What's so bad about orphaned wiki pages?
This question came into sharp relief in a conversation today with Jerry Michalski. The exchange was triggered by a harmless (I thought) edit I made to a wiki for a private community to which I belong. I added this
to the wiki's homepage. Within an hour, Jerry emailed me to express concern. I was surprised and delighted. I always learn from exchanges with Jerry, and this was to be no exception.
Jerry felt the button encouraged community members to create orphaned pages, pages not linked to from any other page.
Jerry's right, but what's so bad about that? Jerry dislikes orphans because they don't play nicely with the broader corpus of knowledge. Jerry likes to see a wiki grow contiguously. He likes his wikis to creep, not hop.
For some activities (e.g., documenting a unified process), I agree with Jerry on the value of contiguity. But wikis can be used for all sorts of activities where hopping makes more sense than creeping. If a community is using a wiki to post questions, offer suggestions, file trip reports, or share random ideas, it seems artificial to ask users to link into a structure. The contributions are disconnected, so the wiki pages should be as well.
So how do we avoid the informational lawlessness that comes from a bunch of unlinked pages? Answer: tag them. An orphan with tags doesn't scare me at all.