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http://susning.nu/ is a Swedish wiki website, started on October 1, 2001 by LarsAronsson. Its focus is to be a general-purpose knowledge resource, both an encyclopedia, a dictionary, and a technical how-to guide. It is similar to WikiPedia, but is more relaxed in policy. The website runs a modified version of the UseModWiki software. Traditional Wiki links are not allowed, only free links, as this improves the language flow, especially in a language like Swedish. Susning.nu has grown fast and is believed to be the world's 2nd BiggestWiki (as of August 2003).

In May 2003, SusningNu was ranked No. 10 on Internetworld's (Swedish edition) list of Sweden's best 100 websites (based on the editors' choice). Since its first anniversary in October 2002 it has served at least one million page views to more than 100,000 unique IP addresses every month and received 8000 edits or PostsPerMonth. A graph showing these statistics is available at http://susning.nu/Susning.nu/trafik

The software modifications include both new functionality and improved performance. The original Perl script has been adapted to FastCGI? (the accept loop is part of the perl script). And when a page is modified, a copy is stored in a MySQL? text field, where it can be searched using the indexed text search that is supported by recent versions of MySQL?.

Probably the most interesting parts of the new functionality, are the date search and the geographic search.

Date search

In the function WikiToHTML?, three regexps detect dates written in clear text, including formats like "June 2002", "June 14, 2002", "year 2002", "born 2002", "died 2002", and "2000s". Such dates are rewritten in HTML as hypertext links to the date search function. When a page is modified and dates like these are found, they are inserted into a MySQL? database table. When a date search link is clicked, that table is searched and nearby dates are listed in chronological order, like a timeline. An example can be found on http://susning.nu/Carl_Wilhelm_Scheele

Geographic search

In the function WikiToHTML?, a regexp detects the syntax map:59.5:17.5:300000 and uses these as geographic latitude, longitude, and scale to insert inline an geographic map image from http://www.mapblast.com/ Also included in the resulting HTML is a hypertext link to the geopgraphic search function that scans all pages for similar geographic coordinates, computes the shortest distance from the given starting point, and prints a list of the closest hits. An example can be found on http://susning.nu/Portland with "andra platser i närheten" being the link to the geographic search function.

Unfortunately, MapBlast?'s free map service was closed in the fall 2002. The geo coordinates are still there in many susning.nu pages, but no maps are displayed. The geo search function still works in theory, but it has not (yet) been rewritten to use the MySQL? database, but still tries to search through all text pages, which always leads to a server timeout. For all practical purposes, the geo search function is broken.


How does SusningNu translate to English?

First, the .nu top level domain is Swedish for "now", making it very popular for Swedish websites. This is helped by the fact that the rules for registering domains under .se are quite restrictive, while the rules for registering domains in the South Pacific island of Niue (.nu) are very liberal.

Susning is a Swedish word for the sound of a slow wind through grass, willow or treetops ("soughing"), and also for whisper or rumor (similar to the English "I heard it through the grape vine"). It is also used as a slang word for "clue", but only in the negative sense of not having a clue, being clueless. The slogan for Susning.nu is "skaffa dig en susning.nu", or "get a clue, now". This is intended to make a less pretentious, more relaxed attitude towards knowledge organization than traditional encyclopediae. Maybe it is a Scandinavian trait, but I (LarsAronsson) think it is important to get everybody involved, making them realize that it doesn't have to be hard, that in fact it can be easy to build a knowledge base using advanced technology, and that everybody is expected to participate. We should be happy as long as we're not totally clueless.

Can you tell us a bit about the Scandinavian wiki community?

Wikis in Scandinavia go a long way. The first ever book on the topic, TheWikiWay, was coauthored by WardCunningham and BoLeuf, the latter being a resident of Gothenburg, Sweden. Wikis are used in many places, though more in Finland and Sweden, and less in Norway and Denmark. Most (young and active) Scandinavians speak English quite well, and participate actively on English language wikis, and see little need for Swedish language wikis. Susning.nu is by far the biggest Scandinavian wiki, and so far the only one with the ambition to serve as a general reference for the general public.

What's Susning.nu's CopyrightPolicy??

