Wikis are not a simple solution for blogging

January 14, 2011

My Referer logs recently led me to a Stackoverflow question where I read philiph's reply:

I'm a big fan of using a simple wiki engine like PmWiki as a blogging platform. See for example how Chris Siebenmann does it.

I'm afraid I have to disagree here.

DWiki (the wiki engine behind WanderingThoughts) is not a simple wiki engine. In fact, there is no such thing as a simple wiki engine that is a good blogging platform or even an average one. What wikis do is sufficiently far from what you need in a blog that no wiki that is also a blog engine can be described as 'simple' any more.

Fundamentally this is because wikis and blogs present information in quite different ways; they look similar only when you're looking at individual entry pages and you don't think about comments. Past that, a blog engine needs all sorts of aggregation features that a simple wiki doesn't need and won't have. Classical wikis are simply not designed for 'group of pages' navigation, while blogs are all about aggregating pages together in various ways (primarily chronological, sometimes through subsets of your entries such as all entries in a category or with a given tag).

You can add all of these blog style presentation and navigation features to a wiki (DWiki is an existence proof) and it sort of looks simple when you start on this road. But having gone down it I can assure you that the resulting program winds up with a fair amount of code that exists only to support your blog interface; the simpler your original wiki, the more of the resulting program will be blog-specific.

(The features may nominally be generic in that they will work outside of the 'blog' environment of your wiki, but in practice you will have added them only to support the blog. This is certainly the case with a number of DWiki's nominally general features.)

Another significant difference is comments and possibly permissions to edit entries. The classical utterly simple wiki has no comments and anyone can edit entries; you're going to want to fix at least the latter. (As people have noted before, you don't have to have comments on a blog, but it's the usual expected approach and many blog authors want and like it.)

There are other things a blog has and a wiki doesn't (titles as important things, for example), but I think that this will do to make my point.

Comments on this page:

From at 2011-01-14 10:08:39:

The opposite is also the case. For a wiki, you want a RecentChanges feed; and in particular you want it to contain good diffs. (Almost all wikis punt on this but that doesn’t make it any less important.) In a weblog, such a feature is of no interest.

Aristotle Pagaltzis

From at 2011-01-19 23:04:13:

As usual Chris I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You inspired me to flesh out my thoughts on why wikis are a good blog platform. Here is my response:

Wikis Are Just Super for Blogging

which kind of gives away my opinion I suppose. Thanks for all your great writing.

Phil Hollenback

Written on 14 January 2011.
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Last modified: Fri Jan 14 00:06:28 2011
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