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Should contributions be time stamped?

This page serves as a space to discuss timestamps.

See TemporalContext for current recommendations.

If your statements have temporal content, put the date inline. As in, "These days, in April, 2001, I feel as if the current political climate has become too tense." If they have no temporal content, don't put a date in at all. As in, "GoedelsTheorem? is..." should not have a date. For opinions that may change over time, it's best not to write them on a wiki. Instead, only write in the third person as if you represented the class of people that held those views throughout time. Then make the temporally relevant information examples in the argument. In the above, "Political climates can become tense for many reasons. For instance, in April, 2001, ..."

Finally, personal testimonial should be written in the representative tense. For instance, "Where I am currently working, we do... and I think this is..." or "Where I used to work, I used to... Now, instead I think..." This way, future readers will interpret your statement as part of the continuing process of maturing your opinions.

In the case of personal testimonial, the problem with a wiki is that two opposing statements made by the same author at different times can be read nearly in the same breath (could be merely one page away from each other). This is an aspect of the medium that should be understood by the reader. Often, this is only a call to refactor the pages.

I have to disagree with the admonition against timestamping. First, it does no harm. There isn't a negative repercussion of indicating the date of a contribution. Second, it adds data, namely, when a contribution was posted. Though this isn't essential data, it can be helpful in piecing together the flow of conversation over time. Third, it's not a permanent feature-- dates (and signatures) can be removed as content is refactored over time. Finally, this continues a habit from paper: I label and date all written notes I make on paper, it's something I've carried into electronic formats with my PalmPilot as well -- first mark on any memo pad is a date and time stamp. -- KarstenSelf 11 Apr 2001

It adds harm by confounding the eventual reworking of threaded conversation to document mode. By choosing to explicitly timestamp a comment, you are strongly suggesting that the comment cannot exist without knowing when you created it.

No, you're reading in a meaning which isn't intended at all, though I might have this added to the this discussion as a clarifying note.

TimeStamping? establishes the temporal context in which a comment was made. In refactoring, once the temporal component is considered, the stamps themselves may become irrelevant. Timestamping is useful for the following reasons:

-- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

Further, non-essential data is the definition of noise.

No. Extraneous data is the definition of noise. Non-essential data provides redundancy. Redundancy can help confirm the signal. -- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

It makes reading the comments more difficult. Also, because all pages exist atemporally, and they are all live at all times, they can be edited at any time. The lack of timestamps provides the nice illusion that all pages are still fresh. We all know that some pages like WhatIWantForMeatball are older, but timestamping it would throw a psychological barrier to editing it. The whole site should always feel like it's part of an ongoing discussion.

The Universe exists in very much the same state. The universe exists in the present, yet has traces of events occuring at various points in time. The fact that we live in the present doesn't mean we have to discard the notion of there being a past. I certainly don't see why concealing the date of material should be considered a GoodThing. Out-of-date nodes should be both superficially apparent and revised as needed. Nodes containing timeless truths can be let stand regardless of their age. But concealing dates to produce an illusion of currency is a DeceptivePractice -- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

AlexSchroeder mentioned recently how he fears changing older content because of its historical value. If the wiki was being used as an arhive, I'd agree. If the older pages were meant to demonstrate an archaelogical record of the community, I'd also agree. However, MeatballWiki is meant to be a repository of information. To the readership, they are interested in what you said, not when you said it.

I agree that there shouldn't be a fear of changing older material merely because it is old. If it's right and well established, there may be some merit to letting it stand, but age itself is not a qualifier. This is a social issue, and it's going to have to be established by explicitly stating the expectation and demonstrating that changing existing content is acceptable. As the real world has museums in which history is preserved, so there may be parts of the Wiki in which significant historical data is kept. -- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

For some things, timestamping is very appropriate. You will see timestamps (of some form) on the site in various places, like news articles, diaries, testimonials of current experiences, notices of server outages, software releases, etc. Even entire discussions are timestamped as obsolete but are preserved pending rework. IN those circumstances, the timestamp is necessary to place the statement in a context so that the reader can understand.

But for philosophy of pseudonymity, for instance, it doesn't matter because what you said will always be true. For such statements, like this one (and ironically your objection that I'm replying to), knowing when you made the statement just isn't relevant. At least not to us. Perhaps in three centuries scholars will look to MeatballWiki as we look to the Founding Papers, but that's too arrogant to accept. ;)

In which case, I'll say it now: as a founding father, my intent is sheer and utter confusion of our descendents. -- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

A boundary case is the MojoAnalysis. The ScoopEngine is a live target. Already the discussion there is invalidated by the changes in the Mojo calculations. What to do then?

