"If only someone would make... [a very good wiki]"

Ian Malpass ian at indecorous.com
Mon Apr 3 18:35:59 BST 2006

Tim Sweetman wrote:
> "The Wikipedia's most exciting aspect is that it's a highly interlinked 
> hypertext. Most of the time, if you visit for one article, you end up 
> reading five, because the richness of associative links lead you to more 
> and more interesting information that you didn't even know you wanted. 
> Sadly, the Web has generally lost its foundation as hypertext, and most 
> sites offer only heavily regimented navigation that's tied into an 
> official information architecture. Usually, there's little in the way of 
> associative, "see also" links and local navigation. Wikipedia shows the 
> benefits of reverting to the view of websites as hypertexts.
> Now, if only someone would make a Wiki solution with *great usability* 
> that *average people* could use to author strongly interlinked 
> *hypertexts*. That would be something worth almost *any level of hype*. 
> The way to knock out Microsoft Office is not to reimplement its feature 
> set from two versions ago in a different programming language. We don't 
> need bad copies -- we need collaborative authoring of hyperspaces as 
> opposed to linear documents".
> -- Jakob Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/hype.html, 2006/04/03

I think Wikipedia sucks you in because it has a broad base of content 
linked together on the same site, so you have more impetus to keep 
opening new tabs of information. I don't get the same thing as often 
with random web pages because most of the links tend to be to pages that 
don't need further explanation - say, a page on putting together project 
A with technologies X and Y, which links to the official pages and 
documentation of X and Y. There's not the same scope for cascading browsing.

I've often thought that sites like BBC News really needed more linking 
to related articles and background information. I think some of the BBC 
Backstage stuff did that sort of thing. Trillian hyperlinks to Wikipedia 
from chat windows, which I find very useful.

While I think hyperlinking could be made easier, I think it's more that 
authors don't think in terms of hyperlinking. They think in terms of, 
say, print articles - standalone pieces of authorship. Perhaps it's 
jealousy - "if I hyperlink to this person, they'll take my reader away".

There's also the issue of the UI for processing it - I find tabbed 
browsing to be immensely helpful, but only because I know that 
ctrl-click will open the link in a new tab and I've made it do it in the 
background, so I can open five or six tabs without stopping reading the 
article. "Oh yes, I'll want to read that once I've finished reading 
this." I used to do it with new windows before I move to Firefox. But 
many people I've spoken to who don't browse hypertext as much as I do 
either don't know about "open link in new window/tab" or don't think to 
make use of it. They read the article, then they're done. Clicking a 
hypertext link would interrupt them, so they don't do it, and then don't 
go back to the links later.


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