Wiki Life: Getting too Personal!

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"

"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."

"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!

Comments (15)

  1. There’s no such thing as too personal! But in this case, it’s needed. =^)

  2. When’s the last time you landed on a Wikipedia article and it was like, ‘So I was thinking about Miley Cyrus when I was taking a shower and then decided to write this wiki article about her!’ — NEVER!!! Thankfully. =^)

  3. its always an interesting one this. A great deal of my articles are sourced from my blog and I view them both separately.

    The Blog edition = The "moment in time" post whereas the Wiki one is the living, breathing version. And the community does great (very helpful for converting the British English to US English).

    My CodePlex articles are often a little different because review articles are by nature subjective. I try to make these as factual as possible but some first person perspective might pop in.

    I think the community has nailed the balance just perfectly too =)

  4. Shanky_621 says:

    Matt,If you see tagline behind Wiki article it is ‘ Answered an interesting question, create a wiki article about it’ . So in that case ‘I’ is likely to come because you use woed like I created this, OP was asking something but I did it other way…I totally
    agree to you that Wiki is Sharing. But sometimes people share there personal experience( after providing an answer) so it would be dificult not to use word I.Unless you collborate with someone on an article.For me forums are my wiki article source.But i will
    take your word and will try not to use it.
    Thanks for sharing

  5. pituach says:

    I agree with every word. This is definitely a common problem today, and need to pull it from the root. People are using the WIKI as a blog interface. There is no "I" In a WIKI article! there is only "we".

  6. I personally believe we should consider articles we author more like entries in an encyclopedia than blog posts. Especially with community involvement, the content should be more relevant and long-lived than a blog. In fact, no matter how much you consider
    an article "yours", it really is a community effort. It will have a life long after you are gone.

  7. I agree as well, it’s a problem. Before you edit, you should have to read an etiquette article.

  8. pituach says:

    I want to clarify that when I said I agree, then I meant with Matthew and not with Shanky! My comment came after his post and it look like i agreed with him 🙂 which in this issue I do not. I think we should learn from the Wikipedia a lot about "what
    is a community’s article".

  9. FYI, the user guidelines are available via a short URL: Easy to remember and to refer to when removing personalized content.

  10. Hi Matthew, I was one of the authors who wrote Wikis which falls under the category personal here. I was advertised by many authors like pituach couple of times, and I really do understand Wikis should not be written as your are writing in your own blog.
    The reason for me was, sometimes I was porting my blog posts to Wikis and that’s when the problem came.

    Now when I am porting my blog posts to wikis, I am doing the edits to make sure, it doesn’t look like personal as in my blog post.

    Thank you so much for this valuable post.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts about writing good articles. It’s been a while since

  12. Anonymous says:

    Due to some practical issues while switching screens during presentation, the recording of the screen

  13. Anonymous says:

    Due to some practical issues while switching screens during presentation, the recording of the screen

  14. Sibeesh Venu says:

    Thanks much for the detailed article. I often do this mistake, now I have got an idea how a community article should be. Hereafter I will do as you suggested.

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