Wiki Mission

Folks, let's reduce the redundancy. Italicize pages for which you PrepareTheWay.

Is there a WikiConsensus on this?

Of course not. Let's cut straight to the analogy.

Which analogy better fits Wiki?

Wiki is like a work environment.

While a certain amount of social discussion must take place for it to function, most conversations should come fairly quickly back to the task at hand. Extraneous topics are encouraged only in that they provide the grease that reduces friction between co-workers.

Wiki is like a bunch of co-workers at an office party.

Because they all share a common job, the discussion naturally flows toward those topics, but any conversation is acceptable and even desirable. In fact, there is no agenda, and any attempt to shape and guide the discussion is probably not appropriate, and would be seen as rude.

I'd say that it's become more like the latter, with a few much-missed alumni invited but only popping in briefly from time to time. Earlier on, especially during the WikiAsXpTrainingCourse stage, it was more like the first. Trouble is, it was probably more fun in those days.

Moderating tone and the like are useful whether Wiki is a work place or a party. In fact the tips in GoodStyle are useful for any human interaction.

Here's another analogy:

Wiki is like a bunch of workers at a conference.

You have the technical sessions and tutorials (DocumentMode), the panel discussions and birds-of-a-feather (ThreadMode), and I suppose the rest fit into something like poster sessions or the parties outside the "official" conference hours. Note this means it doesn't have to be "co-workers" - it may be folks from many different companies, regions, or even different disciplines.

It also doesn't have to be laser-focused on the topic of the conference. A lot of interesting conversations dance around, but not directly on topic. Part of the magic is building relationships between ideas and between people - and that's not always "on topic" by some authority's definition.

I think the WikiWikiWeb here is doing a great job of supporting this, due, as someone said, to the willingness of the participants to keep it that way. Maybe there is a need, at some point, to be able to get on the P.A. system and bring the conference back to order. I'm not sure how that would even be done successfully. But for now, it seems to be going all right with everyone's participation.

-- JeffMantei

Advanced readers only

There's also something about WikiWikiWeb that touches on the DifferenceBetweenSpecificationAndImplementation and EveryoneShouldBeaToolmaker, but I haven't figured it out yet.

The mission of this wiki is defined by our dear host in WikiWikiWeb: "created ... for the PortlandPatternRepository. ... home to an InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas."

Does this mission describe the typical usage of this wiki today? I don't think so.

Does this mean that 80% of the contributions - that seem to be OT - are to be treated that way? I don't think so. Because this wiki is also the centre of the world-wide wiki community.

Does this mean that any contribution should be accepted? I don't think so. Because then our WikiMission would be ignored. It's not GoodStyle to ignore the mission of a wiki.

Therefore WikiMission should be redefined to set new targets for the existing community, to guide regulars and new users about the way this wiki should be used.

Of course, only our dear host can redefine WikiMission. -- HelmutLeitner

In the past Ward has been (understandably) reticent about setting rules and regulations. The idea (if I understand correctly) is that wiki is supposed to be self-policed. Ward has given us guidelines which some of us follow. Some of us don't. That's the "noise" in SignalToNoiseRatio.

Where are Ward's guidelines?

If you want to change the topic, change the URL. In my opinion, this wiki should remain an InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas because that's what people consider it to be. It doesn't cost anything to make another wiki. If you want to talk about wikis, there's always MeatballWiki (which supplants W2 and MuWebWeb).

By the way, if WikiWiki is supposed to be the centre of the wiki universe, it's doing a really bad job of it. Most of the people here are completely unaware of the other wikis, and they don't seem to care (and should they really?). I don't think WikiWiki is the centre of the wiki world. In fact, each of the wiki scripts has its own centre where the author of those scripts hosts the support wiki. Those centres are far more aware of each other than the community here is of them. So, the notion that WikiWiki ought to be central to the other wikis is a RedHerring. -- SunirShah

Well, it isn't really, actually, functionally, currently the centre. And that's because it doesn't want to be, if you might have noticed. WikiBase was supposed to be, but the copyright restriction was too much. MuWebWeb was next, but that fluttered out. MeatballWiki tried for a little bit, but it's happy just to be itself. As for the other wikis, they will continue to function whether this one does or does not because they are completely independent. Just as the swiki world what they thought about WikiWiki. Half of them would go, "what's WikiWiki?" -- ss

Yebbit, this wiki isn't actually, really, functionally, currently the centre of the wiki world. It doesn't serve that role. No place serves that role. This discussion came up this week on the WikiForum mailing list, by the way. (Are you on that list? I forget.) To contrast, consider the weblogs compared to SlashDot. In that case, SlashDot serves very well as the centre of those worlds (including Advogato, kuro5hin, drop, etc.) -- ss

