New Media Wikis

Free CamelCase : Free BillPoster

The discussion concerning the use of CamelCase or free links in wikis is hardly topical, but I happened to run into it when I was looking for info on TrackBacking in WordPress. There was some discussion addressed to the Codex admins about not using CamelCase on the WordPress Codex

No CamelCase


Could you explain why you don’t want camel case as the format for your wiki pages? That’s [camel case] one of the most basic and fundamental parts of a wiki, so my initial reaction to your variance from the norm is. . . well. . . a serious questioning of why. So maybe explaining why your wiki won’t follow the standard format would help reduce the resistance to change.

Same here. I am too puzzled about the decision of not using CamelCase. I mean, it is the simplest more efficient way to linking and creating pages. It makes the wiki a wiki.

The explanation for using free linking instead of CamelCase on Codex is a link to Wikipedia’s practices. Originally, Wikipedia used CamelCase, but moved to free links – signaled by using [[double brackets]] – over the course of a couple of years. But it’s Clifford Adams (of UseMod) who provides the comment for Wikipedia:

I’ve done a lot of thinking about WikiLinking recently, and I’m not sure that the WikiName (capital letters) convention is a good fit for the encyclopedia. The AccidentalLinking is a nice feature, but it has a price in harder-to-read links and confusing conventions. Wikipedia: CamelCase and Wikipedia

The use of camels and frees is driven by purpose and context:  Is the heading-link a topic of discussion or the title of an article? CamelCase is in the sprit of wiki – the simplest database that works – and its use signals the attitude that drives wikis: UseMod, MeatballWiki, and WardsWiki are encyclopedic in range but topical in orientation. Free links signal encyclopedia article use of the wiki engine, as in Wikipedia.

Free linking is going to carry more authority with the general reader, in part because the titles appear to follow conventions of capitalization of titles.  CamelCase marks the wiki as out of mainstream conventions; it signals a new media, new affordances at work.

But CamelCase linking, as it’s used on UseMod and Meatball, and BlogsAndWikis, has a generative, inventional function.  Authors can spot a phrase – a nascent topic – in a seedling page and create the suggestion for a new page by quickly recasting the phrase in CamelCaps.  So, “seedling page” might become SeedlingPage – creating a topic and with it the suggestion to discuss that topic.  This is probably not a matter of speed: surrounding the phrase in douible brackets is fast.  But it might be a matter of signaling ThisIsWorthyOfAttention by using caps: signaling that the phrase is not just a phrase but now a TopicForDiscusion.

One virtue of using CamelCase phrasing is that others can incorporate the topic into sentences as a subject or a predicate. Another virtue: authors can distinguish between ATopicOfDicsussion and a topic of discussion.

CamelCase and free linking will co-exist, of course. But for wiki managers, the choice of which to allow – camels, frees, or both – becomes a rhetorical choice.  The link is an affordance, and the choice of which form to use points writers in particular direction.

Listening to Ali-Baba’s Camel by Bonzo Dog Band

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