I have done a moderate bit of blogging and wiki editing, although most of it has been behind the closed walls of employers. I got to thinking about it though, when is the “right” time to use a blog or a wiki? I have my own opinions based on that …
First let me say that I tend to think of both blogs and wikis as business and/or resource tools, I do not think of them as a way to communicate personal information – I do that other ways with my friends. I may want the whole world to see what I think about a technical or political topic, but that is very different than letting you know where I live or who my family members are. I know not everyone agrees with me in this area, but I think it is important to understand my stance on what is appropriate for public vs private consumption to understand my thoughts on when to use a blog vs. when to use a wiki. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s move on.
I think most people think that the decision is straight forward – use a blog when you are the sole owner of the material or thought, use a wiki when the content is shared. Makes sense, but I don’t think it is the whole picture. When I think of a blog I think of a way to communicate unrelated bits of temporal data. Maybe news or a short burst of thoughts on a topic, or commentary. That’s not to say there isn’t or shouldn’t be some connectedness between blog posts either within a blog or across blogs. The connectedness is useful and good, but not the same connectedness of a wiki. I see a wiki as trying to tell a story or provide direction that is not temporal.
But what does that mean, temporal vs. not temporal? What I mean by that is that a blog is a one time shot – I am telling you something as it is or as I see it then and there at that point in time. I don’t believe a wiki presents itself in the same way. A wiki is made up of inter-related content that, while created over time, should be able to withstand the test of time (i.e. it should be updated to reflect current status, not subject to a point in time). A wiki can be constantly edited and corrected, and should be.
But doesn’t that really take me back to the first point about who “owns” the content of the blog post vs the wiki entry? Not really. I can’t argue with that point, I believe it to be true. But what if you are the sole owner of the content of both a blog and a wiki? Why would you do that, you ask? (i.e., why would you have a wiki only you could edit)? Because of the type of content, style and connectedness of the content, and the expectation of the reader.
Let’s use an example. Here I am blogging about wikis and blogs. It is a short (ok, not so short) opinion that I have right now. It certainly isn’t any statement of fact, it is an opinion … and my opinion could change over time. Since I don’t want to rewrite history I might actually make another blog post over time that states I have changed my opinion. This is just the kind of thing that I would expect to read in a blog, but would never, ever read in a wiki. On the flip side, I also have a wiki (shameless self promotion, visit http://peragro.wikidot.com). I have two main things on that wiki about SOA and SOA Governance (I plan to put more there soon). Those topics connect to each other, they have sections that would make them way too long for a blog, and as the state of development and SOA changes, so should the content in that wiki. What I said in the past is no longer relevant, only what people need to know to develop a good architecture at the time they are reading it with the most up to date information.
I am not sure if this post will actually help anyone work out any issues they have in trying to decide on over the other, and the fact of the matter is that the technology is converging anyway such that soon enough there won’t really be a difference between the two, just a difference in the types of content you find spread across a bliki (Blog + Wiki). Maybe my real reason for doing this is to justify the various places I have squirreled my content away. Anyway, you’ve read this far, go ahead and check out my wiki.