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Every now and then the idea of a "multilingual global communication wiki" is presented. This seems a natural idea, doesn't it? Maybe not. Although this is typically seen as cynical or arrogant, I'll present here a few thoughts, why I think "it can't work". I would hope that this is not seen as an attempt to discourage anyone (no real founder can ever be discouraged) but as a (scientific) prediction from theory that I put forward to test by falsification. -- HelmutLeitner

It is done. Before I go into detail, I want to state that exactly such a system is currently built. Yes! But not as a single system, built by a single founder following a single design ... but as the overall, complex, fragmented, multiple-mission complex living system that contains all wikis that are created and maintained. I think thats the only way this can be done and that the natural way to go forward is to strengthen and help each single wiki community as much as possible.

But this page is not about "this is a bad idea", look "this is the good idea". I just wrote the paragraph above to document that I think that the goal is natural and valuable. I only argue that it can't be reached by constructing it "by design" like you would do with a skyscraper. In this I feel very near to the ideas of Extreme Programming (which I do not follow as a developer) and of ChristopherAlexander (who's second volume I'm just reading). They both follow a common "living" process of stepwise growth and constant feedback. They expect an increase in value (life) from each single small step of development.


Unworkable TargetGroup

As pointed out in TargetGroup any founder needs a clear view about the potential contributors to his wiki and how to contact them. It's intriguing to say "everyone" but its not a valid answer. How many people can you talk to, send an e-mail, reach by some article or book? If you target in effect "everyone", how large is the percentage of those that will be interested? How many of them will become contributors of the community? If you try to calculate this you will find that the chance to find contributors is very, very low. If someone doubts this, I can try to set up a formula.

Global communication

Global communication looks like a nice goal, it seems interesting at least. Does it? I don't think so. I think it is not a goal at all. You can take your phone, call a number somewhere over the world, let's say in Japan and communicate. What will you say? "Hi, are you interested in global communication"? The answer might be: "No, I like Sushi and Mozart, do you want to talk about that?" - "No sorry". The chance that someone might interested in such an abstract goal is very low. So why should one put it into design of an online community? The answer is - you shouldn't.


Multilingual looks not that bad at first sight. There are lot of people that are interested in languages and therefore in foreign countries. They are used to talk about things just to learn the language. But this target group is highly language specific. Someone will want to learn English or Spanish or Dutch (but not all at the same time). If you go into a multilingual wiki you will always find a mix of languages, typically of poor quality (just as my English). It's not so important, the topics are important. But for a language learner the language is important. That's quite different. He will be much better off if he chooses a pure Spanish wiki about literature to learn the language. So he can't be interested in global communication, he will just do it. But not in a MGCW.

No Mission

So what we see is a wiki without a real goal, without a real target group (in fact with two difficult target groups that hardly overlap). So let's assume this MGCW wiki exists, what will it do, what will it talk about, what problems will it solve? Nobody knows. But this will be felt throughout the founding stage and during seed posting. People who go there will like the idea, but find no real reason to stay. No Mission, no short term goals, no future.

Ok, why not choose a mission, why not make smaller goals? Why not make a Canadian Wiki about musik? Turn it to an North-American MusikWiki?? Join it with an African and Japanese Wiki? Make a Global MusikWiki? community? Join the board of all other global communities that have formed? Fine, that might work! But now you are not talking about a MGCW anymore!

Big Design

Big design rarely works. If it works it is great. Just build a skyscraper, step by step - 500 meters high. A plant for the parts. Enough money to push it. Next year its ready. Master plan. It looks good from far but it's no fun to live in one.

Communities can't be built that way. People are unpredictable. Things have to grow. Topics have to develop. Discussions start and die. Pages are refactored. Communities split. Members join. Momentum is built. Culture develops.


This page isn't unified. In my part I talk about mechanics. The lower parts holds a lot of emotions and political statements. I think one must keep technical systems like "phone" or "web" or "wiki" apart from topicality. The phone is a system used for global communication but it is mainly used for local communication. If the phone would have been designed especially and only for global communication it might have failed. Note that a system doesn't become multilingual because of content in many languages. An English/German website is just as little multilingual as a bag where you put some English and German books in. As a neutral technical system anything can work (technically any wiki, even MeatBall is a MGCW), but not as a design for a community. -- HelmutLeitner

The arguments above could argue (by analogy) against the web, or usenet, or the telephone network. -- AnonymousDonor

A wiki provides a central interface that the web does not. The analogy breaks down as the web is a communications protocol whereas a wiki is a communications platform. There is a commons on a wiki; there is no commons on the web. The web's protocols are extensible in sensible ways and it does not impose technical restrictions on use (compare Flash). That is nothing to scoff at. How many other technologies do this? The wiki's architecture is set by central control; even if this is done democratically, there is only one architecture for the entire wiki. (This does not take into account a SelfProgrammingWiki, but here engineers rule again.) An InterWiki exchange protocol is totally different than a MultilingualGlobalCommunicationWiki. As Helmut said, it is done. This is not an indictment against the web.

