Wiki is better than email

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The wiki works better than email for content (examples, issues, brainstorms etc.) for numerous reasons.

short URL


wikis in plain english

Here is a short video explaining how wikis work much better than email for collaboration, even for something as simple as planning a camping trip.

default.jpgYouTube: Wikis in Plain English


Here are some reasons why wikis work better than email for microformats in particular, and in fact, for any kind of open standards development.

  • historical note: microformats have always been developed via public IRC + wiki since 2004 when Kevin Marks and Tantek Çelik first started researching/brainstorming/drafting microformats such as rel-license, vote-links, XOXO, hCard, hCalendar on the public Technorati Developer's Wiki and the Freenode IRC network. Brian Suda somehow discovered the Technorati Developer's wiki page for hCard, started editing it, and that's how he and Tantek Çelik met. The mailing-lists were not created until the site was launched in mid 2005 and have always been considered secondary to the wiki and IRC channel.
    • exception: hAudio was developed almost entirely through e-mail and wiki edits. -- ManuSporny 03:37, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
      • In retrospect, allowing that was probably a mistake, as there were far too many emails on the subject of hAudio for I and many others to keep up with, and many issues were resolved with little breadth of discussion (only 1-2 participants, typically Manu and Martin). In the future as a community we should insist that all issues be captured on the wiki, and that all opinions on specific issues be captured on the wiki, so that this information is not lost in email.Tantek 21:23, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

additional documentation


what is the best way to capture and resolve issues

What is the best way to capture and resolve issues through broad consensus?

  1. First check the relevant *-issues page, and if available, the corresponding *-issues-resolved page.
  2. IRC can be useful for quickly discovering whether something is an issue or not.
  3. If you cannot find the answer to an issue by searching, and asking in IRC, then ask a short message on the microformats-discuss list, and mention specifically the relevant *-issues wiki page where you didn't find the issue.
  4. If it appears you have a new issue, capture it on the appropriate *-issues page.
  5. If you have an opinion about an existing issue, add a nested list item to the existing issue and a "+1" or "0" or "-1" signifying your approval/ambivalence/disapproval, sign your name with ~~~~, and optionally provide reasons for your opinion.

The wiki, being on the Web and much more easily discoverable, reaches far more people than any email list or the IRC channel. Wiki pages are also much more readable as a summary of opinions, than having to wade through email threads trying to determine who is for/neutral/against any particular issue.

  • Thus the wiki is the best choice for documenting a range of opinions, and archiving discussions that lead to consensus.
    • -1 I'm not arguing for an all-or-nothing approach. I think we should discuss on IRC/e-mail, form a consensus of some kind, and then record that consensus on the wiki. The community should allow people to use whatever method works for them, rather than forcing a method of communication and issue resolution onto the community. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
      • This reasoning is flawed for multiple reasons: Tantek 21:23, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
        • Different opinions should be captured on the wiki, not just consensus. If you only capture consensus, then others with different opinions that come along later will simply restate those different opinions and then the community will waste time arguing the same arguments again. IRC/Email is insufficient for discussion.
        • Consensus should arise from expression of opinions on the wiki via +1/0/-1 subpoints. If you only capture +1/0/-1 opinions in email, those discussions are inevitably lost in email archives, difficult to find, and difficult to show that consensus actually occured.
        • People can communicate informally using whatever method works for them. Formal issue capturing/discussion/resolution takes place on the wiki.
        • In order to actually keep a community a community, we have to converge on certain methods and practices. Issue capturing, discussion, and resolution is one such practice.

what if I cannot find issues on the wiki

What should I do if I cannot find issues on the wiki?

I find it difficult to understand the arguments behind a large number of the items on the Microformats wiki. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

why is IRC better than email

Why is IRC okay, but e-mail not okay? ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

  1. People can easily choose to be on IRC or not when it is convenient for them to participate in discussions or not and that aspect of easy in/out control is very important. Email on the other hand, is much more cumbersome to subscribe/unsubscribe when you have time to handle discussions or don't.
  2. In IRC, if a participant has a misconception, others in the channel can quickly correct that participant, rather than the participant waste a lot of time with writing something up that is based on that misconception. In email OTOH, a mistaken assumption in the start of an email can lead to the author wasting time writing paragraphs upon paragraphs dependent on that bad assumption.

what if I do not have time to be on IRC

What if I don't have time to be on IRC?

I do not have the time to sit around in an IRC channel. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

I need an asynchronous method of communication and IRC doesn't work for me. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

what if I prefer to do my communication in batches

What if I prefer to do my communication in batches?

I do my communication in batches because that is most efficient for me. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

how do I make sure I do not miss something in IRC

How do I make sure that I don't miss something in IRC?

I can shut off my e-mail client and not worry that I've missed something, I can't necessarily do the same with IRC. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

what if someone starts an edit war on an issue

What if someone starts an edit war on an issue?

Edit wars lead to subsequent banning of individuals, as this community has experienced. -- ManuSporny 03:22, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

If someone:

Please contact one or more of the admins either on IRC (preferably) or via email, alerting them and providing URL(s) to the problematic edits on the wiki.

The admins will follow-up by correcting the wiki.

Such behavior that is disruptive to the community will not be tolerated.

If the individual persists in an edit war, especially after one of the admins have stepped in, the admins will warn and then ban the individual for progressively longer ban times as necessary.

how is the wiki better for controversial issues

How is the wiki better for controversial issues?

how is the microformats community different from previous standards communities

How is the microformats community different from previous standards communities?

As Paul Graham wrote:

There's a sort of Gresham's Law of trolls: trolls are willing to use a forum with a lot of thoughtful people in it, but thoughtful people aren't willing to use a forum with a lot of trolls in it. Which means that once trolling takes hold, it tends to become the dominant culture.

how can the wiki improve objectivity and friendliness

How can the wiki improve objectivity and friendliness?'

  • The wiki is a vital documentation tool, and we should strive that it be written as a quality piece of documentation of issues and specs. --BenWard 23:32, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
    • +1 Tantek 21:23, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
  • In forcing discussion into this format, discussion is blunted, becomes harsh and naturally gravitates toward polarized discussion. This is important for documenting the issue; to distill issues to their core, but this is bad for building friendly, amicable relationships between people trying to work together on microformats. --BenWard 23:32, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
    • We should encourage neutral/objective documentation of issues, and editing of issues to remove emotional content that could be interpreted as hostile or unfriendly. Tantek 21:23, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
    • In addition, as admins we should act quickly to warn and ban individuals who are abusive on the wiki (see above about edit wars). Tantek 21:23, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
    • On the side of friendliness, we should reach out to and contact new editors over IRC and email as necessary to help familiarize them with how-to-play and the mailing-list guidelines. Tantek 21:23, 15 June 2009 (UTC)


see also

Wiki is better than email was last modified: Wednesday, December 31st, 1969