It doesn't have one. A policy is an announced principle for how future decisions will be made. No such principle has been announced for susning.nu. This means that the status of Susning's content is governed solely by international copyright law. Everybody owns copyright to their own works by default, and one can probably assume that saving a text on a wiki implies a grant to publish the text on that wiki, however it is very legally suspect to copy the entire site. This means that there is no practical RightToFork of content on Susning, nor can it ever have one.

This became an issue when the BenevolentDictator of Susning introduced a BannerAdvert?, and a number of contributors decided to exercise their RightToLeave and joined the SwedishWikipedia. They took their own personal content with them, but felt that they could not take other Susning content, or work in which they collaborated with other Susning users. Aside from the desire for a RightToFork, a few users have expressed a desire for a guarantee that the site remains open and doesn't suddenly disappear. A CopyrightPolicy? using an OpenContent licence is one means to achieve that. Another suggestion would be some kind of ContinuityPolicy?.

TourBus related information & discussions

 name: SusningNu
 tour bus stop URL: http://susning.nu/TourBusStop
 host and e-mail: LarsAronsson (lars@aronsson.se)
 language: Swedish
 mission: General reference, Swedish language, wireless community networks
 wiki-software (clone) used: UseModWiki (locally modified)
 geographical location: Sweden
 neighbourhood: WikiPedia, PersonalTelco
 date of birth: October 1, 2001
 pages/homepages: 7800 (conservative count, really 11900 pages)
 open or closed: open
 tour connections / current: none
 tour connections / wanted: International, Grand
 date of last update (this template): August 1, 2002

BusManagement comments (IMHO -- hl). Welcome and thank you for preparing the TBS. If you will take responsibility to act as connection wiki to the Scandinavian wiki world, I will suggest you for the GRAND-WIKI-COMMUNITY-TOUR. The International is for English language wikis only, but you would also fit into the WIRELESS-COMMUNITY-TOUR and the MULTILINGUAL-WIKI-TOUR (both in preparation). -- HelmutLeitner

Agreed. One additional comment: The preface of the bus stop is rather long, so that even on a big monitor you possibly had to scroll to get to the links to the next bus stops. IMHO these links should be immediately accessible for the average passenger visiting the stop. What do you think? -- ip

(1) Yes, certainly include the Wireless and Multilingual tours. (2) I split the preface on the SusningNu TBS page, so the bus image now appears closer to the top of the page. (3) I don't know exactly what is included in the "responsibility to act as connection to the Scandinavian wiki world". I'm glad if I can help, but I don't want any official status that someone might interpret as pretentious. (4) Sorry, I don't think I understand the definition of the Grand tour. Where does it say the Grand tour is restricted to wikis in English? According to BusRouteDiscussion, the Grand tour is for "large and old wiki communities", and the German language DseWiki is already on that tour. If passengers are taken on a Grand tour, I think it would be a pity if they miss a wiki of this size. Anyway, the SusningNu TBS page that I prepared is in English, just like the DseWiki TBS page. I also think Twiki and the Spanish language EnciclopediaLibre should be invited to be on the Grand tour. Or maybe there should be a separate Large Wiki tour? --LarsAronsson

Well, maybe you're right that SusningNu should be on the GWT anyway because of its size alone. If you compare it to DseWiki then I can only exlpain the DseWiki position by (1) being the connection to the German wiki world and (2) being pushed by me in my current special position in the BusManagement. IMHO the GWT should be something like the backbone ring for the wiki world, so it should contain communities that are strong and connect to other parts (languages, topics, tours) of the wiki world as well. There is no special obligation, only the willingness to support the connection of other Scandinavian language wikis (or Swedish wikis) in the upcoming tour(s) we have to expect. I think we wouldn't put another Scandinavian wiki on the GWT. E. g. NoSmoke will act as a connection to the Asian wikis. -- hl

I am fine with SusningNu being on the GWT, but it does bring up a question in my mind. How many stops do we want on a tour that an English speaking person couldn't go edit? As I recently read, a wiki user on WardsWiki stated that they didn't want any links to non editing sites, granted these are wikis. I am not, I hope, bringing up Wiki:AmericanCulturalAssumption issues. I am just thinking about the flavor of the tour. Is this "Number Of Stops Total" vs "Number Of Stops Editable", or am I being silly. MarkDilley

