Sentences about Writing on a Wiki

Updated 14 Feb 2017

What this is and What to do

Below is a set of notes that I could use as a lecture. Embedded in the notes are links to other pages on the wiki. Some pages already exist, others don't exist yet.

Read through this page, and then chose a few pages in the text to expand on. Some of the WikiWord links are more conceptual and abstract than others, which gives you lots of room to move. Be adventurous, and choose topics that require some research on your part.

Select at least three of the links, do some research (web, other), and write or develop or refactor a short page on it. It doesn't have to be a long page - 200 - 500 words - but it can be as long as you like. It doesn't have to be complete or finished. Think notes that others can develop further. But also think concise and dense.

It can be your first thoughts on the idea - thoughts that you or someone else will return to and develop further. Or it can be something more developed and detailed. You can start from scratch, or build on pages that already exist. You may choose to fill in gaps or add more to what's already here.

Adding an image to the page is good. Use the Image icon in the toolbar to insert the code, and then tweak it.

Do not do not do not

bring in summaries or articles from Wikipedia. That stuff is already too over-processed for the wiki. There are far better sites to draw from. You can link to Wikipedia, but even then, there are better sites to link to.

You can do as many articles as you like. You may sign your work with your WikiName, or not, as you prefer.

You may want to check some of the links and RecentChanges to see what other people have done.

You can also edit the notes on this page. If you want to add an option for a way of understanding, then edit the notes by adding a sentence making your statement, and write that up.

Sentences About is meant to be rudimentary, addressing relatively common stuff to provide a jumping off point. So as you work remember to jump off on a tangent where appropriate.

The aim of the WeblogsAndWikis wiki is to be a repository and workspace for thinking about and writing about wikis. Your goal as a contributor is to add your best thinking about these ideas to this wiki.

Expect to spend 6 - 8 hours reading and writing on this activity over the week. It's not presented as a top o' the head notebook exercise. Time is rewarding.

The Places and Uses of Wikis

WritingOnAWiki can be understood as CollaborativeWriting, or as CollectiveWriting. Or something else. Some people use a WikiAsAPersonalNotebook. Others think of WikiAsSocialNotebook. But writing on a wiki is typically not an individual act.

Writing on a wiki can involve some CultureShock. Other wikis have discussed this, but we have a gap concerning how it affects uses of our wiki. WikiCultureShock will be something pretty specific. Above all, wikis seem to require a new literacy, a WikiLiteracy. Because WikisAndTraditionalComposing are not the same.

When it comes to wikis, we tend to view TheAudience, or OurAudience, as something other than a target to reach or persuade. The audience is welcome to visit and read. But visitors don't drive writing on the wiki, so we're not really concerned about numbers or reaching a demographic. Because TheAudienceIsUs, and any reader can become a writer, we can think about the wiki AudienceAsFamily, or AudienceAsNeighbor, or AudienceAsCollective or AudienceAsCollaborator. Some do view the audience of a wiki as a TargetedAudience and shape their work accordingly, but it's a soft target.

A better way of thinking about those who read and write the wiki are to think of them as made up of Publics, and probably CounterPublics "Publics and Counterpublics," an essay by Michael Warner , is a good place to start thinking about PublicsAndCounterPublics.

Publics are a fiction but they are a powerful fiction because they can initiate and guide change. They come into existence as they identify their members and as they work. They seem to arise from and around a text or set of texts.

Wikis are not necessarily spaces for self-expression. They are spaces for CreatingSharedKnowledge. But creating knowledge is a CreativeActOfSynthesis.

Wikis are used by groups (Should we start calling them Publics?) to CreateSharedKnowledge. Contributors bring their expertise in the subject and thinking into the synthesis. Wikis are spaces to learn in and learn from. This is based on the idea that the act of WritingIsLearning. On the wiki, it's not learning about oneself, as in journaling, but in learning about the world.

So, WritingCollectivelyIsLearningWritLarge is one way to think about writing on a wiki. There are others.

