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Some difficult problems go with this:


[ed: There are no wikis that were able to walk that way.; is that English?]

Perhaps it is impossible to create a member wiki. Typically the founder makes the decisions for his community. This is a safe way to arrive at reasonable decisions, but it is not always satisfying. This is also the way it worked in history for the thousands of years before democracy - how long will it take the first wiki to step over these problems, three years?

There are already many wikis with a voting membership. A simple example would be the Linux User Group wikis whose members can vote at the monthly meetings. There are countless others. Don't confuse the people with the software.


Hehe. I love the first sentence: A wiki that lets its members decide. Is there a wiki(-software) out there that has enough AI builtin to make decisions for us? Stop making software responsible. It is always the members who make the decisions. If the 10:1 read vs write ration gives any indication, then there is a very small fraction of members (in the wide sense) who actually are involved in the decisionmaking process. And if you haven't noticed: it's always decision by consensus in the end, because after the fact only those members remain who can live with the outcome. There is no non-member wiki. -- DavidSchmitt

I would put this differently: most wikis don't have any members. Most wikis don't want a formal membership because this would make their weakness visible. I think online communities are fragile systems because they fear to lose their experimental status or their "sandbox" innocence. -- HelmutLeitner

I agree with Helmut (in that many wikis don't have any members; I don't think that is a bad thing).

outside PurposelessWikis and ShallowWikis?
No, these have both of this sets of wikis have purpose in the sense of sets of wikis - We need to check them out, catalog think about start a language that can help a person quickly understand the mores of this or any wiki. It would be really nice if we could identify online behavior and suggest reading(s) to help the person grow into our community of wikizens. (I am too tired, but I think it should be fairly easy, and I think valuable - to find atributes like letting someone know that they are starting a ForestFire. I think it may help to take pressure off of Sunir if we can all have a hand in easily communicating with the DevelopmentOfNewbies?. (I am thinking of renaming DefendAgainstPassion to something like SlowDown? or SoYouLikeWiki?. I think that ideas can be developed to move from fear of being attacked, to a more wiki way of being, hey, I would like things to be like this, can we change this? - tired, MarkDilley (p.s. anyways VotingIsEvil)

I like that idea, MarkDilley. I have a recurring idea along these lines (it seems almost too mechanistic to work, but I think it may be worth a try). I was impressed with SunirShah's definition of MeatballWiki's 'values' on the page MeatballMission. Perhaps it would be useful to categorize/classify communal expectations and values (just as we have been doing all along), and then, for each of these mores and values, to try and create clear introductory text to communicate it to newcomers. We would make the resulting text PrimarilyPublicDomain so that other online communities could reuse it.

For example, a community expectation that some wikis might have is 'Don't write ShallowPages'. We would develop a blurb suitable to be placed somewhere in the site's intro pages that talk about this expectation. We would develop a definition of ShallowPage. And we would develop cookie-cutter responses to be used in common kinds of situations (two examples: something to put on a ShallowPage created by a newcomer; something to be placed on the home page of a newcomer who has just written a ton of ShallowPages, such as Martin's recent comment on Paul's page).

In the end, we would have a sort of "Instant community values! Just add water!" kit for use by ourselves but also by other communities. It would be sort of mix-and-match, much like the mix-and-match features on CreativeCommons licenses. There would be a selection of community values and more specific community expectations for them to choose from, and a selection of clear, simple things to say to newcomers to tell them about the community expectations.

The advantage in creating such a kit are the usual ones for ConsolidateInformation?. First, it would ConsolidateEffort?; instead of thinking of how to explain ShallowPages anew to each newcomer, there are prefab responses to common actions (of course, users would be expected to modify the prefabed responses to fit the situation at hand, if they use them at all). Second, the explanatory text is "debugged" and refined a lot, and will probably eventually be more clear than the responses that we usually think of off the top of our heads.

-- BayleShanks

Value statements aren't about the words. They are about the process in creating them that helps give the community a sense of who they are. The final artifact, the OneText, is only something to stigmergically centre everyone around. In other words, writing down, "We all love each other," doesn't mean we will. The value statement only has meaning if people actually buy into it, and that means employing a FairProcess to bring the community together towards the final statement. Prepackaging these values is a total failure, as we witnessed quite spectacularly in the East Bloc when consultants literally went country to country peddling their "democratic" constitutions, and now we are watching the same dance play out miserably in the Islamic world post-9/11.

As leader, emir, dictator, ?? rewriting the MeatballMission was my attempt to crystallize who we are after three years of experience; and more to point, months of talking about ourselves and where we wanted to go. If I was successful at articulating it, then we would be stronger for it. Otherwise, if I screwed it up, at worst people would exercise their RightToLeave--they would vote with their feet (and they did; they launched the CommunityWiki fork). At best, others would edit it to fix it. The Mission is always in negotiation, and that's what gives it strength. It's an articulation from ourselves. -- SunirShah

First of all, I think it depends on how "member" is defined. Some wikis will define any contributor as member. I think this would make little sense, and I would like to define it differently (there are a number of possibilities), but no-one has to agree. Just definitions. But in the end one could just ask people "Are you a member of wiki xyz?" and if they don't know, don't know what this means or don't bother to answer, or just say "no" then I would assume that they are no members, regardless of what we think or define.