I think you are confusing non-editing sites with sites in non-English languages. Anybody is welcome to edit SusningNu. It takes two seconds to learn that "edit" and "save" are "redigera" and "spara" in Swedish. I frequently edit wikis in Spanish, French, Dutch, Finnish, Latin, and Esperanto, even though I only speak Swedish, English, and German and understand Norwegian and Danish. Sometimes I fix a broken link, sometimes I create a redirect when a word is spelled wrong, sometimes I correct an error in numbers, dates, or years. You don't have to be fluent in a language to make a useful contribution, you only have to get rid of your fear of foreign languages. Still, "Grand" is an ambigious word and I would welcome a "BiggestWiki tour" that include, say, the top ten from the BiggestWiki list. --LarsAronsson

I think that a BIGGEST-WIKI-TOUR would be a good idea. Although it might be very similar to an encyclopedia tour, because no other communities will want to create that many pages. It might also be a fault to inspire a run towards "most pages" . The 20000+ pages WardsWiki is IMHO more of a community than the 60000+ pages WikiPedia, so page numbers don't tell the whole story. -- hl

Lars, is there a special reason that you didn't comment on the "connection to Scandinavia" issue? -- hl
Er... he did: "I'm glad if I can help, but I don't want any official status that someone might interpret as pretentious." --StephenGilbert


Heard on the GrapeVine?: SusningNu has started running adverts as of November 21, 2002. Disgruntled users exercise their RightToFork, and fork off they do, right to WikiPedia, whose Swedish branch had been lying fallow so far, due so SusningNu's success.

I've surfed around SusningNu a bit, but haven't seen any ads. I don't understand Swedish, however, and http://sv.wikipedia.org/ has certainly had a massive influx of activity in the past few days. -- StephenGilbert

Neither did I, but see [1], under " sv.wikipedia.com 22 nov 2002 "

Susning.nu is a generic wiki (like WardsWiki or MeatballWiki), but not a WikiPedia. Among the differences, susning.nu does not have a copyright policy (see above) and does not talk about any GNU license close to the "save" button. What does this mean for copyright? I am not a lawyer, but the current interpretation is that each contributor owns copyright to his own texts, which makes it very hard to get everybody's permission to copy the entire website, i.e. the RightToFork. I am the BenevolentDictator of susning.nu and in my wisdom I decided to add a commercial banner to one of susning.nu's 14,000 pages (http://susning.nu/Dell_Computer). Some users concluded that they rather wanted to contribute to a less commercial wiki with "open contents" (having a GNU license), and switched to the SwedishWikipedia. Since they feel they cannot copy everything from susning.nu, they are copying texts that they personally contributed, which all agree is okay. Apart from the initial confusion and irritation, this "fork" has been quite peaceful. I've long been a member of the WikiPedia mailing lists and an occasional contributor to the English WikiPedia and German DeWikiPedia, but I will stay out of the SwedishWikipedia. --LarsAronsson

Because I think that an OnlineCommunity is basically something like a NonProfit (NonProfitWiki), that can't be put to commercial use easily, I would have expected that the community would react very sensitive. I'd like to understand a bit more the background of this situation and ask a few questions: -- HelmutLeitner

Did you discuss it in the community before you placed the ad?

How did you plan to share this income with the community that's partly producing it?

What does this ad mean expressed in $ (or Euro)?

How large do you estimate the current financial potential of SusningNu if you would put ads on selected (or all) pages under the assumption that the traffic wouldn't change?

In my opinion you should try to win the members back and undo the fork. You could either remove the ad and guarantee that SusningNu remains an uncommercial OnlineCommunity. You could suggest that the community should decide on this issue. You could argue that there is a chance for the community to get money for some purpose (why not take this chance) and the community should decide on how to use it (charities, infrastructure, ...). -- hl

I don't think an OnlineCommunity is necessarily like a NonProfit. The killer counterexample is SlashDot, but we can dredge up more like KuroShin, UserLand, and possibly even some wiki hosting services. It's perfectly legitimate to create an organization for your own profit; hell, it doesn't really matter as long as people want to contribute.

