Organizing information on a wiki

Published on 23 January 2012.

In this post I explain how I used a wiki to organize ideas about an application I’m developing. I used the wiki on GitHub.


I started by entering all ideas on the start page of the wiki: I listened to recorded ideas and transcribed them, I scanned sketches, and I transfered notes from paper.

Following this was a process of refactoring: I looked for similar ideas and extracted those to new pages with descriptive names. I kept going until the start page only contained an introduction and a bullet list with links to the extracted pages.

As I have had new ideas, I’ve added them to the appropriate page.

Refactoring problem

One reason that I tried using a wiki is that I believe it’s a good tool for organizing information. I expected it to be easy to move a piece of text from one place to another. (This is important to be able to do because you rarely find the right place the first time.)

But I noticed that extracting pages was quite tedious: first I had to edit the start page, cut the text that I wanted to move, create a new page, give it a title, paste the text from the start page, save the new page, and save the start page.

Better refactoring support

A wiki that seems to have a better solution to this problem is Ward Cunningham’s smallest federated wiki. A screencast shows how you can drag a paragraph and drop it on another page. And that’s it. You’re done.

I think that your behaviour will change if you have this refactoring support. Because it’s easier and faster to organize information, I think you will end up with a better organized wiki in less time.

You can also argue that if refactoring is is easy and fun, you will spend more time doing it than what is actually worth. I think I would still want the feature though.

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