Writing by Peter Hilton

Intranet ten word wiki

Using Notion to maintain a glossary with correct entry length 2023-05-23 #documentation

In 2010, the now-defunct community wiki Ten Word Wiki - tenwordwiki.com - introduced a fun constrained writing challenge: define everything in exactly ten words. From the web site, via Wayback machine:

Ten Word Wiki is an Encyclopedia for the ADD generation.

We Describe Everything In Ten words, Look At The Index

Rules, We Need Rules, There Always Has To Be Rules

Describe your subject in ten words. No more, no less.

Ten Word Wiki originally used a generic wiki, with one entry per page. Most of the entries included one or two links to other entries, but you could only find most entries via the index. Given each entry’s short length, I’ve occasionally wondered if a different platform might work better.

Notion implementation

You can maintain your own Ten Word Wiki in a Notion database. This works pretty well, because of its views and formula properties.

A database view provides a sorted list of entries, showing one’s term and entry:

A ten word wiki as a Notion database view

You can use an Include? property with values yes/no/maybe to filter the list of included entries. When you group a view by this property, you can expand or collapse each group, and see the number of entries in each group:

Notion view: entries grouped by inclusion status

To make editing easier, a Words formula property counts words in the Entry property value, using a word count formula:

if(length(prop("Entry")) > 0, length(replaceAll(prop("Entry"), "[^ ]", "")) + 1, 0)

A Validity formula then uses the word count to mark valid entries:

if(prop("Words") == 10, "🟢 Valid", "🔴 Invalid")

You can then edit invalid entries in an Entries to fix view that filters on Validity and shows the word count. This shows you how many words you need to add or remove:

Notion view: entries whose word count is not 10

Finally, an overview shows all properties:

Notion view: all entries and all properties

Unfortunately, Ten Word Wiki entertained its audience, but not enough of them found it useful, and it didn’t survive. The concept deserves a more valuable use case.

Intranet glossary

A company glossary on the intranet can help new joiners understand what everyone’s talking about, while exposing the amount of gratuitous company-specific jargon in use. In a product company a product glossary can also help people use consistent naming in conversations, user interfaces, and documentation.

Despite an intranet glossary’s potential usefulness, the original Ten Word Wiki’s rules highlighted their typical flaws. Glossary entries have too many or too few words, and hardly any humour at all. Perhaps you’ll have more fun with a glossary in the style of Ten Word Wiki.

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