[Home]JargonProblem

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When new things appear, they need names. Traditionally, there are two ways to deal with this:

Both methods have their drawbacks, however.

When using existing terms to support a metaphor, you will run into the limitations of a metaphor.

Example:

The terms files and directories are based on old office terms where you keep files on subjects and store them in directories. As soon as you introduce links, however, there is no corresponding term. Even if you think of symbolic links as "a note directing you to another file", in real life opening a symbolic link in an application opens the corresponding file immediately. Since you don't have to read a note before redirection happens, the situation changes slightly and may trip new users. The situation gets more difficult when you think about hard links. And when you have an editor that allows you to make backup files by moving or copying the original -- which requires you to understand about these subtleties.

When using new words, you must be careful not to overwhelm newcomers to the new thing. One new word or two might be ok, but when they have to learn an entire jargon just to understand the new thing. Chances are they will just turn away, because at this point in time, they do not yet know whether it is worth learning.

Example:

The XanaduProject uses tons of new words. Whenever somebody talks to me about Xanadu, and tries to explain this or that feature, they first have to explain the basic jargon to me, which usually takes too long so that I can't really concentrate on the feature. I have to keep replacing fancy words by other terms, and keep asking myself whether this is not just fake complexity -- a complex description for a simple problem.

HumaneInterface and FeatureKarma suggest fixing this by having a few simple, powerful methods, rather than having myriads of different ways to do the same thing. For example, rather than being able to find some info via search, or via browsing, or via soft links, just implement a really good search with LeapMode. Rather than having to consider "files" and "directories", just have OneBigFile?.

Discussion

I think that the JargonProblem could be - and actually is - attacked by intentional linguistic work. The need for new words in a new area of science - I think this is what we are doing here - is unavoidable and there isn't only a refactoring of pages but also a constant refactoring of the langage used. Is a community virtual, hyper or just online? Is forest fire a correct term for the phenomenon at hand or is it really a group of phenomena that need different names? It might be that a glossary page for the current core terminology might be good for us and also for new members. -- HelmutLeitner

Isn't it better just to ensure our jargon terms are part of our pattern language? Following a link to understand a term becomes second-nature on a Wiki, and a list of "current core terminology" is not terribly maintainable. (Unless, perhaps, we maintain it as a category.) -- ChrisPurcell

The problem is, that a visitor or new member has to find it's way through so many pages. It will not be clear to him, which of the terms are fundamental and which experimental. I agree that it may be hard to find and even harder to maintain such a glossary. -- HelmutLeitner

That may be relevant if MeatballWiki were a wiki HowTo guide. If anything, the quiescent MeatballWikiBasicsSnapshot is such a thing, not MeatballWiki itself. In any case, visitors aren't asked to care about jargon since we try to IncreaseClarity? such that it is unnecessary. It's a sure fire way to tell new users that this idea is too complicated if you feel the need to have a glossary. In fact, it indicates quite strongly the idea is too complicated, and you have consequently failed the FeatureKarma test. This could indicate a problem with FacetWiki and FractalWiki; both expressions are interesting as experiments, but they require expert prior knowledge (as contained on WikiTechnicalGlossary) to understand and appreciate. -- SunirShah

I think you are right. But this is only the technical side that - as far as Chris and my activity is concerned - is in an exploration phase before we are able to focus and simplify things again for users and for founders. There is a kind of language all the time and in all places that develops - whether we notice it or not. Doesn't the word "shallow" get a special meaning right now and isn't it important to communicate the subtle implications? There is no chance that a visitor stumbles over the term "shallow page" and gets its meaning right intuitively! -- HelmutLeitner

Maybe, but I wonder how cavalier we are when using such terms. Often we make a link to ShallowPage to provide the necessary context. The glossary is nearly invisible in that way because it is unavailable as hypercontext. -- SunirShah

I plan on folding my basic definitions into what I do, but part of the problem is I'm describing stuff that emerges out of an unusual algorithm. All the effects feel natural (which is why I am continuing with the PeriPeri spike, not disbanding it like UbikWiki), but they are very different from what emerges from traditional computer namespacing and hierarchy. I need nomenclature! Writing it, for now, on WikiTechnicalGlossary has helped me focus my usage and understanding; hopefully, I will be able to write a page about it all soon. Would that be a satisfactory conclusion? (Note that only one term, "facet", actually needs explaining, and only to help describe more rigorously what my algorithm is actually doing. A facet is a simple thing, but what you can do with it takes elaboration.) -- ChrisPurcell

You only know a culture as well as you know the language. Whilst language is being obtained, a learner will work through regular routines. This provides a sence of saftey and familiarity. As language is mastered the routines become more complex and freedom of movement and speech within the community is gained. Language is always up for grabs and is a negociated process. Hospitality is a set of processes related to the capacity to redifine the structures (including language) of a community. A guest needs to be able to influence the community in some ways, whilst the community needs to be protected from intrusion and reckless redefinitions, change and clumsyness. This seems well managed in this place. RobGraves

I am interested that hyperlinking has the effect of creating a clear and instantly accessable hermenutic. That is, a tradition of meanings that are slowley evolving over time from various points of enterance, by various language users. Clearly defined principles round processes of hospitality will aid language aquisition and the guest's capacity to feed her experience into the hermenutic process. RobGraves


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