On Topic

This page has been partially reduced to be folded into WikiMission.

In general, the content of this Wiki is about PeopleProjectsAndPatterns in relation to software development and is an InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas. However, other topics of discourse find their way here in the form of a discussion board (DocumentMode vs ThreadMode).

Wiki is like a pub. We are a bunch of people with something in common: software development. Just as in a pub full of software developers, it's all right if the conversation wanders away from software development, but if it wanders away from things of interest to people interested in software development, it's off topic. For example, comparing how children, apes and insects think is on topic because it helps us think about how we think and how our software "thinks." On the other hand, an aviation club in your local area is not going to be of interest to many people here and thus is OffTopic. Aviation in general, particularly aviation systems, is probably OnTopic.

Some liken this Wiki to a club and think the heavy-handed category moderation shown by a few to be contrary to the intent and spirit of the medium. However, a page on the World Trade Center bombing was actually off topic but tolerated, because it affected all of us and we're interested. Once it stopped being topical it was refactored and deleted.

Just as in a pub, if people always seem to leave when you arrive, you're probably OffTopic. But how many pub conversations have you had that even had a single topic? Stretching that comparison gives weight to the other side of this matter, because a pub is a place where people go to shoot the breeze, to unwind and explore the freedom of mind brought about by speech. People go to pubs and places to escape strongly organized societies and the rigors of single-issue media.

Wikizens need to be mindful of the use and usefulness of this Wiki. If one can see that a particular issue is generating more noise than signal, more heat than light, and more clutter than refinement, then that issue should probably be moved to a site that would be a more suitable host. Any issues that generate good, concise, informative content should be nurtured and preserved so that this Wiki continues to grow in value to all its users.

Some of my contributions are "on-topic" in the strict interpretation of the term. Most would be considered "off-topic", again using the strict definition. Wiki can't have one type of contribution from me without the other. Software patterns and XP are usually boring topics that don't interest me. It is the "off topic" material which keeps me coming back on a daily basis. While browsing this off-topic material, I not infrequently happen upon on-topic material to which I can make some small contribution. However, if the "off-topic" material is deleted and suppressed, I will leave this wiki. I suppose the departure of myself and other like me may even be the purpose of the current spate of deletions. I think that's sad. -- AndyPierce

This Wiki is not aimed at entertainment. A community must define boundaries as to who is in and who is out; that boundary is boredom. If you are bored, you are free to leave. The Internet is a large place. You can find your niche. (unsigned)

I was thinking that wiki is one form of expression that has certainly broken the barriers. It is like you were cramped in an airtight room full of people, it became very hot inside and suffocating....the suddenly somebody opened the door and you were led out to fresh clean and cool air. I am an instant admirer and a convert to the WikiReligion. -- NasirKhan

We generally value the contributions of all wikizens, but put more value on those pages concerning software development. If you have contributed something to a software discussion, we welcome you. We need people like you. If you have never contributed to a software discussion, please go. I don't hate you. I don't even know you. But I came here to talk about software. If you find that boring, it is sad indeed that you feel you must leave. Please send any software aficionados our way and come back anytime you feel like discussing software. (unsigned again)

Isn't it interesting how the hostile, "you are off-topic" type comments (above) are unsigned, whereas the people accused of being offtopic are happy to sign their names? -- IanHolmes

Somewhere here I have acquired a notion that there is another property of a page: how closely it meshes with the rest of the content here. If it integrates with the body of knowledge here that makes it OnTopic, even if it's OffTopic. (Yes, that allows feature-creep of the Topic. Does that make this notion wrong?)

I can't find the page that gave me this idea and have no idea where to start looking. Please AnswerMe if you can. -- MatthewAstley

[later] The WalledGarden idea is related, but I think there is something missing...


For some reason I've always thought that a page can have a topic, but an entire Wiki can't. You can look at all the pages on a Wiki and sort of generalize, and say, "The contents of this Wiki seem to have to do with X or Y," but unlike page topics there is no easy way to enforce a Wiki-wide topic.

If something is OffTopic for a given page it can be moved to another page, but the next step up, moving something to another Wiki if it is OffTopic for a given Wiki, is much more difficult, given that Wikis vary in formatting, searchability, and availability. (Deleting is also possible but less desirable.)

Pardon my presumptiveness, but I think the topic of an entire Wiki should be allowed to be an "emergent characteristic." It should not be forced. Page topics can be forced if need be, but if you want to influence the overall contents of the Wiki you should try AddingNewPages on the topic of your choice. This lets the community decide on what is OnTopic or off.

Don't be discouraged if your page is marked OffTopic. After all, it might only be the opinion of one reader, and you can contribute to this wiki in many different ways.

Indeed. For a while there were a handful of folks running around slapping "off-topic" labels on everything they thought shouldn't be on this Wiki, despite the fact that there were well-known and well-used categories for these items. If you are going to label something off-topic then at least tell us where you think it should be put.

It's not so much a pub as a pub full of software developers. You can wander off the subject, but if you go too far you'll lose your audience. That's all this is saying.

Quote from above repeated as otherwise the flow in the above passage may be lost.

I personally like this explanation a lot. May I also suggest that this Wiki pub is only a finite size, if it gets too noisy, people will leave for a while too. "If we keep two days worth of RecentChanges and it has thousands of pages then it would get intimidating"

Another point is that during different periods, people with different interests hang out. Others could be squeezed out due to congestion.

Lastly, OneMansMeatIsAnotherMansPoison. The domain for Information Technology is vast and therefore people who do not have broad interests will find a lot of OnTopic activity (e.g XP meetings in a different continent) worse off than the OffTopic pages. -- DavidLiu

However, as has also been noted before, MySignalIsYourNoise.

What is OnTopic should feature prominently on the FrontPage (i.e. paragraph one) in order to orient newcomers as to the main purpose of WardsWiki. The OnTopic link is buried somewhere to the end. Unless the user clicks it, there is no mention anywhere about PeopleProjectsAndPatterns on that main page. FrontPage what is ranked highest on Google if you search for "wiki". It gives the impression at first glance that the wiki is a generic repository of any and all information.

Oh, for goodness sake! The whole purpose of PeopleProjectsAndPatterns is, surely, to see in which direction people move the project and to examine why that movement occurred. How then can one arbitrator determine what is and what is not within that remit. (OnTopic or OffTopic). To attempt to do so limits the scope of the project and so defeats the object of the exercise.

The whole purpose? And who suggested a sole arbitrator?

Most of the problems incountered with OffTopic happen when we get to talking about the "People" part of PeopleProjectsAndPatterns. It is artificial to think that it is only relevant to talk about how people "move the project and to examine why that movement occurred." Often understanding people gives insight into how people do things. That gets chased into lots of areas that some folks want to label as OffTopic. It's naive though, and short-changes our understanding of how we operate on the job. -- BrucePennington

Lame Question

I have been trying to better understand the wiki phenomenon because of a college course I'm taking. I just don't get it and there doesn't seem to be anyone out there to start at the beginning in layman's terms. Are all wikis tech related and is there a place for the novice? I'm beginning to assume the idea was developed by and for professionals for lack of a better word. The wiki has thus far done me absolutely no good.

Maybe you should better look at e.g. http://wikipedia.org, where there are fewer geeks, when you want a layman's wiki. (DeleteWhenCooked)

Not all wikis are tech related - http://www.bluwiki.org is a free site for any content. Wiki stands for "What I Know Is" and can be considered a type of website whose content is the sum of the site reader's knowledge. - AlsoDeleteThis?

Wiki doesn't stand for "What I know Is" as it isn't an acronym - is it? Nope, just a BackroNym.


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