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How to discuss (and sign) most effectively in TWiki

[ PeterThoeny - 24 Jan 2001 ]

This is a small, but nevertheless important detail I would like to discuss with you - how to most effectively discuss in TWiki.

At work we have a big project and use a TWiki web for collaboration and documentation, many engineers are involved. When we started with this TWiki web decided to sign first, not last. The reasoning is that you know immediately who is writing. We decided to use square brackets (i.e. "[ PeterThoeny - 24 Jan 2001 ]"). This is to distinguish it from other webs (e.g. with a conventional "-- PeterThoeny - 24 Jan 2001" signature) .

  • [ SomeOtherUser - 24 Jan 2001 ] If someone comments into existing text, he or she starts a bullet with his or her signature first and then the text.
    • [ PeterThoeny - 24 Jan 2001 ] I might reply to that by indenting the bullet.
      • [ SomeOtherUser - 24 Jan 2001 ] And so on, you get the idea.

Of course, you might say that this type of signatures is overkill since TWiki is version controlled. You are correct, however it shows immediately who said what.

[ PeterThoeny - 24 Jan 2001 ]

If you add at the bottom of a page you sign first, then state your thoughts (without a bullet). So this example here is my "second" posting - for demonstration.

We found that this type of netiquette works quiet well for us. Any thoughs on that? Other ideas?

Let's use the initiating [ square bracket signature ] signature for this topic to see how it works.



[ SvenDowideit - 25-01-2001 ]

I like the idea, but... as you can see, without thinking about it, I have put the date on mine in a different format :). At my work, signing seems to happen only very rarely. Not because there is versioning, but because people don't think of it. I get the feeling that signing your name with date is just a less structured version of newsgroup style (kindof)

[ MartinCleaver - 05-02-2001 ]

I prefer this, but it made me question whether it would encourage people to only add on the end of a topic rather than to continually refactor topics.

Hmm.. refactoring.. I think that I would also like a way of seeing an "edited by" list for any given page, retreived from the revision control system. Is this possible already?


I agree, the signature marks very strongly the borders of each one's comments and strongly discourages people from refactoring topics. [it's clear that TWikiers are very polite to each others smile ]

I suggest that we make our signatures as smallest as possible, like people does in WikiWiki, and that we remove the date from it ... if needed one can browse versions and diffs with RCS.

  • [ HendrikBoom - 12 Apr 2001 ] I'm running a TWiki with a small number of users. We've drifted to a technique where each person annotates in a different colour (set by sticking in HTML font tags like this). The signatures are utterly clear unless you are color-blind!, and take no space. We can even annotate effectively in the middle of sentences.

This make me think that different signature styles are good for different ways of discussing:

  • our old style is good for threaded discussion
  • the WikiWiki style is better suited to continuous refactoring, and people gets used to put their comments INSIDE the topic, with small signatures and low (yet gentle) impact.

-- AndreaSterbini

What we tend to do at work:
- ColasNahaboo: prepend only name for "minor" edits like this one
Sign with a: <br>-- ColasNahaboo - 11 Apr 2001
instead of: -- ColasNahaboo - 11 Apr 2001 <br>
This makes signature more "part of" contribution (and smaller-looking?), it just aestethics, I changed the edit template for this...
-- ColasNahaboo - 11 Apr 2001

Since we are working with adding generic meta information access to TWiki at present, we could consider a variable like: %AUTHOR% that was converted to %AUTHOR{version="8"}% at save-commit point. This way people could define how they want the signature information to render.

Furthermore with an author container we could add some colourisation to further help clarify different authors in the topic view.

-- NicholasLee - 12 Apr 2001

A few thoughts:

  • I think a variable for signatures is a good idea
    • Common format in display
    • Can change format (preferences)
    • Could reverse order, as acts as boundard (newest first)
    • Stop using Main Web name in signatures - which makes it difficult to rename this Web (e.g. to People)
  • If we include an append button then:
    • Signature can be added automatically
    • Lock can be less restrictive than current one - would prevent people from doing normal edit
    • Could have a topic setup so that appends are recommended e.g. warning if someone tries to edit. Could be done on creation, or because someone has done an append at some point.

The disadvantage of the above is arguably - added complexity.

-- JohnTalintyre - 13 Apr 2001

This topic started as "[ signature ]" type as an experiment, and continued as " -- signature" type. Oh, well, lets go on.

Another related idea is BulletDiscussion.

-- PeterThoeny - 13 Apr 2001

I've tried instituting the "[ signature ]" style in a couple of my wikis. People like the brackets, but everyone wants to put signatures at the end of a long comment, rather than at the beginning. I think "sign at the end" is just too deeply ingrained in peoples' minds.

Because of inconsistency between the sign-at-beginning people and sign-at-end people, it has become impossible to figure out who is saying what. So I advocate sign-at-the-end, because that is the least surprising method for new users.

For one-paragraph comments, putting the signature at the beginning of the comment and starting the comment on the same line works well. The confusion comes in when a signature is on a line by itself.

Maybe a slighly asymmetric signature, like "[ signature ]:" or "[ signature ]>" would help clarify which direction the signature is associated with.

-- KristopherJohnson - 25 Apr 2001

More opinion on signatures:

  • PeterThoeny used a form of initials as a full sig alterntive: PeTh, using the first two letters of first and last name. Something like this should handle quite a number of users, and is a lot easier to enter, though it looks a little odd at first. Maybe first name and first two letters of last name: PeterTh
  • One sure obstacle to easy signing is having to prepend the %MAINWEB% name or variable.
  • Use of the date, and the specific date format, probably depends on the situation: it's definitely convenient to see at a glance when any one comment was made, but I haven't experienced the alternative. Maybe having the date all over the place isn't something I'd miss, and having it may somehow disincline people to edit/refactor - just a thought.
  • The length of the current default sig format, and the convention of leaving a blank line, takes up a lot of space: very readable, but probably favors straight appended-comment ThreadMode discussions, and probably discourages inserted comments and refactoring. Use of a brief sig - like the PeTh initial example, tucked into the comment would probably change the flavor of participation. Like this, maybe with a rollover tip for mod date: - MikeMa
  • I believe use of lots of multi-color coding is an acquired "taste" that may be used more in general in certain countries, industries, whatever. Could be my imagination. In any case, I find a lot of colors, especially applied to text, is distracting, especially when you want to use a highlight color for clear emphasis.
  • Signing at the end is more familiar and comfortable, except in a series of short, Q&A-style comments, like dialog, which may be good in special cases. In general, though, signing last is probably most convenient.

-- MikeMannix - 03 Nov 2001

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Topic revision: r14 - 2001-12-29 - TWikiBot
 
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