Tom Hoffman glosses Ward Cunningham's list of wiki design principles. I like several of Tom's comments -- see, for example, his note about the incremental nature of a wiki. Assuming he's right, why not, say, have one class continue work done the previous year by another class? That's the way we treat knowledge outside of school, and it is respectful of students to try to treat knowledge the same way in their presence as we do elsewhere. I also agree with Tom's closing remarks about wikis requiring teaching -- school wikis are a kind of utopia, but not a teacherless kind, I believe.
I struggle to understand Ward's point about tolerance and Tom's gloss of it. Ward says the software should be:
Tolerant - Interpretable (even if undesirable) behavior is preferred to error messages.
I think the two of them are talking about something important there, though -- I'm just not sure I get it. I think they're hinting about the ways schools often place students in spaces where their actions seem to have no result, or no interpretable result, causing confusion, anger, apathy, rather than engagement. We all want to live in a space where our actions make a difference and our judgments have a chance to be carried out. We want to be the creators of our own lives. In that spirit, writing matters, and our software may help create the kind of spaces we need.
Well, what I was thinking of is what happens when wiki formatting doesn't do what I think it is going to do. Generally this consists of some indentation or line spacing having some unintended consequences. Maybe the first paragraph is formatted as a header for no apparent reason. Those errors are harder to interpret than html bugs where your formatting commands are at least explicit. I've actually prefered wiki markup engines that throw explicit errors (in contrast to Cunningham's principle), but then again, I'm a geek.
In practice, your average teacher or student would rather have their incorrectly indented block of text show up as a misformatted page than just show an error message.
HTML in general adheres to this principle as well, so in this case wikis don't stand out from other web publishing systems.
Tom, I did think you were talking about coding, first and foremost, but I also thought you and Ward were suggesting a principle that goes far beyond coding, and that's what I tried to work out in my final paragraph.