Can I suggest separating the history, the aspiration, "natural justice" for Ward, the size of the community and volume of edits (on which I assume Wiki still scores highly) - where I take it Helmut is living - and the actuality of most wikis being highly autonomous right now - a fair point Sunir, with useful examples. In a page other than this one. Because mission is the wrong word surely on this. Aspiration would be much better. -- rd

Well, I'd have no qualms if this wiki turned out to be the centre of all wikis, but for that to happen, the attitude of the community here would have to change dramatically. By the way, after WikiBase, Ward started w2 to go along with the WikiForum list. That kind of petered out, although the mailing list still lives. Though, it did recently came almost close to dying so we pushed some messages through it to keep the garbage collector away. ("I'm not dead yet!") And the w2 software is used on BridgesWiki. And just for interest's sake, I believe is running w6. You may also want to check out MuWebWeb while it still exists. -- ss

As stated on WikiHistory, "The site was, and remains, dedicated to PeopleProjectsAndPatterns". I see no need to redefine the mission of this wiki - who among us would have the audacity to do so? Why instead don't we improve the SignalToNoiseRatio by focussing on topics consistent with the dedication of this site? -- RandyStafford

The people part opens it up a lot. One thing Wiki should have learnt from history is that discussion of WikiMission is fruitless. Let Ward decide, with minimal help. If he doesn't chuck it out it's in. If he blesses it as he chucks it out then be grateful to whatever god the pages are about. Of more practical use would be the AdmissionsOfThisWiki?. In so far as it's been dedicated to people, Wiki needs to admit where it has failed, WastingPeople. Too often by admitting and taking seriously those who with great determination fail to be connected with any known people, projects or patterns.

Because this wiki is also the centre of the world-wide wiki community.

Yes, that's certainly the way I see it. -- RichardDrake

What has been discussed is this wiki's focus rather than it's mission. The original focus is well-known, and respected by most users.

  1. Is wiki working according to its mission?
  2. Is wiki useful and enjoyable?

If 2) is true, then why does 1) matter?

Dot-coms were useful and enjoyable, but they failed to achieve their mission: to be profitable. Without focus, your short term gains do not translate into long term gains.

Option 1, the mission of Wiki is to be useful and enjoyable to the people who visit it. Then:

Both groups should tell their friends to do the same.

Option 2, the mission of Wiki is to be an interesting technical and social experiment and to generate WikiWikiKudos for WardCunningham.

No need to do anything. Mission already accomplished. -- RichardDrake

...useful and enjoyable... A counterexample: someone might find it useful and enjoyable to put his video collection into this wiki. Would anybody here like this?

No, they would I guess delete it. Because it wouldn't be seen as useful and enjoyable to most visitors and Ward has never encouraged individual use of that kind. But let's not get into the completely hypothetical. Give up trying to define it. Leave it to Ward to steer however he chooses. need to do anything. Mission...accomplished... If this were true, it would be logical to freeze this wiki to avoid dilution of the already perfect content. Would anybody here like this?

No that wouldn't be logical. The kudos is surely further increased by keeping Wiki going. So we need a very complex value function over time? No we don't. Leave it to Ward. It's simpler.

...generate WikiWikiKudos for WardCunningham... Looks good, might even be useful and enjoyable. But which direction should this wiki move? Be a centre of the wiki world? Show others how a wiki may be used to build a large knowledge base (still centered on patterns and software)? Develop large scale refactoring methods and put the focus on patterns again? Further develop the wiki communication culture (perhaps even reach the state of enlightenment were respected wiki hosts stop fighting each other)? Help others to grok wiki and start their own wiki projects? It would be really helpful if Ward would give us a hint what he would find useful and enjoyable (I call this "redefine our WikiMission"). -- hl

If the vote of 10 to 1 above is anything to go by there's no need for Ward to spend time doing this Helmut. Thanks for caring but you can't improve things this way. Why don't you move some of the material to CenterOfTheWikiWorld? and then reduce this page? -- RichardDrake

Of course, those 10 votes came from the people who understand the "mission" of this wiki. What should those 10 do to make sure that the 1 understands and respects that "mission". It's all well and good for a bunch of people to take the moral high ground by saying that we understand and adhere to that "mission" but what do we do to ensure that others respect it as well? At some point you stop saying "Please do not walk on the grass" and you take out the 12-gauge. The only difference is that Ward will not (I don't think) pull out the 12-gauge. Does this mean people just keep trampling our garden? It may be Ward's land but everybody here has contributed in some way.

I am relatively new to this wiki, and have observed that using a meaningful measure of success as a validation, the mission, centrality, and continued importance of this NobleExperiment are assured. Successes:

There are nearly 20000 pages available on a wide variety of topics accumulated since initiation of this wiki. That seems to be a validation of success by the measure of volume of contributions.

There are an average of 15 new pages and usually 50 or more factored pages every day, most of which are thoughtful, contributory, and in harmony if not strict agreement with the intents of its founder and with the majority of participants. That seems to validate success by the measure of participation.