Multilingual global communications is good. But imposing values on the world unilaterally from a Western perspective is wrong. Having one platform for communications takes away a culture's right to define itself. I am against putting all communications on one centralized platform, which is the idea that arises every year.

I am also against doing this haphazardly. As telecommunications destroys the FrictionOfDistance?, globalization theory suggests the compression together of peoples exacerbates cultural conflict. We have all watched in horror as an Arab and a Jew find each other online and begin arguing Israel and Palestine. Encultured hate does not dissipate because the script says so. Doing this effectively requires more than code fu. It requires diplomacy. This is not easy. Look at the United Nations; it is a mess, the best diplomats in the world built it. That isn't to say don't try; that is to say that it won't be as easy as you think. And then, if you bite off more than you can chew, the only option to save the community may be HardSecurity.

Finally, the telephone is the cultural threat because it is the fundamental actor that compresses the world. This is why telephone usage is strictly controlled in restrictive regimes, and sadly this includes the United States as of recently. I might actually help break these regimes by providing free phones, but I would think about what I was doing first. You cannot make people democratic by force. They must come to this themselves.

To summarize, I agree with Helmut. You cannot design a complete answer. I go further and say you should not "design" the answer; i.e. the single, holistic, all-covering, "world domination" answer. But I also say that you must try to do something. We just believe it is more efficient to tackle this in a more fluid market approach rather than trying to build a diplomatic XanaduProject. Forgive me if I disbelieve you can pull it off without resorting to top-down control. But maybe that isn't so bad if done with FairProcess? -- SunirShah

On incorporating all humanity under one centralized technological hegemony

The goal is always to increase the freedom of every individual so that we may all maximize our own lives in our own way. This [speech] by Louis St. Laurent describes socially/politically how technology (industrialism) undermines freedom. NoLogo details how capitalism undermines our freedom. ManufacturingConsent? details how centralized media undermines our freedom. CodeAndOtherLawsOfCyberspace details how technocrats are undermining our freedom on the Internet.

Maximal freedom does not mean libertarianism, however, as we are not all born equal. SocialCapitalism (liberalism) equalizes as much as possible without removing freedoms from others; conversely, socialism removes your ability to negotiate your own value. Communism removes your ability to negotiate anything.

Test One Terra-Wiki

to be tested by falsification http://en.logilogi.org/TerraWiki --MattisManzel

If you can grow a multilingual community on it with normal means and with no other goals than "global communication" and "open for all" then my reasoning about wiki mechanics has proved wrong.

If you don't succeed, nothing is falsified or proved. Neither that it can't be done (for someone else could succeed, maybe there have been other errors in building the community), nor that my reasoning is correct.

-- HelmutLeitner

By the way, I already see a different goal: to "develop a parliament for the planet earth". I would rather name this a "Global Government Wiki" then. Adding this political goal changes things a bit. "Open for all" is now just plain wrong, it should read "open for all the share our goal of an internet based world government". You reduce your TargetGroup dramatically, making it more specific (socialist reformers), but you are also aiming for conflicts. Analysis afterwards will become more difficult. The task won't become easier. -- HelmutLeitner

No Helmut, you're plain wrong. Terrawiki is for everything, Terrawiki/Parliament is a subside of that and it's for the development of a global parliament, Terrawiki/Meatball could be for Meatball, TerraWiki?/JapaneseNoodleSoup? for japanese noodle soup. You wouldn't need InterWiki links to link between japanese noodle soup with meatballs, äh, and meatball then. MattisManzel

I understand your interpretation. That would mean that the "Parliament" is just an idea among others with no special weight. The same about the decision making and the transfer of power. I wonder, whether users will perceive it that way, but ok. Parliament is still one of the first ideas and "noodle soup" is missing. It might become a bit like NoSmoke.

How will you contact your target group? How will you advertize? -- HelmutLeitner

You might use a wiki page to let other people describe new languages as they see fit. e.g.

It would become just like it is already now (only that the tour bus programming would be easier - just discovered that, I've been a WikiPedestrian? up to now - great, Helmut. I have an aversion against busses, maybe therefore I never looked at it before, maybe, sorry). The weight of an issue coud be messured by poll-tools. Make JapaneseNoddleSoup? be voted more importent than Parliament by "the poeple" and it is more important. Instad of effors for intersistermegalinkin' it would be better to aim for a decentralized max wiki-luxury Mega-Plattform for all wikis to settle on, with whatever features of the vast catalogue they want. MattisManzel

Nice, Mattis! You aren't trying to make Xanadu sans TransCopyright are you? ;) -- SunirShah

interesting? PartialTranslation -- MattisManzel


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