Thread Mode

Thread mode is a form of discussion where our community holds a conversation. It is the beginning of a process of distilling experience that culminates in patterns.

Note that this page is itself in thread mode.

There are at least four ways you can contribute to a page in thread mode:

1. You can ADD a comment furthering the conversation. Please sign your comments like this, especially when writing in the first person. -- Kent Beck

2. You can EDIT older comments signed by others to improve the flow. Rearranging, merging and editing comments is a real contribution to communication if done with care and respect. Ponder this: "Rather than edit something with which one disagrees, perhaps changing its meaning, the Wiki Master will draw a line and comment below the line"; Ron Jeffries in Concept Destruction

3. If you see several conversations going at once, you can SPLIT them apart, putting all comments about a given subject on their own page. Leave a short summary with the name of the new page in the old page.

4. If comments seem to be converging then prepare for Pattern Mode by suggesting single paragraph patterns that CAPTURE the ideas present in the discussion. These are better anonymous or collectively signed so that all contributors know they are welcome to fine tune them.

Chronological is only one of many possible organizations of technical writing and rarely the best one at that. On wiki it has been dubbed Thread Mode and is actively discouraged by some and especially myself. -- Ward Cunningham, on Consider Timestamping Your Writing

Here are some initial comments on Thread Mode, taken from Method Commenting:

Actually, the following comments are not essentially on Thread Mode at all, but in themselves constitute a sub-thread from Method Commenting, possibly questioning the efficacy of the very process described above. Splitting such comments off into a Cul De Sac, or editing prior comments in a thread, are ways for a mere semblance of "convergence" to appear. -- Jim Perry

Apropos that Cul De Sac (which didn't lead anywhere at this writing [but has since been refactored])

-- I'm sure we need a Wiki Glossary, which would prevent


different authors inventing


near-synonyms if they didn't mean to. At present only assiduous

Wiki Housekeepering (see?), close familiarity with existing Wiki Webs

and a good memory works against this. -- Jean Jordaan

We're talking about how language evolves, and the difference between vernacular usages and terms of art. There will be an inevitable tendency to want to nail down terms of art, but in the end the words used to refer to certain concepts and events are more likely to be determined by usage, in this environment. One of the unanswerable historical questions is, How did language begin? This environment might well give us some insight into that, as we develop a common language appropriate to it. -- Jim Girard

Now would be a good time for us to step out of Thread Mode and try writing some patterns in which we all could agree. I'll start this phase with a couple patlets which I won't sign. I'll leave the original thread below them with the hope that the thread will actually shrink as the patterns grow. -- Ward Cunningham

I have a suggestion for the following section, that people log whether they agree or disagree with the idea. From current reading, I would get the impression everyone on Wiki thinks all these things are good. What I am afraid is happening is that we are seeing the union of all suggestions, which may be what No One wants! Perhaps 'Agree: name, name, ...' and 'Disagree: name, name...' -- Alistair Cockburn

I'd say that everything on here is interesting. What's good we can't know yet, and I don't think we have to decide. I'm not sure we can decide. But at the same time I think that anyone who's troubled by the chaos and has an idea ought to make it public. -- Jim Girard

"Thread mode" has some advantages in expressing views; these patlets express simple ideas that seem agreeable but still may reflect differing approaches in practice. We may superficially agree don't write the same information two ways but disagree in practice that e.g. a formula written in algebraic form (or prose) in a comment is (or isn't) "the same" as that formula as expressed in the source language. -- Jim Perry

"It is the beginning of a process of distilling experience that culminates in patterns." - I'm not comfortable with that. There's too much emphasis on patterns, as if they were the only form of knowledge which counted. Conversations can be valuable in their own right; they don't have to be seen as a prelude to something else.

Also, I see Method Commenting as an example of a Wiki page which went wrong. It sprawled, and the attempt at Pattern Mining didn't really work. It was a difficult page to manage - I hesitate to touch it myself now. Wiki is very good at communual documents but rather weaker at Thread Mode.

Dave Harris mentions that there is too much emphasis on patterns. I would go along with that, since a lot of what we do here is unique and can't be stuffed into a convenient box like a pattern. "Any thought that can be summed up in a nutshell should probably be kept there." Threads are a history of development, are they not? Okay, I can see the need for refactoring occasionally, but that doesn't imply we need to always Refactor Mercilessly. I keep a living log of The Road Not Traveled for my clients just so that the next guy doesn't have to go down the same blind alleys I did. Why can't Wiki do the same thing? -- Marty Schrader (climbing down from soapbox now, thank you)

As a newbie, I was hoping to find a clearer explanation of Thread Mode on this page. Is it a software thing? Or just a community convention? Document Mode and Thread Mode sound like such official sounding terms. There is a discussion here of what you can do with them, but not of what they are. -- Lisa Reeve

They are two of the most easily identifiable "social conventions" of the Wiki. When you see a page that makes just one point, explains just one idea, presents just one pattern, without signatures, that's Document Mode. When you see a page that has lots of discussion, with obviously different points of view stated from different angles by different people writing one after the other - much like an email or newsgroup "thread", short for "thread of conversation", that's Thread Mode.

This page has a Document Mode synthesis, with links to further related topics, at the top; and a Thread Mode discussion following a double horizontal line after the synthesis. That's another of the Wiki conventions.

We ostensibly frown on Thread Mode because, well, there's usually more than one thread and sometimes it becomes difficult to follow them all.. We all practice it, because it's part of the free flow of ideas that occurs here. There's a contradiction there, of course; one of the best things that can happen on the Wiki is when a page starts off in Thread Mode, a consensus is established, and the page gradually, over time, becomes a Document Mode page. We apply the Re Factoring technique to do that.

Thread Mode (or Chat Mode) quite often creates Thread Mess, and can quickly bring Wiki to Wiki Chaos if not used properly.

Perhaps we need to gently apply the idea of reducing Thread Mess by distilling pro and con arguments into Dialectic Mode, where two (or more) Dramatic Identities argue over a set of points. The heat of the argument is reduced to the passion with which the extracted Identities argue their respective positions.

I appreciate the fact that someone brought up the dialectic. To my way of thinking the efficacy of this has nowhere been explored. ( is my coy/cryptic attempt at setting out some thinking on the topic.) Too blithely do we agree with "saying the same thing two different ways" ... what do we mean by "the same thing"? It seems a primordial concept and yet (an aspect of primordiality?) there seems something ineffable about it. Do we actually say "the same thing" when we say it "two different ways"? What I've been exploring (Aharrr, semantic web off the starboard bow!!) is that, like a strange attractor, there can be multiple representations indicating something like an identity, but that what is expressed are actually/merely the more pressing/obvious/operative/salient aspects of that thickening of time/space. (Gack ptui!) --Ben Tremblay

See original on