(I love the hunt for “essences.” The “essence” of a very long comment thread like the one on this excellent posting is that it becomes less about the posting and more a continuing expression of comment-thread-ness.)
Recently, I’ve been using wikis furiously, and not because of the hype, but because of a need to work irregularly at a fine-grained level with separate sets of others. It’s about having so much to do, and surprise, no great expanses of time for it all. It is about capturing combined effort, quickly turning rooms into pages. Not as things to do that get stuck in email, but as word-thought-action-stuff that gets riffled in the right direction over time. It’s about drafting and finishing many small pieces and few larger ones through iteration, about holding the state of simple tasks and longer activities and so on. A little while ago, I cornered these same turns on wikis.
It’s not hard to see the essence of a wiki in this, at least if you already know it. (It’d be equally not hard to sense the essence of blogs of an account I’ll spare you.) Essences aren’t about semantics or definitions. Essences aren’t about all the whys, or the detailed mechanisms, but about whyness and howness in a, well, essential kind of way. They are about a sense for the heart of the matter and of its primitive beating.
Another essential point, I understand by now, that many people don’t give a damn about essences.