Blogs vs wikis

A chain of people in my orbit seem to agree that a simple test as to when to use a blog and when to use a wiki for collaboration is: one or two people providing content, use a blog; many people providing content, use a wiki (Mark Miller > Doug Cornelius > KnowledgeThoughts > James Mullan).

I can’t agree with that at all. Blogs and wikis are quite different tools and the number of people providing content is not the test. Sure most blogs are authored by individuals and a wiki for just one or two contributors would be an odd choice. But what about group blogs? They’re very effective collaboration tools for particular purposes – to progress conversations and develop ideas. In our blawgosphere, just look at Slaw and law.librarians for example.

But for all their merits, blogs don’t produce a collaborative result; wikis are designed for that.

In my brief research on this topic I came across a page by the folks at MovableType usefully Comparing Blogs to other Communication Tools, which distinguishes blogs and wikis thus:

The biggest distinction between blogs and wikis is that wikis are designed to create a single collaborative result, the sum total of the efforts of everyone who can view that web page. … But sometimes you want to share some information and be the owner of that information. Blogs are perfect for these situations: They only allow people to respond or react to the information you’ve shared, but they can’t modify it themselves.

3 thoughts on “Blogs vs wikis

  1. Hi Nick,

    You’ve made some good, fair points. The simple test is probably a little too simple (at least without the broader text of the original article).

    For instance, Mark Miller talks about using blogs when “pushing out information from a single source to anyone who is willing to listen”, a “one-to-many” relationship.

    As you say, a group can blog in a meaningful and useful way (i.e. use a blog for all group news).

    Conversely, I do use a wiki in a two person scenario (it’s great for collaboratively creating content). In that situation, the flow of information is two way, and the “news” metaphor of the blog would not be appropriate.

    So, my enthusiasim about the simple test is tempered, but Mark gets pretty close to the target with his entire post.

    Arrg, it’s complex again…. ;)

  2. Nick –

    Obviously the “one or two people providing content, use a blog; many people providing content, use a wiki” test is a gross simplification.

    I do find it to be an interesting way to explain the differences to people who are new to 2.0. And most people are new 2.0 tech.

    Frankly, in SharePoint 2007, the differences between wikis, blogs, lists and document libraries get really fuzzy.

  3. Nick

    This is great, thanks. As someone new to Web 2.0/social networking/call it what you will I’ve been looking for a sensible explanation of the difference for some time now and this both clears it up and tells me what I hoped to hear. The work group I’m in believe we should try and use these tools to aid KM within the team and then within the firm but we’re struggling to know where to start and not really being able to handle the terminology isn’t helping. I felt that there was room for both blogs and wikis in our plans – now I’m sure.

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