normal. Inertia to changes happen in many subjects in life and we need some people to fight it.
"Wikis have no support for linear, temporal communications."
There is no "click here to answer" support for linear communication built into the wiki, but saying that the wiki doesn't support linear communications is not true. Replying to someone below his message is just a matter of wiki nettiquette. And if somebody doesn't care about the good usage of the wiki, somebody can refresh his mind by moving his content to the right spot.
"And, a visitor can't be expected to search an entire site to find things to respond to"
That's what "Recent changes" is for. I'm already a "Recent change" junky for every wikis I have visited in the last weeks.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 10:40:37 PM unknown_lamer: who will volunteer to move the stuff from the forums to the wiki and refactor it? Not me.
I think that this would be simply a waste of good time and energy and that won't make more people use the wiki.
Posted by Psion [send private reply] at June 17, 2003, 11:02:11 PM I combine two replies into one!
Rdd: What reasons do you have for supporting separate teen and all-ages groups? I don't see any mentioned above. Also keep in mind that, if I were to turn TPU over to others, you would need to somehow show that you are capable of running it, including setting up hosting for it.
taubz: As I've said before, someone incapable of reading a page of text to learn how to use a _very_ simple web site system has no hope of becoming a good coder, and so I am glad to see him turned away. Wikis are only "counterintuitive" to the extent that, yes, you will have to spend a minute thinking to realize how simple they are.
Of course, there are also some very simple ways to make it even easier for worthy folk to realize what they are missing. We can make it dead obvious from the FrontPage how to visit us on IRC with a Java applet for personal introductions, and we can bring it up at the GroupCodingSessions that should be kicked off soon. Finally, there's the fact that an organization like this centered around a web site is in pretty sad shape; it ought to be based around the community of people. It hardly matter if most people can't figure out how to add to the wiki. We can tell the really dumb ones how to do it, if necessary, once they are part of the community.
As to your second point, as already mentioned by Neumann, RecentChanges provides a unified view of new content. There are also multiple links from FrontPage to pages asking visitors to participate in or begin linear forum-style discussions, making your "those who like hprog don't want it to [have linear discussions]" sound rather silly. These two things lead me to believe you have avoided exploring the wiki enough to be qualified to make the argument you are making.
Posted by regretfuldaydreamer [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 03:51:27 AM You know what I actually think would be a true test of which is a better system of communication? Leave the two operating simultaneously for a year and eventually one will probably fall out of use.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 06:43:36 AM Rdd: Bad idea since the 2 systems are not equally known. And would we do with the content of the wiki after 1 year? ditch it? naaw
Posted by taubz [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 08:03:50 AM Psion wrote: "As I've said before, someone incapable of reading a page of text to learn how to use a _very_ simple web site system"
Web sites should be intuitive without having to read instructions.
Psion wrote: "There are also multiple links from FrontPage to pages asking visitors to participate in or begin linear forum-style discussions."
I see now that hprog is starting to emulate forums. Without a separation of threads and without timestamping threads and messages, it still is only barely meeting the minimum for forum communication.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 08:43:15 AM "Web sites should be intuitive without having to read instructions."
I agree. To use the wiki at a decent potential, you have to read the instructions. To simply add a comment on a page however, you don't need. You need to know that there is a link named 'edit this page' and you can append whatever you want to the page.
Counter-intuiveness comes from what you said earlier. Editing a page goes against everything that exists on the Internet. You don't really need to read the instructions to be productive.
The only thing I would like to see change in the current wiki is FrontPage. Somebody actively searching for something like HProg will see FrontPage first. Even if he does know how to use a wiki, the FrontPage should route him to other sections of the site as quickly as possible. By 'quickly' I means no more than 2 seconds, just so the brain spots the links on the page and interpret them without having to read the whole text beside the link.
HProg's frontpage structure is not as clear as some other popular wiki out there:
I'm probably biased toward OddMuse Wiki because I just noticed all of those page uses it (I think). The common points of those 3 frontpages is:
- Light colors with alot of white spaces between items
- LEFT-ALIGNED links with SHORT text.
That means we should REALLY change the default style sheet. I did try to change the front page once but the changes have been rolled back by Mr. Psion even if my they had the approbation of 2 other people on IRC :D
"I see now that hprog is starting to emulate forums. Without a separation of threads and without timestamping threads and messages, it still is only barely meeting the minimum for forum communication."
I sure hope you notice that this forum doesn't separate threads beyond the first post.
If you equate Thread to wiki page, then the thread is timestamped by "Recent changes" and by the last change date at the bottom of the page.
I can't deny that messages are not timestamped on the wiki... but who really needs that?
Posted by Psion [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 11:34:22 AM For me, it just comes down to that I'm not willing to invest time in a community both 1) defined by a web site and 2) having a member base unable to learn quickly how to use wiki software. I'm happy to repel anyone this excludes. Neumann's suggestion might improve things, though. How about creating mock-ups of suggested FrontPages elsewhere than the real one?
Oh, and rdd: Keeping this web site operating depends on me, the only person who understands the software running it, and I'm not feeling willing to do that for much longer.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 11:48:16 AM "How about creating mock-ups of suggested FrontPages elsewhere than the real one?"
I just noted that on my things ToDo on my PDA :) I will start that tonight along with new style sheets. I think I'll try to reuse tpu.org stylesheets as much as I can. I think most people would agree on those.
Ideas for logos are welcome too.
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 02:47:24 PM More people are comfortable with forums, including new visitors and old ones.
The forums are still active, after the WIKI is up and running. Also, instead of posting this topic where you suggested in the first place at http://www.hprog.org/fhp/WikiVsForums, it continues on here.
It just shows, that people are comfortable in forums. Which gives it an advantage over WIKIs.