WikiTheWriting involves IncorporatingTheIdeasOfOthers in various ways: BuildingOnTheIdeaOfOthers, ModifyingTheIdeasOfOthers, EditingTheIdeasOfOthers. This leads to some consideration of TheRoleOfTheEditor on a wiki. It also shapes the way we write pages on the wiki. We write with the knowledge that OthersWillContribute. We write to EncourageOthersToContribute.

Debates go on with discussion concerning the role of IndividualCreativityOnTheWiki. It's not as simple as WikisDestroyIndividualCreativity. That's TechnoDeterminism, which has been roundly critiqued as inadequate. Wikis create and engage a group of readers and writers which form TheCommunity. Creativity doesn't reside just in new ideas. CreativityIsSynthesis.

Some argue for WikiAsACulture. This seems to have started with the publication of TheWikiWay, by WardCunningham, in 2001. It seems that contributing to a wiki relies on a sort of TribalAttitude towards the project. GettingTheWikiAttitude is part of the tribal idea.

Considering Wikipedia brings up issues of WikisAndCredibility and WikisAndAuthority and WikisAndAmateurContributers. The idea that anyone can edit a wiki sticks in the throats of some for a number of reasons, all PrintBound. Some argue about the status of AmatureContributers. Others are concerned that openly collaborative writing will result in StealingIdeas, they ask WhatWillTheWikiDoToMyText ? These are based on the nineteenth-century ideas of IntellectualProperty being owned by individuals. Some argue that IdeasArePublicProperty. They refer to TheTragedyOfTheCommons, and TheClueTrainManifesto, and the more recent MoreClues. But, when they are working, we can see that wikis can become CommonsWithoutTragedy.

"I would be pissed if I joined a wiki and my posts were changed." "I don't like to edit someone else's words because I might change the meaning." OwnershipOfWordsOnAWiki is often a contention, as is AttributionOnAWiki. WikiWriters have devised ways of revising wiki pages while maintaining the ideas that help develop the page. ThreadMode and DocumentMode came about in part for this reason, as did the convention of SigningYourWork. Another angle argues that IdeasAreCommonProperty.

Working Solo

Wikis don't have to be collaborative or tribal. A single writer may use a wiki as a storehouse of knowledge, much the way that early scientists and current writers use their notebooks and commonplace books.

Wikis can be viewed as the internet version of Vanavar Bush's idea of TheMemex. We can see some of the first wiki roots activities in Doug Englebart's demo of the Online Networking System. The first networked system didn't use wiki words, but it was designed from the ground up as collaborative writing space - where the significant transactions took place not in video or images but in text and code. Background: "As we may think" by Vanavar Bush. Doug Engelbart Institute, with links to demos of NLS. There might be things to consider if we consider TheWikiAsAMemex, WikiAsNoteBook, or WikiAsCommonplaceBook. This fits in with the idea of WikiAsPatternBook, and EvolvingPages. Along with the wiki as a place to take notes would come PagePatterns useful to taking notes and ideas like DialecticMode, DialogicNotebook.

We might get milage out of considering ontologies and taxonomies. After all, WikisAreSemantic. As wiki writers collect ideas, thoughts, notes, drafts on a wiki the need arises to define categories that draw pages together. Commonplace book takers call them Heads. Commonplace book takers devised ways of keeping indexes based on heads. WikiIndexing starts to look interesting.

Recent work with wikis has started to re-focus on what goes on in the practice of developing collaborative knowledge as distributed rather than collective. Mike Caulfield. Background The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral, Caulfield.

This brings up the idea of CuratingInformation, a new area of thinking drawn from the DigitalHumanities. We might think of the WikiWriterAsACurator. Or the WikiAsCabinetOfCuriosity - those rooms and boxes that initiated museums. Vanavar Bush saw the writer-researcher as a reader who create PathsThroughInformation to create knowledge.

Whether a solo or as a tribal construction, WikisNeedGardening. A page will grow to an unreadable sprawl until a WikiGardener comes by and ReFactors the page to remove the weeds to let the good stuff be developed further. They use PagePatterns. They SynthesizeThreads. They add headings and move material that might spur discussion further BelowTheDoubleLine. WikisPersist. The idea in gardening is to clear the space to let participants grow more ideas.

