I hate your wiki!

I fucking hate your wiki! I’m serious. It makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a cheese grater.

The basic idea of Wiki is that you can slap up a site devoted to some topic, and then anyone interested in the site can post content. Users are encouraged to edit other user’s content to make corrections, expand on the subject, ask questions, or whatever. The result of a well implemented wiki should be a living library of constantly evolving data with a community of people working together to maintain and grow it.

Technologically, a wiki is just a simple content management and publication system. It combines etiquette guidelines with simple text formatting rules to make authoring content as simple as possible. The concept is based on the idea of implementing “the simplest thing that can still work”, a design principle from extreme programming. The etiquette rules are easy to follow for any reasonably mature person. And most wiki systems maintain a version history of each page so you can see what has been changed (and sometimes even who made the changes).

There are many different wiki sites on all kinds of topics (including a massive encyclopedia project), but in actual practice most wiki sites are devoted to software projects. Wiki is especially popular with open source projects where the wiki acts as open source documentation. It is expected that the people that write code for the app will add to the wiki too. Users of the software are also asked to contribute to the wiki if they have insights that other users may find useful. Since I’m a developer, this is where I personally run into wiki sites most frequently.

The geek in me loves the simple elegance of wiki, and I’m a big fan of collaborative works and online communities too. But I have come to loath all things Wiki. The phrase “have you checked the Wiki?” makes me want to vomit.

No, I didn’t check the fucking wiki!

The reason I didn’t check the wiki is because the wiki sucks! It is a giant garbage heap of trivial shit that anyone who can spell “wiki” already knows. The answer to my question, if one of your lazy wikizens even bothered to add it to the wiki, is buried so deep in the tangled mess of irrelevant and obvious junk that it’d take me longer to find my answer than it would take me to correct every spelling error on the entire site. If I do find something vaguely like what I am looking for, it’ll be based on a version of the software so old that the information will not be useful to anyone still alive. Of course, there will be a note by one of the developers related to the new version, but the note will be in indecipherable indian-pseudo-engrish. In an act of desperation, I’ll try to follow one of the links to an external site only to find that the site was recently bought out by pumpkinfuckers.com where someone wants to hook me up with some horny house-wives and sell me Russian vioxx.

It’s about this time that I reach for the cheese grater.

There seems to be one overriding (unwritten) rule in wiki-land. Every useful piece of content in the wiki must have an evil twin page. It works like this. I’ll be snooping the wiki for information about some aspect of some software. I’ll come across a page with good info. This page will have nothing to do with my immediate question. Two days later, I’ll have a new problem and need to find that good page again. I KNOW the answer is on the wiki because I’ve seen it before. But a search, no matter how carefully crafted, will only turn up the evil twin page. The evil twin will have a simple bullet list of summary trivia almost but not quite related to my investigation. It’ll also have 900 links to other pages in the wiki and a few vioxx-sponcered external links. But NOT ONE of those links will lead to the good page I’m looking for. Every other page in the wiki that references the topic will link to the evil twin page… except ONE… and that one page with the magic link will be the page in the wiki most unrelated to my question.

It is also a rule that every wiki has to devote 1/2 or more of the links to other sites that explain what a wiki is about. These sites are written by permanent residents of wonderland, who write prettily yet manage to miserably fail to explain the concept of wiki. These “about wiki” pages will all make wiki sound like some sort of deity, and that any involvement in wiki is a religious cult affair (this may be true). No where in these pages will anything about wiki actually make coherent sense.

There are a few other unpublished wiki rules:

  • The most well documented topics on the wiki must be devoted to explaining the most obvious and mundane aspect.
  • Any commonly asked about topic must have no less than 10 different pages explaining the topic in great detail, but every single one of them must provide completely contradictory information or be so outdated as to simply be misleading or confusing. You should also throw in a couple of pages on the topic that provide no useful information at all. This can be achieved by visiting a Denny’s about 5am on Friday night and collecting napkins with drunken scribbles all over them. Just post the contents of the napkins and make sure as many pages as possible sneak in a link to the drunken-dumb-dumb page.
  • You must link to the same page every time the name of the page is used, the author of the page is mentioned, or the content of that page is even hinted at. That way a page containing only five different links will appear to be an index for the library of congress. This will scare off most people before they truly comprehend just how damned useless your wiki is.
  • You must avoid useful navigation at all costs.
  • You must make sure that anyone moderating the site removes all content that is relevant within 1 day of posting. This is to make sure that any helpful contributor feels unwelcome and never posts again. Be sure you email the contributor and explain how their post was inappropriate (make up a reason). This is especially important for software wikis since it will spare the pride of your programmers by ensuring that they remain the most informative of your site’s contributors even though they stopped updating the wiki 5 minutes after it was put online and have long since forgotten it was there.
  • You must enlist the aid of at least one user who always posts something that starts like this: “I disagree with this because…” This user must update every page in the wiki, several times if necessary, so as to argue against any point previously made by another user. This user’s posts must be condescending, irrelevant, and argue the most minute and irrelevant detail possible. This user should, if possible, be completely ignorant of the topic under discussion and constantly refer to open source, Linux, and must refer to Microsoft as M$.
  • It is most useful to have a very pretty front page on the wiki with a nice clean and professional layout and design, but completely random layouts and color schemes on the rest of the pages in the site.
  • You must make absolutely sure that you have a completely different menu and navigation system from any other wiki ever made. If your navigation fails to resemble any previously encountered anywhere on the internet then you get bonus points. Also, make sure the words and phrases used in any navigation system are the most obscure synonyms possible.
  • Any search feature of the wiki must omit all of the useful content pages. It must also omit at least 30% of the evil twin pages just in case one of them accidentally links to a page someone would want to read. Don’t worry about Google… Google’s spiders will get so frustrated trying to navigate around your twisted redundant-link infested wiki that it’ll give up long before it actually makes it to a page with useful content.

And that is why I hate, hate, HATE  your piece-of-shit wiki!

Where is my cheese grater?