CamelCase Vs Free Links

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See also: CamelCase | Free Links

There are two major ways to link on a wiki:

CamelCase has been criticized as making texts hard to read, especially for speakers of languages that are very case-sensitive. Wikis have been reported as hard to access for non-technical people. Furthermore, some casual readers are so appalled at CamelCase as to find themselves driven away from pages and entire sites with heavy CamelCase use.

Most wikis that use CamelCase also have naming conventions in place. The most common is to never make a single word a CamelCase link. Your example links in CamelCase would be EvolutionEmailClient and WikiWiki. See UgLy at Wiki. Wikipedia started out with CamelCase (oh, the horror!), but switched over to free links. They didn't have naming conventions in place, so... well, double the horror. It took months for them remove the old CamelCase from their database.

On the one hand, it can be argued that CamelCase links are usually easy to remember. So easy, some say, that they are often thrown around as if they were dogma -- they are very "memetically infectious". CamelCase links tend to force the writer to create short link titles, which can be regarded as an advantage. They are created rather effortlessly, often accidentally, making CamelCase wikis highly interlinked.

On the other hand, it is possible that the ease of CamelCase link creation can also result in a number of dead links in cases where the author blindly guesses at a link. The double-bracketting forced by this wiki's free link system could be seen as requiring focus and attention in link creation.

The decision to use CamelCase is not easily reverted because links to pages with only one word in the title have to contain the shifted case somewhere, so Wiki becomes WiKi, Evolution becomes EvoLution or EvoluTion etc. -- an automatic conversion script cannot know whether this is one word or two words. This may explain why most wikis that have started with CamelCase never use anything else.

It could be said that the free linking system used at iA has a significant advantages in that an author can very easily visually locate wiki links while editing.


The maintainers of the infoAnarchy wiki believe that the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits and therefore do not use CamelCase. They also believe that some of the "advantages" can sometimes be disadvantages. Some schemes have been proposed to get the best of both worlds, such as the following:

In order to create a link, you write underscores instead of spaces. If the word contains no spaces, you write the underscore at the beginning. _Evolution would link to Evolution, File_sharing to File sharing, and so on. This is easier to type than the typical double square bracket syntax, but it gets harder for links to titles with many words, discouraging them the same way CamelCase does. It is displayed properly. It can be converted to other styles without data loss. And it is rather easy on the eyes even in edit mode. (The syntax would need some enhancements to support link aliases and hyperlinks.)