Sorry, I was unclear. I don't think that an OnlineCommunity is necessarily like a NonProfit. I do think that an OnlineCommunity without any special arrangements (ads from the beginning, explicit commercial mission, a common decision to go for money) is like a NonProfit. -- hl

However, I definitely do agree with Helmut that it's not enough to just be a BenevolentDictator in order to do things your way. If your OnlineCommunity has no extrinsic draw to it, then the community members only participate because they want to, and that means they will stop participating as soon as they don't want to. They can easily leave because their SwitchingCosts are very low. Thus, if you're interested in preserving this community, it's important to keep them wanting to stay.

Cliff and I were discussing money issues when I was in Rochester. We decided we'd prefer to not accept donations. Why? Because money changes everything. As soon as money is involved, people justifiably want control over how that money is managed. It also changes the psychic environment of a community as soon as the need to generate revenue is introduced. We're not prepared to do that right now. It's necessary to make this giant change with caution.

While I do not know how Lars came to this decision, Helmut makes the point that FairProcess should always be applied in this situation. At least then the community members might understand the motivation. After all, it's not exactly cheap to run a high-traffic server. At least I can understand this motivation for posting a banner ad.

I don't agree that the necessary response is a total and absolute reversal of the policy. Perhaps it is better that fewer people are accessing the server now. The economics of the Internet make you pay for popularity, as you know. I also don't think it's reasonable to cut off future streams of revenue to pay for the site. Even a NonProfit organization has to break even, and that means they have to generate revenue. Charities are businesses too.

Finally, I think people who run away from a community because of one banner ad aren't necessarily the strongest and best members of a community. It seems to me that they overreacted. A more reasonable approach, rather than exercising their RightToFork or RightToLeave, would have been to ask Lars the whys and wherefores in order to get a grasp on the situation. Internet culture being what it is, I understand why people left, but that doesn't mean I would have. -- SunirShah

In Sweden (and SusningNu is a phenomenon of little interest outside of Sweden) I have a track record in community and non-profit work that I'm certain will survive the small conflict stirred by this banner ad. SusningNu has always had a page footer that tells everybody it is run by a private company. The site has long had text links to booksellers from ISBN numbers in book reviews that are part of commercial affiliate programs, and this has been no secret. I had not warned in advance that the site might one day have commercial banners, or asked anybody's advice, but then again I have not posted any policy on anything at all, but reserve my freedom to exercise my rights as owner and dictator (okay, I'm nostalgic for my MUD gaming days when the dictator was actually called "god"). - - - I'm a curious mind, and it'll be interesting to see where this leads. The worst thing that could happen is that the wiki would once again become my personal notebook, as it was for the first few months. Right now it feels like I have shrugged my shoulders and some users fell off. They landed well, into the SwedishWikipedia, which certainly needs more users. A fork that lands into the WikiPedia isn't too bad, if you remember EnciclopediaLibre's fork out of the SpanishWikipedia in January 2002, just because the owner Jimmy Wales whispered the word banner on a mailing list. As a result now, the SwedishWikipedia has grown four times bigger in a week, from 265 to 1116 articles (conservative counts). If it continues, we might see the SwedishWikipedia on the BiggestWiki list next month. Swedish has 9 million speakers, the population of Michigan, and it would be quite a feat to have two wikis on that list, deplacing German which has ten times more speakers. - - - As for the scale of this economy, neither banner exposures nor clicks give any money any more (that was 1999). The only revenue comes from sales resulting from referrals. So far, this has been less than SEK 1000 ($100) per month, about enough to pay the web hotel costs (yes, they charge extra for storage beyond 300 megs and traffic beyond 11 gigs per month). I have no plans to share revenue with the user community. In addition to this, I'm actually developing the software with many features that aren't there in WikiPedia or in the original UseModWiki, and of course nobody pays me for this programming effort. I do this Just for fun (to quote Linus Torvalds). In time I hope to submit my best additions into some future version of the UseModWiki code base. For now, the source code for SusningNu has not been published. --LarsAronsson, November 26, 2002



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