Document Mode

Document Mode 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 Thread Mode, 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 Document Mode. Many pages start off with an Opening Statement which declares a piece of wisdom. It might be a pattern or Proto Pattern, 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 Opening Statement means, or comments of agreement or disagreement perhaps supplemented with supporting evidence one way or the other.

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

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

Why use Document Mode?

A good Document Mode comment is easier for newcomers to understand than a Thread Mode one. Threads are full of transient misunderstandings and special cases. The important points don't stand out well. And they are full of egos. The valuable content of Wiki ought to find its way into Document Mode comments. It doesn't, always. We need more Wiki Masters and Wiki Gnomes.

When should I write in Document Mode?


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

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

Yes, but a FAQ is usually a document, and Faq Mode is a subset/special case of Document Mode.

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

Perhaps it's that a Faq Mode document is created Thread-like, but the result is Document Mode.

[Editor's Note: Caution indicated, as Tin Foil Hat 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 Wiki Page, 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 Tin Foil Hat 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 Thread Mode 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?

Pointing out the incorrect statement's falsehood would make following the page worse.

Because it's converse is covered in the refutation, removing the incorrect statement clarifies of both sides of the argument. Is this OK?

How does the page get edited toward a set of coherent arguments? I can't email anonymous posters.

If you think a page would read better without a particular comment, move that comment to the poster's Home Page.

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 Home Page (Wiki Mail Box).

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

I invite everyone to edit these pages until only the valuable words remain. -- Ward Cunningham

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

The main disconnect in Pissing Contest (well ones such Language Pissing Match anyhow...)

Camps x and y are redefining the each-other's terms in various contexts, e.g. XML, lisp.

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

A framework for managing definitions of keywords (in various contexts) is available.

A hideable text-field is available alongside the main debate for a Random User's edit deletion/request to original writer of comment. -- RFC?


Those are interesting ideas for new Wiki Features. 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 Wiki Mail Box. 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 Edit Hint.

(Edit Hint: consider moving this discussion to Wiki Gnome ?)

Limitations of Document Mode

Document Mode 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, Document Mode that Make Room For All Viewpoints is Good Enough in a lot of cases. And as long as there is Egoless Wiki the document will evolve with changing realities and would remain relevant.

For candidates to Convert Thread Mode To Document Mode see Changes In WeekFoo, where Foo is a little ahead of the current week number.

See original on