There are some incompatible pages that fall out of bounds which are handled in a reasonable way by deleting early when appropriate or moved to Meatball or some other wiki dedicated to the page stated purposes. This seems to validate a sense of propriety.

There are professionals in many disciplines and those who have written successful books about themes discussed on this wiki and who also are found to be participants in seminars and conventions as speakers or presenters. This seems to validate success by the measure of quality of expertise and content.

Then there are students and seekers of knowledge who visit to read the pages residing in this wiki but are not found to be bold enough to make frequent expressions which they fear are not of the quality of those who have already experienced success and acceptance as contributors. Regular contributors will regularly share expertise, methods and provide guidance and mentoring. This seems a validation of success using the measure of extension and growth.

Who may use WardsWiki? We could ask Ward, I suppose, but that would be too easy. Actually, I think he has already given us the answer in large part. The focus of the site is topics which would be of interest to programmers as programmers. But by deliberately leaving the site open to whoever wants to participate and by deliberately as an experiment giving them carte blanche to write or delete what they want on the site, Ward has left the door open to other topics.

Of course, most of what goes on here should be such that some subset of the community has an interest in the content. Specifically, we wouldn't want the site to degenerate into just a conglomeration of one-to-one conversations of interest to only the two people involved. Yet, a certain amount of one-to-one dialog is natural where a full sense of community exists. So, TipsFromWardCunningham says "Write where they read" for one-to-one material.

Most would agree that vandals should not be here. That programmers talking about programming should be here, goes without question. While cooks talking about recipes would be better having their own wiki site, an occasional recipe here would not be too obtrusive, especially if shared among programmer friends.

And if someone wishes to have a twosome off-topic conversation, let them. As long as they keep it restricted to their own WikiHomePage or some specific page like WikiTunaJourney (which has now been deleted), they don't hurt anyone (aside from distracting RecentChangesJunkies). They may even inadvertently come up with something that interests others.

If you feel strongly about a topic, and you want to create a community around it, you're far better off to create your own wiki to host it. You will avoid political pages like this "ThisDoesntBelongOnWiki?," plus you will have a unified page database. That is, the whole wiki will be your space to talk about. Naturally, this community is not really keen on having its space squatted on by another.

BidirectionalLinks are your choice. Practically speaking, new wikis that link back here die from the WikiGravitationalEffect?--that is, authors follow the links to the "mother wiki" which is huge and clearly vivid. StevenBlack and Ward created SisterSites to improve this, and it is helping. The click trajectories to MeatballWiki have a decent path length, and I think some lurkers here decided to write there. But a clean break is nice until you have a strong enough community to absorb the major RecentChangesJunkies here. They bring along many of the expectations of this community. It's kind of like taking Americans to different countries. They immediately look for a McDonald's. ;)

Allow me to explain before I get lynched. Ward asked me if WikiWiki sends better authors than Slashdot. I said no. Slashdot authors have no expectations of a wiki, so they learn the local customs on MeatballWiki. Authors from WikiWiki see something like WikiWiki, so they assume the local customs are they same. They just aren't. Besides, I think Slashdot authors are better looking than WikiWiki authors.

On the other hand, the other wikis have a strong tradition of linking to each other. See and the new MetaWikiSearchEngine. In fact, there's this whole other world of wikis that has little to do with WikiWiki. A small percentage of the wikis are catalogued on the PublicWikiForums. So, if you feel a little cramped here, there's plenty of room elsewhere. -- SunirShah, Editor of MeatballWiki

Some good wiki engines.

MoinMoin (Python)


Tavi (PHP)

TWiki (Perl)

UseModWiki (Perl)

ZwiKi (ZopeApplicationServer/Python)

If you really think that something doesn't belong on Wiki, you should just delete it. If it comes back, assume that you were wrong and get on with life.

To tell people they are off-topic, use PlainEnglish.

So each time you have to explain the situation? Why don't we refactor the explanation to its own page and link to that page?

The nice way to tell someone is to tell someone nicely. A link to a nice page has exactly the same amount of niceness as a nice form letter.

Point taken.

See also WikiSocialNorms

I noticed that this page has been unedited for awhile; perhaps the community would like to make it into a coherent page? You can always put discussion and the list of related pages on some other page like WikiMissionDiscussion? (or just dump it on one of those pages on that list).

I'd refactor it myself, but I don't come here often so I don't really know what this wiki's mission is.

-- BayleShanks

In addition, I came here seeking an answer to two questions:

1) Is WikiOnWiki a core, on-topic, focus of this wiki's mission? (I am NOT asking if it is often discussed as a peripheral/related conversation; I am wondering if it is a CORE topic)

2) Is there a set of core topic here at all (i.e. PeopleProjectsAndPatterns? programming? computers?), with some side conversation tolerated? Or, is anything on topic here?


-- BayleShanks

This site remains dedicated to capturing and examining the real experience of expert developers. -- WardCunningham (on SearchForTruth)


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