Document Mode

DocumentMode is when a Wiki contribution is written in the third person and left unsigned. The piece of text is community property; it may have multiple and changing authors as it is updated to reflect the community consensus. This is in contrast to ThreadMode, comments which are usually signed and in the first person, and rarely edited by people other than the one who signed them.

Wiki excels at DocumentMode. Many pages start off with an OpeningStatement which declares a piece of wisdom. It might be a pattern or ProtoPattern, or a question instead of a statement, or an opinion, phrased strongly to invite feedback. The rest of the page may then be the feedback. For example, requests for clarification of what the OpeningStatement means, or comments of agreement or disagreement perhaps supplemented with supporting evidence one way or the other.

Often the feedback is in ThreadMode. Sometimes, after a discussion has reached a consensus, someone will distill the information and advice, creating a new DocumentMode version which incorporates what has been learned.

DocumentMode is really just a style of writing, rather than a particular feature.

Why use DocumentMode?

When should I write in DocumentMode?
  1. ThreadMode comments are usually shorter than DocumentMode ones. If you find yourself writing a long reply, consider writing it in document mode, or even making it the OpeningStatement of a brand new page (with back and forth links to the original page, of course).
  2. If you write a comment and someone else queries one of your points or wants something clarified, don't write a 3rd comment: rewrite your original to make it clearer. And then delete the question so only your first comment remains.

Where can you find good examples of this way of writing?

[Pssst -- isn't the above discussion written in FaqMode?]

Yes, but a FAQ is usually a document, and FaqMode is a subset/special case of DocumentMode.

I've always thought of a FAQ as a special distilled form of ThreadMode. I guess it's a compromise between the two, document-like and also thread-like.

Perhaps it's that a FaqMode document is created Thread-like, but the result is DocumentMode.

[Editor's Note: Caution indicated, as TinFoilHat material follows.]

Complicated Explanations

Complicated explanations signify that the model is incorrect. Either there is a free-for-all environment in which any person can edit at random any Wiki page, or it is a class-based dictatorial system whereby the super user and permission granted subordinates have final control over the content. One can't have it both ways. This duality exposes why a Wiki is an inherently flawed system.

Phony Community Consensus

There is no mechanism for "community (what an overused and misused term) consensus" in a Wiki. Examples of such mechanisms are voting or paying the highest price in the face of limited supply. Those people who have control of the Wiki program itself and have access to the filesystem of the server host can dictate "consensus". Ordinary users and their ideas are controlled by these people, ultimately.

[Editor's Note: Rant mode turned off. Please return to your normal reading habits.]

Fortunately, Occam's Razor applies to answer both of these concerns equally adeptly: a consensus is met when all parties agree to something. Ergo, if nobody decides to change a WikiPage, as heretofore nobody has, then therefore the community that has thus far viewed the page must, by definition of the word consensus, be in agreement. A consensus must therefore have been arrived at. This explanation is dead simple; so simple, in fact, it defies further refinement. And, it proves the whole point of consensus: this paragraph would never have been written had I conceded to the above point of view. Now that I have written this paragraph, it is likely to cause some other minor refinements, but after awhile, it will settle back into equilibrium. Once again, a consensus will have been achieved. It's as simple as that.

Ok for the definition of consensus. But the trouble is that, in such a sense, a dictatorship is a consensus too: as long as it survives in its own (perverse?) form of equilibrium (that of the actions of the powerful minority balanced by the actions of the subjugated majority). The issue, perhaps, is not simple at all

Probably should keep your TinFoilHat handy. -- I'm in process of RT*M (of Wiki).

Question: So... it's obviously rude to delete or edit other's comments. But is there any case where it would be acceptable?

Yes, there is.

For example, say there's a short comment in a ThreadMode debate, POV x vs. y. The debate is becoming hard to follow; POV y post an short incorrect statement which is contradicted in the next comment. The problem is it wasn't directly referenced in it's refute. How to fix?

If you think a page would read better without a particular comment, move that comment to the poster's HomePage. If anything on a page is not on the topic indicated by the title, move it to some other page where it is on topic. If a incorrect or confusing comment is unsigned, edit or delete it. Rather than emailing a question to a poster, consider appending that question to their HomePage (WikiMailBox).

The only way to get a coherent page is for people, such as yourself, to edit it until it is coherent.

See WikiGnome, DeletionConventions.

I invite everyone to edit these pages until only the valuable words remain. -- WardCunningham (copied from WelcomeToWikiPleaseBePolite)

Comment: A Problem I'm seeing on ThreadMode pages w/ complex arguments: It's natural to assume that others share equivalent definitions of terms in a discussion.

Wiki seems to be an improvement over BBoards and IMs for more complex debates. But IMHO its dynamic capacity could make let ThreadMode Debate evolve into a DocumentMode better if: -EB

Those are interesting ideas for new WikiFeatures. But we can already do most of what you propose. Terms can be defined in the text of the page, or the page can link to some other page that defines that term. A comment to a particular writer goes in his WikiMailBox. I would like people to actually improve the page, rather than just talk about improving the page, but you can always write comments about editing the page as an EditHint.

(EditHint: consider moving this discussion to WikiGnome ?)

Limitations of DocumentMode

DocumentMode is simply a reflection of the prejudices of the participants. The history of science suggests that even "collective opinion" of the worlds best experts may not stand the test of time.

That having said, DocumentMode that MakeRoomForAllViewpoints is GoodEnough in a lot of cases. And as long as there is EgolessWiki the document will evolve with changing realities and would remain relevant.


For candidates to ConvertThreadModeToDocumentMode see ChangesInWeek?Foo, where Foo is a little ahead of the current week number.

See: SignedDocumentMode

CategoryMode, CategoryWikiMaintenance

EditText of this page (last edited August 28, 2010) or FindPage with title or text search