And then ...

A common argument I hear about wikis is WikisAreUgly. Wikis are designed to make reading while editing as easy a possible. They use a small set of PageAffordances and use them as AffordancesForSemanticDesign, keep the page design minimal. Wikis also tend to constrain the use of images. (One image = good. 2 images = sloppy. Start another page.) These features make the wiki easier to navigate and edit than using the standard markup language of HTML. They also make it possible to export wiki pages by using plain text files that are minimally marked up. In these ways, wikis strive for WriteOnceReadMany.

A second common argument I hear concerns HowToNagivateAWiki. Typical commercial website use navigation menus and sidebars that show a user where the material is. But because wikis are created on-the-fly, from the inside out, it's impossible to create pre-establised navigational aids. So, wikis can have NavigationalProblems. But users can create and share their own navigational work by CreatingIndexesToTopics for themselves and users. They can use RecentChanges, and Categories, and PageIndex, and the search box to navigate. To AvoidLinkSpaghetti, writers curate and annotate links to other sites, and place links to other pages on the wiki is semantically salient places. A mess is inevitable. So is cleaning up.

The Darker Side

There is a darker side to Wikipedia. According to Dark Side of WikipediaThe belief that everything you read is true, honest, and accurate. Not only that, but that there is a sense of security to anyone that posts. The belief that anyone can post anything they want is false in and of itself. A couple people talk about their bad encounters from Wikipedia and how they were BANNED from speaking their mind. So who's to say what's allowed and what isn't? What happened to freedom of speech? AndyAllison

A Comment on "The Darker Side"

In regards to AndyAllison's post above: I don't think the same rules apply to Wikipedia as they do to other wikis; it's definitely not okay to post whatever you feel like posting. If that was the case, then Wikipedia would never have become what it is today. It's an encyclopedic site--meaning opinions have absolutely no place there. This can get very sticky--being that some broad topics (like religion or politics) depend on both opinion and fact in order to thrive (example: "Jesus Christ is the Son of God" is an unverifiable opinion [which a large portion of people believe], whereas "The Crusades were a series of religious wars that began in 1096" is a verifiable fact). Idealistically, Wikipedia is intended to be as reputable as it can possibly be (while also staying true to its roots as an editable wiki). However, it seems that there is (not surprisingly) an ongoing battle between 'good' and 'bad' administrators (the 'bad' administrators being people who are paid [large sums, I assume] to purposely suppress information that 'harms' their client). An example of this is mentioned in the Dark Side article, but not backed up by a credible source:

The statement in the Dark Side article: "one study found mistakes in nine out of ten Wikipedia medical entries". I had to search for this 'source' myself, and eventually found it (after going through this not-quite-reputable site): Most Medical Information On Wikipedia is False. This site seems a little kooky (being that there are weird alt-right advertisements/news feeds all over the site [a few examples: there is a banner atop of the page that links to "The Rational Argument Against the Normalization of Transgenderism", and in the 'news' feed there is an article that claims 'Ginger tea shown to naturally kill cancer']. It seems that this site has its own agenda (selling alternative 'medicinal' products and attempting to fully discredit pharmaceutical companies). But, this is beside the point. The writers for this site were kind enough to list their sources--one of them being the study I was looking for: Wikipedia vs Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions. What this article suggests is that these Wikipedia pages are controlled by administrators who are paid by secret clients (who have monetary stakes in the [unbelievably] expensive treatments for these medical conditions) to keep certain information off of the site. From what I can tell, the study seems reputable. And, it's not at all surprising. Corruption is a reality we live with everyday. Money talks.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that Wikipedia is not the best example to use when asking "What happened to freedom of speech?". I'm assuming that most wikis out there are not ran by administrators who are paid large sums of money by shady conglomerates to control what is and what isn't said. TonyLien.

Adapted from Sentences About, Mike Caulfield

See also

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