Today's Wiki Life is about getting too personal!

Most Wiki articles are started by an individual sharing their technical experience. Often people write articles from "their perspective", and include additional commentary, similar to how they would write an email or blog post. But Wiki articles are different to blog posts, and one such difference is the personalisation of the article.

Blog posts are personal. They share the personal experience of the author, and often contain additional commentary that characterises the author, or sets context to the blog post. Examples such as, "While working on a clients SharePoint migration", "It always gives me a headache when I need to migrate files, so...". Blog posts also generally belongs to the author, and the post is all about the authors experiences. They are written from the perspective of "I".

In contrast, Wiki articles have multiple authors, and the article itself belongs to the wiki (community), not an individual. Because they belong to a community, Wiki articles shouldn't include personal information or commentary. This is briefly mentioned in the Portal User Experience Guidelines.

It makes more sense if we look at some examples:

Individualised / Personalised:
"I'm often asked by my clients how to deploy a solution to SharePoint using PowerShell. My response is, it's very easy, there are a number of built-in PowerShell cmdlets to help you do it"

Community:
"People often ask how to deploy a solution to SharePoint using PowerShell. It's very easy, and there are a number of built-in PowerShell cmdlets to help you do it"

Another example:

Individualised / Personalised:
"Last week while I was working on a really huge project at a client site, I needed to migrate thousands of files from a remote SharePoint site to a local SharePoint site. This always frustrates me, so this time I wrote an awesome script to do it! This is the example code I wrote and want to share with you."

Community:
"The following example demonstrates how to migrate thousands of files from a remote SharePoint site to a local SharePoint site."

Why does it matter?

  • Wiki article are about collective knowledge, not individual knowledges or experiences (this is not to diminish the fact that individuals start articles)
  • The job of refining (editing/improving) articles is harder for other contributors, if there is personal content in the article
  • As articles are edited over time, the perspective of an article can become mixed, making it hard or confusing to read. One paragraph talks about an individuals scenario or experience, while other paragraphs talk about a generic scenario.

Next time you finish writing an article, give some thought to how you've written the article. Does it sound like the article comes from you, or from a community? If it sounds like it comes from you "personally", and contains "I", then think about how you can reword it, writing from the "third person". 

If you want to look up some resources on writing in the "third person", trying Googling or Binging "writing third person perspective"!

Happy Wiki'ing!