Forums also look nicer, and can be kept neater, easier. They are also easier to use of course.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 03:14:31 PM I would like to know how forum are easier to use than wikis. Clicking "Edit this page" and entering your text is too hard for you ken?
I agreed above they were less intuitive and I believe that's the only reason why people hesitate to use it. Lack of intuiveness doesn't make something harder to use, it just makes you think a little more. I will do whatever I can to improve the intuitiveness of the wiki while not loosing anything of its "wikiness".
And the reason why this thread is active here is because this forum is still running and people hang to it.
"Forums also look nicer, and can be kept neater, "
This is bullshit. Forums just accumulates stupidities and over time they get locked. After few months they disappear into the archives like the hundreds of old threads before them. This is a useless loss of informations. If you call that neat...
The only way to preserve informations from a forum would be the refactor the threads into some sort of document. That would takes alot of time. Using a wiki eliminates that need since everybody can participate into making the information useful and well organised for future readers.
Of course, if you use forums to talk about the weather and mundane things, you don't want to use a wiki. HProg intent is to keep informations about programming and allow communication within the members of the community. The way forums are used just can't do the trick. Wiki do.
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 03:29:17 PM You can create a board specifically for the good information. You see it good thread, you can post it in that special board. You could make that board so only moderators and admins can post the threads they think are worthy there. They can post it as stickies or announcements so they will never disappear with old threads. You won't have to worry about stupidities, because only the moderators can have the power of replying or posting on those boards (if you want).
Pressing edit isn't too difficult. However, simply scrolling down to the bottom of the page and filling in a box while pressing post, is even simpler.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 03:38:44 PM Your suggestion require dedicated admins that copy, reformat and correct posts of others. The wiki doesn't require this as anyone can participate. I've seen that idea of "stickies" in other site and they are only good to keep faqs, announcements. The quantity of stickies you can keep in 1 board is limited. They can make useful threads stay in view but they are no place to write full featured documents. On the wiki, you can write documents and let other people add details straight into the document or go in thread mode by replying below it. Forums are no way near that flexible and forcing those features in a forum software would only make it a "bad wiki".
"Pressing edit isn't too difficult. However, simply
scrolling down to the bottom of the page and filling in a box while pressing post, is even simpler."
Big difference indeed! One is very easy, the other is just very very easy. I don't think the difference is relevant here.
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 04:10:02 PM Well, important documents can be stored on the site, and used on the site.
While the messageboard is strictly for discussion.
Kind of like how it is right now.
You could make on off-topic board. Since it seems too much off-topic things get mixed up in General. It seems people think that General, is the place for off-topic threads. At least it will filter out all of the off-topic junk.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 04:21:28 PM Why keeping a messageboard for discussion and a wiki for documents? Why? The wiki can very well fill the 2 role. It's just a matter of getting the people used to it, just like they are used to this forum.
Actually, this CMS system made by Smerdyakov already allow people to submit documents but you can see as well as me that this feature is greatly underused. Wiki removes the need of 'submitting' document. You write them, and they are online.
And if you actually used the wiki, you would see that there is already an OffTopic page that can you can use to start random discussion. Besides, nothings keeps you from starting a "AppleAdvocacy" or "GaySexOnHProg" page if you feel like it...
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 04:27:40 PM I've used the WIKI. I think it's pretty good besides it's look.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 18, 2003, 04:40:16 PM The look issue needs to be solved sooner or later.
Any style sheet you can submit will be tested and submitted to random people (probably on IRC) for approval. The best one can probably be placed as the default one.
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 20, 2003, 02:08:08 PM "Any style sheet you can submit will be tested and submitted to random people (probably on IRC) for approval."
How about this one? It looks pretty nice and is made to be a background. It should brighten up the site as well as keep text easy to read. It is also used on one of the fatest email services as a background. It is nice, but keeps a website speedy.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 20, 2003, 02:23:39 PM Are you sure you know the difference between a STYLESHEET and a background image?
Beside being totally inapropriate for a programming site, this images was probably picked straight of one of the background images provided with Windows 95. That is something we DO NOT want our site linked to for sure.
Personally I think background images do very little to improve the look of a site. Most of the time it's the opposite.
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 20, 2003, 03:57:03 PM "Beside being totally inapropriate for a programming site, this images was probably picked straight of one of the background images provided with Windows 95. That is something we DO NOT want our site linked to for sure."
What would be apropriate for a programming site!? Black?! This isn't math.com, we can't have numbers in the background or stars like an Astronomy site. Clouds are a peaceful background that are often used.
The cloud was not taken off of Windows 95. Someone designed it.
"Personally I think background images do very little to improve the look of a site. Most of the time it's the opposite."
I don't see how hprog.org could get any uglier.
Posted by Neumann [send private reply] at June 20, 2003, 04:55:41 PM You clouds sadly look EXACTLY like the Windows 95 clouds.... white on sky blue!
"What would be apropriate for a programming site!? Black?!"
Black, blue, white, any plain color is better and less distracting than CLOUDS. You don't even use them in your own homepage...
and why even THINK about background image anyway! Show me wiki sites, community sites, programming sites that uses brackgrounds and I'll show you 10x more using plain white or black.
"I don't see how hprog.org could get any uglier. "
Well, our brown headers over your clouds would no doubt make it uglier.
If you want to improve the site, design a new stylesheet for it. Like I did yesterday. Put your cloud if you want and if enough people like it, it will be adopted as the default one...
... but I really don't expect this to happen.
Face it ken, you suck :D
Posted by ken [send private reply] at June 20, 2003, 05:32:26 PM Itiniti (check spelling) has a nice star background. It's not like his site is about Astronomy (though that would be nice).
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