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Submit, publish, comment, rinse, repeat

MacOSXHints is a community-driven site operated by Mac Publishing LLC (of Macworld and Playlist renown) whose sole purpose is to collect and archive —wait for it— hints pertaining to Mac OS X… little tidbits you probably won’t find in the help files or product pages. It’s a great resource, and is often among the top hits if you throw a Mac troubleshooting question at Google, but there’s something very wrong with it: it’s a blog.

“Sure,” you say, “now he’s against blogging”. Whatever. Although the immediacy of the format works to its benefit (the RSS feed in particular), if you read the site for more than a few months you’ll start to see the cracks in the blogging facade: the hints are submitted by the public (good), they’re screened (good), published (good), and commented on by other members of the public (good) before falling into the giant abyss known as the archive, where they’re never touched again by mortal hands (bad). OK, an exaggeration, and though this isn’t such a terrible state of affairs for normal weblogs, MacOSXHints isn’t a normal weblog… it’s a knowledge base.

Take an example: you submit a hint, a simple AppleScript, which is later published and in the course of the following days critiqued and improved upon in the comments… becoming a much simpler AppleScript. Sounds good so far, but for the downside: those improvements are several screens below the fold, nested so deeply in the comments that Joe Googler will probably never see them. He uses the original, unimproved hint. Not life-threatening.

Fast-forward a year, a new OS revision installed, and somebody will submit a hint pointing out that your hint was broken by the upgrade and that they’ve created a workaround. This will, in turn, be published and commented upon… and so the cycle continues. What we have is a thriving community site that houses a great number of hints, some percentage of them broken or redundant, most of which could be improved upon (and are, if you bother to read the comments) with the aid of a few dozen eyes.

This isn’t what blogs are for. This is what wikis are for.

So why isn’t MacOSXHints a wiki?