[RFC] Evolution of wiki.haskell.org

As we were discussing on [RFC] Documentation overhaul on haskell.org , the Haskell wiki plays an ambiguous role as pertains to language documentation.

It is on one hand highly visible (usually ranks high in search engine results) but unfortunately it’s not an authoritative reference by any measure.

It would be nice to figure out a path out of this situation, that doesn’t burn bridges with the tradition but lets Haskell documentation catch up with the current state of the art.

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I agree with everything said here. For me it’s a matter of curation: the more rigorous and up-to-date bits of the wiki about the Haskell language and the Haskell production toolchain should be extruded from the wiki and eventually make into a maintainer-centric, officially acknoweldged and sustainable, platform. Then we can proceed recursively, from most to least up-to-date and rigourous, judging on a case-by-case basis what is worth improving in view of putting into the official docs about the Haskell language and production tooolchain docs, and what isn’t.

In other words, I am suggesting that we take out articles in the “Learn Haskell” and “Use Haskell” to a more sustainable platform until only the articles under the circled in red categories remain:

And that is fine, because wikis are excellent tools for community things.

Honestly the whole frontpage should be redone to make it point to lots of the more interesting resources and content. A little history is in order – for years, the wiki was the haskell.org homepage, and about five (?) years ago a real homepage was produced and the wiki moved off to a subdomain. So the wiki frontpage was produced for a wiki that served a dual purpose as a homepage and also a repo of community curated content. Most of the links on that page (both circled and not) do not point to wiki content, but offsite content. A few links point to onsite content which in turn is an index of offsite content. Most of what the wiki itself hosts that is cool and interesting is not immediately reachable from the frontpage through a few links at all, and most of what is reachable on the frontpage are links the haskell.org website point to.

Turning it into a frontpage that explains the purpose of the wiki and highlights some of the unique content in the wiki would probably clear up a lot of confusion. Along with that, a template for tagging particularly old content with potential links to newer resources could be used on some pages, and between the two that might alleviate a number of concerns.

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@Nycticorax and @sclv , I agree with you both!

it isn’t clear to me what you mean by “archiving the Wiki.” Could you please clarify this? This needn’t be an either/or choice.

I mean turning it into a read-only archive, as mentioned by @sclv. The idea being that there is valuable knowledge that needs to be preserved, but so many articles are so out of date that any effort to get the wiki back up to date would be at this point nearly impossible. And those articles vastly outnumber the gems. So making the wiki read-only, and curating the immutably useful articles would be i our best interest.

Wikis are not meant to host official content. I’m not suggesting that the Haskell wiki should be used for this purpose.

Unfortunately, this happened, and that’s part of the problem. Sometime in the past, it was used for Hackage announcements, package tutorials, etc etc, and it spiraled into something less useful than we want it to be.

However, I still believe that the Haskell wiki can be a useful place to collect “organic” content that users generate and allow other users to edit (I categorically reject @Nycticorax’s statement that “wikis are a ‘poisoned gift’ to offer the community.”)

FWIW, i disagree with @Nycticorax’s comment as well - I’m much more sympathetic than that, considering I got my start in the Typeclassopedia and other great articles!

I think this will expose my bias: I don’t think wikis serve a purpose beyond aggregating immutable data (this is rarely the case for software), but we’re past that point. Even implementation-specific GHC pages, like the performance-oriented wiki articles are completely out of date and actually liable to get people into trouble, or turned around in the wrong direction.

There are better ways of aggregating and indexing blog posts/announcements/etc. For example, we have Planet Haskell which does this.

I have the sense that the Haskell wiki isn’t expensive to maintain (Is this correct?), so I hope it will be kept alive and improved (for example, by linking topics to official content stored elsewhere and removing or annotating old content that no longer applies).

It’s inexpensive, sure, but for the Haskell wiki to serve a purpose, we must keep it small, immutable, and community-managed. At the moment, we are none of these things. I know you and Gershom have been great at keeping the lights on, but maintenance is not the goal here: progressive maintenance is the goal. Wikis must be kept up to date, and have janitorial processes as part of what we call maintenance.

Something to bear in mind in this discussion of the wiki, perhaps the single most important aspect, is that search engines often send confused new users to outdated and confusing wiki pages rather than newer and clearer sources of information.

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emilypi:

I don’t think wikis serve a purpose beyond aggregating immutable data […]

A curious comment considering the manifestly-mutable nature of wikis - wouldn’t a more static format then be more appropriate?

tomjaguarpaw:

[…] search engines often send confused new users to outdated and confusing wiki pages […]

Such is the nature of wikis and similar online forums - they’re a semi-organised collection of individual web-pages edited by a variety of people with varying levels of knowledge and experience. Some are well-written or edited; as for the rest…not so much. Of course, this is irrelevant to the average search engine: if the search term matches them, such pages will be in the results no matter how outdated and confusing they are.

(Just imagine using a wiki to learn how to drive - aren’t you glad you had access to a much-more organised source of information?)

As for making the current wiki read-only, that happened to the previous wiki and its content - from the few pages I’ve seen and transferred over recently, their content being:

little more than an uncut conversation between anonymous participants, in addition to being obsolete

…isn’t exactly rare (quote from here).

The results of a second freeze (on the current wiki) probably wouldn’t be much different. As for the more general problem of content: well, there’s a reason why academic texts are usually written by people with a degree or three to spare…

(…as for the suggestion the wiki not be used for documentation: it only solves that problem - the difficulties of stale or garbled content aren’t limited to documentation.)

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