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Quoth SunirShah on WikiAccessLevels...

An online community is analogous to a city state in that it is completely autonomous. Consequently, it cannot appeal to a higher power to quash the violent hordes that do in fact inhabit the online sphere. Thus, online communities of a certain attraction must put up "city walls" as a first line of defense. Usually the city walls serve mostly to corral incoming traffic to a choke point where they can be controlled, though. AccessLevels don't do this, however. They are more like a club membership. Clubs with initiation policies are bad.

See also GatedCommunity.

The possibility exists for conflicts between Wikis, which may escalate into something resembling a WikiWar?. It is important to remember the key concept of humility; in fact, most of CategoryConflict can be summed up by that one amazingly difficult word. If a community envisions its wiki as canonical or authoritative, then competition will be difficult to avoid. A community that is content to cultivate a wiki for its own sake (fun, beauty, friendship, etc.) is likely to see less lasting conflict, because it sees the presence of other "competing" wiki gardens as a beautiful diversity rather than a threat.

I'm not sure I'd go that far. I'm not as familiar with the Greek CityState? model as I am with the feudal model, so I'll refer to that. Perhaps all on-line communities are somewhere along the spectrum of community that ends with the fortified city.

Beyond that what happens? Today we have large cities without the protection-from-the-outside that was so prevalent in medieval times. Is that because our community has become that of the nation (and to some extent, the world), or is it because the community of the city has ceased to exist and we focus once more on the community of the several neighbors of our apartment megacomplex that we know, or the few people at work or church or school we hang out with?

I don't think that all on-line communities need fashion themselves as fortified cities. Some are merely a handful of people getting together to converse ([Wiki:WikiTunaJourney]???). Their choice of security, authentication, access levels, etc. depends inherently on their nature. Granted, there will always be possible attacks, but we should spend the most effort on what will contribute the most to the community. Do we spend more effort building up a defense against the Slashdotting of the Mongol hordes, or do we spend more effort building the community? It's a trade-off (though an easier one to make, today, since security -- or at least its appearance -- isn't all that hard to craft in the electronic world.) -- anon. (reading way too much into a simple analogy :-)

Remember, those fortified cities had a lot of important things outside their walls. If held under siege for long enough, they would die. Short of widespread DoS attacks, an online community can be much more safe. In the old world, you had to stop everyone, because even one enemy through the door could leave you vulnerable. Online, things are much more flexible. A single bad egg on a wiki can be cleaned up after via SoftSecurity measaures, and kicked via soft HardSecurity.

Careful use of technology can make a lot of hard security nearly invisible. Use https instead of http, use http basic authentication over SSL after a person has created an account. Implement some sort of provisional user (level 0?) vs normal users (level 1/2?) with a quick, easy, automatic way of getting promoted from one to the other(immediate, but 24 hours between new accounts from same ip? 30 minute waiting period, with an optional email to remind you when you're legal?). Then the only really visible bit of fortification is the username/password to log in. The rest of the time you don't really see anything. Account setup does raise the barrier to entry spectre, though. -- ErikDeBill

Yes, I would say our nations have become our "city states" so to speak as they are the smallest mostly-autonomous unit of protection. That is, they are the level of community at which treaties, alliances and declarations of war are made. But this point is not interesting in this discussion.

My analogy extends even to the handful of people with their own semi-private discussion forum (I assume you are providing it on publically accessible carrier, even if the community itself is not public). In this case, I would consider the community to be a "club", but we can still extend it easily to fit with the analogy. Consider a pirate's cove (minus the criminal aspect): it is a community that is isolated, limited in membership and fortified.

Some online communities are more along the lines of hamlets, shires, villages or townships, which are progressively bigger, progressively stronger and yet all still "open" in some sense.

Other communities are fortified, even extending towards castles or even armed platforms. The latter would generally be "underground" communities, I think.

The basic relationships to withdraw from the analogy are:

Now, the analogy breaks down when online communities intersect with the RealWorld. Surely actual law affects us; consider the MeatballWikiCopyright or the rule not to distribute porn here.

Also, you should consider things like conferences on a BulletinBoardSystem or newsgroups on UseNet to not be city states in their own right (although maybe communities) because they are controlled and protected by an outer system. -- SunirShah

There are outer communities which are "naturally obligated" to protect the community. The hosting service for an online community has contractual obligations and self interest which may encourage it to help fend off DoS attacks and other vandalism. Hosting services in turn form a community of their own, in that all benefit from "orderly" network traffic. --anon.

True, not to mention that since online communities are embedded in a wider society (cf. CyberSpace#quixote), they are subject to the laws and protections available from "normal" life. -- SunirShah


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