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ThreadMode tends to be hard to read: Posts are often out of historical order, you can't always figure out who said what or when one speaker stops and another starts, time sensitive information is mixed with timeless wisdom, opinions are mixed with facts, and personal debates are mixed with public discourse. ThreadMode material tends to grow quickly and organically. Adding to it while keeping it clear is difficult. It's hard to avoid UnethicalEditing when trying to clarify things later and almost impossible to avoid it while a debate is raging. There are many words used in support of discourse that aren't needed for later reading. These words are very difficult to extract.


  • Sign ThreadMode contributions ThreadMode is like a conversation. People like to know who they are talking to. Signatures also work to delimit posts and provides cues to readers about what position the writing is meant to support. Not terribly important for short, simple threads; more important for longer, multi-party threads.
  • Use a Wiki:NullSignature for anonymous contributions Put in a Wiki:DoubleDash to delimit the post but don't add your name. [ProtoPattern]
  • Use separate posts for separate subjects If each thing you write has a single subject then it will be easier to move and respond to in the future. A separate signature isn't required, paragraph breaks should be sufficient.
  • Quote and respond Instead of writing responses inline and destroying chronological order. Pull the inspiring material out of line at the bottom of the page and respond to it separately. This makes it easier to follow how the ideas were developed later.
  • Use horizontal lines to delimit threads Allows some relaxation of chronology preserving techniques. Each thread develops its own idea.

Well written ThreadMode won't solve the whole problem. Sometimes ThreadMode just isn't the most appropriate way to explore a topic. Other times Wiki just isn't the right place for a conversation.


  • Don't write it Ward writes in Wiki:WikiHistory that he's always encouraged DissertationOverDiscourse on Wiki. Discourse is easier, of course, and comes in handy. But it creates ThreadMode which can be hard to read. Prefer to write in DocumentMode when possible.
  • Use email instead Write email directly to the person that you wish to respond to. Do this especially when the topic is not of general interest or will require wordy negotiation.


ThreadMode won't always be written clearly. Even if it is it probably won't stay that way if only because it will get too big. The ideas presented in ThreadMode are usually valuable -- often they are the most valuable contribution to a page -- but ThreadMode form isn't always the best way to convey that information to the reader.


  • Break up posts by subject Take a single post that contains one subject and break it into two separate posts with one subject each. Place a copy of the original authors signature on each. Often there will be a few words or even a sentance or two that was originally used as a segue -- they can usually be deleted or modified to form a pointer from one post to the other [try to use a page link for this, they introduce weaker coupling]. Often one thread can be broken into two separate threads using this technique.
  • ConvertThreadModeToDocumentMode This is very difficult to do well and will likely raise the ire of the ThreadMode authors if done poorly or without their permission or knowledge. However, when it's done well and in context it provides one of the higest quality forms of information found on Wiki.
  • Extract inline responses Just like quote and respond above but done on behalf of the responding author. This will rarely restore chronological data but it does work to clarify threads.
  • Organize threads Group threads by subject. Merge them into the same horizontal line delimited section if possible. [ProtoPattern]
  • Label threads If sections have titles they can be found more readily. That aids both in contributing to and reading ThreadMode.
  • Extract thread to new page Usually these pages contain the word "Discussion" in their names and are completely ThreadMode. This reduces clutter on the original page (which should contain a pointer to the new page) but may only serve to move a mess to a new location.
  • Create dialectic Reduce the size of a thread by reorganizing, merging and editing the posts to form an expositional representation of the original conversation. Change the signatures to be Wiki:DramaticIdentity*s. Optionally associate the signatures of the original authors with the Wiki:DramaticIdentity*s. (See also Wiki:ThesisAntithesisSynthesis.) Wiki:ProtoPattern

Some topics generate questions and counterpoint. There is a desire to inquire, discuss, debate ... to fondle the cards until the way they interact becomes clear.

Interesting ideas and challenges, and responses to both, do often appear on this kind of page. Often a third or fourth party injects a notion that identifies a hidden issue or clarifies a position.

Still, wiki pages containing such matter quickly become chaotic. They can be inaccessible to people who newly come to the page, and often even confuse the main contributors.

You want to generate synthesis, and to ensure attribution of the ideas to all who chipped in.


Make an unsigned section at the top of the page, with an attempt at synthesizing some sense from the material below. If you move your own ideas up, remove your commentary below. If you refactor someone else's ideas substantially, consider saving a copy on your local machine, and leave them a message on their name page to check out what you did. Problem with this idea may be that a newbie wouldn't know to do it. But maybe a newbie wouldn't be editing this way anyway.

Add a Contributors line listing all authors contributing to the synthesis. If you disagree with the synthesis, remove your name or add (dissenting) after it, perhaps with a reference to another page. If you don't know who an author is, add "and others".

Source: Wiki:HowToWriteAndEditThreadMode

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Topic revision: r4 - 2003-12-14 - PeterThoeny
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