Heisenbergs uncertainity principle applies to this definition. Especially people at the fringes of a wiki will (subconciously) deny their (subconcious) self image when asked. Therefore don't ask. Zen it. -- DavidSchmitt (what do you think about: "If you read this, you're a member."/"If you forget this you lose member-ness." ;)

I would think, that there are terms like "visitor" (only reading, maybe a test or a homepage edit) and "contributor" which are rather well defined. There are other terms like "member" or "guest" that are currently not so well defined. There is some freedom in using them. But I think it wouldn't make sense to set them equal and lose a chance to make a difference. "If you read this, you're a member" would mean "member=visitor". We could apply OccamsRazor and forget about the term "member" at all.

On the other hand, if you have offline/online community, for example an university wiki, then you will have more problems with the term "member", because you may have members of the offline community that never even look at the online system, and you may have "offline members" that are only "online visitors". You may have "online members" that are not "offline members" at the same time (contributors from other universities). -- HelmutLeitner

and lose a chance to make a difference.: Helmut, what is the difference? If you want it for voting purposes, any voting member qualifies (by means of voting) as contributor anyways. If you want it as set of people you reach with the wiki, it is probably equal to the set of regular readers. Is there anything in between? In the paragraph about on-/offline members you bring up even more problems with the vague term member. Please show where the term would help. [time passes] Oh, I see. From the "formal definition", a list of current voting members. -- david

Depends where you write "if you read this". Compare SecurityByObscurity.

According to my definition of "member" MeatBall is currently on the point to turn to a MemberWiki (see CommunityMember) but there would have to be some consensus about what that means. MeatBall was surely not a MemberWiki a year ago - and it was valuable, fun, had life and there was nothing wrong with it (this to answer "outside purposeless and shallow?"). There is no need for any wiki to make the transformation to a MemberWiki, but I think it may be in many cases beneficial. -- HelmutLeitner


...what use is term member...

This reminds me of discussions about programming features (gotos or exceptions useful or not) and I would put it the other way round: why do you dislike the idea of a more formal membership that means more with respect to responsibility, rights, obligations and voting. Of course it means that one some wikis users will not be formally equal anymore, but we know that this is somewhat of a fiction or myth anyway.

To me a better specified member term brings clearness into certain developments that we face. The German WikiPedia is currently discussing the foundation of a non-profit organization to support the online activities. But they are unsure how to do it. There is German law. You need 7 persons at a place to found it - thats difficult. How are these people in meatspace meant to represent and decide about the online community? What is the connection between them and the wiki? What are the responsibilities?

No-one needs to go that way. Meatball doesn't need to. But I think we can't ignore the need that some communities have. We will need to observe what is going on and develop a language that enables us to express clearly what we see. I think that question "What means to be a member in wiki Xyz" will be just as routinely asked and answered as questions about the goals or copyright. -- HelmutLeitner

Thanks. That is about the clarification needed. If I interpret you correctly, you say that defining "membership" formally is a tool to give the "members" - through various social and formal means - more confidence in their actions while at the same time comitting them to higher standards?

To your question why do you dislike the idea of a more formal membership that ... I'd have to answer, that - until now - I didn't understand what you were aiming at. -- DavidSchmitt

You can put it that way (more confidence ... higher standards), I typically put it as "rights and obligations". We are here perhaps at 5-10%. If you put it to 100% you have members that decide by voting, are willing to take duties or pay for a domain, know each other very well and won't get nervous when a visitor turns up that challenges their values (because they know it's their right to decide upon them). They have invested so much in their wiki, their relationships are so much part of their life, that they won't let the wiki die. They have created it and it's theirs. The founder is "primus inter pares". He knows the members and knows he can trust them. They know him and wouldn't decide against him. I see the MemberWiki like a non-profit-organization after the legal steps are done (typically after a few weeks or months). For an online community it seems an incredible long and winding road. -- HelmutLeitner

I feel that the primary advantage of a MemberWiki is that a reliable DecisionMakingProcedure? can be defined (it could be consensus, or it could be voting, or something else). I think most of the other advantages stem from this one. The wiki "is theirs" in the sense that they can make decisions about it. Because of this sense of ownership, members are more willing to take on duties. Because they have a reliable DecisionMakingProcedure?, they know that a few dissenter can't fight their will. -- BayleShanks (by the way, what does "primus inter pares" mean? I don't know that term)

I think [Helmut is] equivocating the argument. I think we all agree that some wikis have the concept of membership, as some groups of people have the concept of membership. Membership for Meatball is another story. We do not have members to Meatball not because we do not want to ascribe responsibilities to others, but because I do not want to be responsible to others. At least not in a hard way. But if we want to list the set of people that are members of Meatball, they are the people who have some non-social power over me. The only person who qualifies is CliffordAdams, and he claims he doesn't feel like a member. Conversely, I don't have power over you. You still have the RightToLeave. Now, I will always seek ways to DevolvePower, but I won't be put under the thumb of someone else. -- SunirShah

I wouldn't either in one of my wikis, only after I've made 100% sure that it will work. But I'll aim at it in the Gr├╝nderWiki - in small reversible steps. -- HelmutLeitner

(off-topic) I'm surprised DeWikiPedia doesn't seek to extend the WikiMedia foundation under German law, rather than setting up its own foundation. Unity is strength.

Extending the foundation is another option in the German discussion. It seems to be more difficult. There is no decision yet, as far as I know. But for the topic of this page it doesn't make a difference what legal type of organization is used. The interesting observation is, that one is needed, what problems go with it, how it is perhaps done and what we can learn from it. -- HelmutLeitner


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