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What Do You Call The Purposeful Use of a Wiki?

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  May 14, 2009  |  7 Comments

This sounds like the opening of a joke so I apologize to those who are reading this expecting a laugh or two 🙂 This is actually your chance to help out an analyst, namely, me.

In my recent research on business relevant use cases for social software I have assembled a set of general use case categories (set not yet ready to expose). One of the general use cases involves the movement from single author (or constrained authorship), point-in-time, sequentially constructed, bounded documentation to multi-author (or less constrained authorship), dynamic, simultaneously constructed, long-lived documentation.

To simplify this with a general usage example, the first is me, creating a document, sending it to a few others for co-authorship, using it for a relatively short period of time, and storing it somewhere (in a folder structure maybe) for possible resurrection at some point in the future for a new revision (thus again kicking off the loose “workflow”).  Second is us simultaneously creating, expanding, and continuously maintaining documentation for a long lived purpose.

To simplify with a technology example this is a Word document v. a wiki.

Using a “publishing” example this is Encyclopedia Britannica v. Wikipedia.

So here is my challenge where you can help. I need a good name for this use case category. Although, “multi-author (or less constrained authorship), dynamic, simultaneously constructed, long-lived documentation” is quite descriptive, you might agree that it is a bit cumbersome 🙂

This is a “call for a better term.” What term do you use (something descriptive rather than wiki or collaborative documentation)?

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Category: social-solutions  

Tags: social-documentation  wiki  

Anthony J. Bradley
10 years at Gartner
26 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a group vice president in Gartner Research responsible for the research content that Gartner publishes through its three internet businesses (, and These responsibilities include creating and leading the research organization and infrastructure needed for the strategy formulation, planning, research, creation, editing, production and distribution of the content. He has four global teams of highly talented people who are advancing towards the world's greatest destination for content on how small businesses succeed through information technology.

Thoughts on What Do You Call The Purposeful Use of a Wiki?

  1. Thomas says:


    Online Collaborative Publication Systems

  2. Anthony Bradley says:

    Not bad.

  3. Gina Spadoni says:

    I would call it “collaborative authorship”…also, tools such as Traction software that are wiki-based content management systems that also have document management features would be an ideal use case (IMHO).

  4. Dan Sholler says:

    You need to distinguish between the mode of creation and the usage pattern. If I understand you correctly, the real distinction between the wiki and the word document cases is that in the latter, there is a publication date, after which the document is assumed to be static. In the former, there is no such date, and the document is assumed to be continuously updated and renewed. I have done similar things before and referred to them as “living documents”, which is a term I have heard used many times before. I would recommend it, as it captures the essence of what you are saying, and is a term some readers may have heard before, but it also seems unnecessarily pejorative toward the published kind of document, which would naturally become “dead”.

    Collaborative authorship is a good notion, but that only captures the mode of creation, not this difference in the publication/usage model.


  5. Anthony Bradley says:

    Social Documentation seems to me like a better term than living documents. I think it is critical to capture the simultaneous multi-author aspect. Maybe using “documentation” vs. document can help give it a flavor of “living” vs. static.

  6. Multisource describes the state of having multiple contributing authors pretty well: wikis are used to create multisource documents.

    Then we can call ourselves “multisourcers” when contributing to wikis, and the purposeful use of a wiki (as an author) is to multisource, you’re multisourcing. I’m multisourcing by commenting on your blog question with a possible answer.

  7. Anthony Bradley says:

    Multisourcer sounds too techie for me. I’m still leaning towards Social Documentation.

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