Although many people put blogs and wikis in the same social media category, blogs and wikis are actually quite different. Blogs are individually authored mini-magazines or journals where one author (or sometimes a small authoring group) crank out article after article (or entry after entry) usually with a common theme. After each article is published, the article is considered done and the author moves on to newer pastures, always hunting for the next story, formulating the next insight, thinking about the next post. Readers can comment and subscribe by RSS.
Wikis, on the other hand, are a platform for groups to collaborate on an information project, such as documentation, technical specs, or other reference material (e.g., Wikipedia). One author isn't just cranking out all the information. Multiple authors are contributing chunks and pieces, linking from one page to another, making edits on each other's content, diving deeper where necessary, and moving toward the idea of a more complete information product. Wikis are rarely ever done. They are successful only as much as they tap into the collective intelligence of a group.
How exactly do these two formats fit together? In [amazon-product type="text" text="Conversation and Community"]0982219113[/amazon-product], Anne Gentle says that the blog can often be a conversation starter, the medium that opens up communication among people. Your blog can attract outsiders and draw them in to participate on a wiki or other involvement.
Seeing how these two formats and activities fit together provided an Aha! type of moment for me last week. We have a community projects wiki where a lot of developers, QA engineers, and others interact on a technical level, either compiling requirements, designs, or other details about the projects they're building. The site also has a blog component, but the blog doesn't always address the existing projects. In fact, the blog mainly consists of random IT topics written by people in our department.
I realized (not that it's really much of an insight) that in this situation, the blog should act as a companion to the wiki. While the wiki has project details and other specs, it's not the motivational piece. It doesn't build trust, inspire people to join the community, or even communicate that much to those outside of the layers of its structure. Just as a charter or project requirements documents rarely inspires anyone to volunteer for the project, the same might be said of wikis. But that's not the wiki's job. It's the blog's job. The blog serves as the human-focused news stream for sharing announcements, insights, developments, stories, and other details about the projects going on in the wiki. They're a perfect fit, and one fuels the other.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.