Proposal: Talk/Discussion pages for Foswiki

This topic proposes that we implement a Talk page system for Foswiki. This can be in two ways:
  1. – as a short term fix to have pages that are named according to the convention PageTitleTalk in which we will have all the discussion/time sensitive information for any given page.
  2. – as a long term goal to implement some automation around this so that talk pages become automatic within Foswiki.

Two Different Types of Information

No matter what type of wiki you have or what the subject area of the wiki is, there will always be a separation between two different types of information: A – the objective facts surrounding a particular topic and the community consensus on the subjective facts. B – the subjective facts that haven’t reached community consensus yet and other short term (time sensitive) information regarding a page – e.g. discussion between different contributors on how agreement could be reached, or discussion regarding the division of work between different contributors to the page.

The world’s most successful wiki is unarguably Wikipedia and the wiki engine that powers it, MediaWiki, has this distinction built in. Every page on Wikipedia has an associated page called the “Discussion” page. This allows Wikipedians to separate out the type A information from the type B.

Foswiki does not have this feature built in. However, no matter what wiki engine is being used and no matter what the subject area of the wiki is, the fundamental issue remains: there is still type A and type B information and trying to mix it will lead to problems.

  1. – Users who are simply looking for type A information often have to root through a threaded discussion to try to find it amongst all the type B.
  2. – Users (especially new users) may be put off from contributing if what they have in their heads is type B.
  3. – Often type A information has to start off as type B. It is only when discussion has taken place and consensus reached that the information can move to type A.
  4. – Refactoring is difficult because of the stigma associated with “deleting other people’s stuff”. This can lead to a wiki where many of the pages are unfactored and it is difficult to find type A information on a given topic.

Having a two page (A/B) system simplifies things with regard to type B information.
    • Anyone can add content to type B pages as long as it is signed and dated. And there is no need to delete information. Naturally this could lead to long, unfactored pages but we don’t care – the only reason why type B pages exist is to support the creation of type A pages.
    • Type A information needs more care but at least the contributor will be able to look to the supporting information/discussion that’s taken place on the associated B page.

Having a two page system:
  • Encourages discussion to take place regarding any given topic. (On Wikipedia, if a discussion page - type B page - doesn’t exist, it is a one click process to create it.) This ensures that the community remains a place where different views are heard, understood and taken into account. This is good for community spirit and cohesion.
  • Encourages people to refactor and contribute since there is built in guidance on the associated B page telling them how they can refactor – as well as containing the raw information that be distilled into neatly factored text.
  • Enables the type A information to be more readily accessible to all. Thus making the wiki a better source of information which is, after all, what wikis are all about.

Enabling this in our Wiki

Three questions:
  • What are people’s comments on the above?
  • If we wanted to implement this as a short term fix how would we do this (i.e. how to get the community to buy into this type of new behaviour)?
  • Do we agree with the above strongly enough to build this functionality into Foswiki?


Please discuss this on the page, TalkPageConceptTalk.

BasicForm edit

TopicClassification CommunityMatters
Topic Summary
Interested Parties
Related Topics
Topic revision: r4 - 22 Nov 2008, IsaacLin
The copyright of the content on this website is held by the contributing authors, except where stated elsewhere. See Copyright Statement. Creative Commons License    Legal Imprint    Privacy Policy