I'd argue that this is a case in which timestamping the content is extremely relevant. I for one wouldn't want someone reading the discussion and thinking that somehow the information contained there was correct in describing some future and much-changed version of the ScoopEngine. -- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

The best behaviour is to extract the discussion of moderation systems in general to abstract pages that will always be true. Then, one could pin the discussion to the particular version of KuroShin/ScoopEngine we are talking about. For example, "DynamicValues are important in any moderation system. For example, the Mojo calculation in ScoopEngine v. 0.6 uses a DynamicValue system to adjust relatively quickly to changes in it its potentially fickle userbase."

In another circumstance, the Badvogato case history on OpenProcess is effectively timestamped by pinning it against timestamped articles and diary entries although the case history is abstract in order to bolster the OpenProcess pattern. However, users who wish to drill down into the historical aspects can. -- SunirShah

Both these are good examples. However, while recognizing that external references and system version numbers are links that tie to temporal context, why not cut out the middleman, KeepItSimpleStupid, and just provide a date. After all, a date is the established convention for establishing an event in time, is it not? -- KarstenSelf 12 Apr 2001

While I don't think TimeStamping? is something that must be practiced, it is a useful convention, both in the formative stages of a discussion, and in identifying the possible current or historical aspect of a particular node. My preference would be that those who wish to practice it are allowed to do so, those who don't, aren't compelled to, and that petty stripping or adding of timestamps to discussions isn't practiced. Deleting both signatures and timestamps when refactoring nodes is eminantly acceptable behavior. -- KarstenSelf

[ed: I'm thinking of moving this discussion elsewhere and then tightening up the structure after I get some sleep. In the meantime, I'd like to rant embarassingly about one thing. --ss]

Contemporous events can effect statements. I threw a couple of statements about the technical skills Chinese might be getting good at in some comments on disk recovery today. Which makes little sense except for the fact that a US reconnaisance airplane has been rather much in the news of late. Timestamping this discussion would allow a refactorer to look at the comment, realize it's probably a throwaway comment, rather than something pivotal to the discussion.

To this I respond, as this is the StyleGuide, don't write like that. MeatballWiki is not a chat forum. I've tried in the past to make it work like a WebLog but it just doesn't work very well. It's the wrong medium because the wiki does not have temporal context built into it at any other level than RecentChanges. A WebLog is very efficient at discussing contemporaneous events. A wiki is better at being a repository. So, if your statements can only make sense today (e.g. the news qua the news), it's probably best to not write them. If you can, rewrite them to provide the necessary context. (what does this mean about the TimeStream?)

On the other hand, we frequently digress into threads like we are now. Events in threads are often temporally dependent, especially on nearby context. For instance, this discussion was sparked by your recent activity, so at one level it's about that even if on the larger level it's about what is the best practice for future writers. However, threads have no expectation of survival. They are like rough notes for later work. Consider the ImportanceOfIdentityInOnlineCommunities was a very threaded response to AnonymousKarma?, but it is now a set of documents. Timestamping doesn't really do anything useful in that circumstance because they just aren't important.

Some people even refer to events on RecentChanges in the present; e.g. I witnessed a person that used to leave message for others on random pages, especially after doing drastic edits on their text, because he "knew" they were watching RecentChanges and thus they could "fix any damage." That's extremely wrong. Some people didn't notice, and it became extremely frustrating to have to monitor RecentChanges continuously. Moreover, the notes would then remain for months. Never write with RecentChanges in mind because it will make no sense to a reader in five years. -- SunirShah

Writing like that is far more fun. I took a few lit courses (and read both then and now) extracurricurally. Part of the fun was reading a text and seeing the contemporary references, and realizing the very different shades of meaning they had then and now. Dante's Inferno is peopled with the citizens of Florentine Italy. Tennil's (sp?) illustrations of Alice in Wonderland include at least one British polititian. Other similar references are the stuff of footnotes in countless texts. Essential to the story -- no, it's a parallel text, somewhat related. Deep understanding for the reader of the day -- no, it's a reference to everyday affairs, big as life and twice as natural. Enjoyable, for both the contemporary and distant (temporally) reader -- yes, there's a bit of pleasent surprise for the reader who recognizes current events in a story, and a reward for the researcher who's become versed enough in his or her subject to catch the additional meaning. Point? Small clues, time among them, can convey additional meaning, and enjoyment, to both author and reader. --KarstenSelf, Thurs 26 Jul 2001.

Sunir, you asked me, why I started to timestamp my notes. Have a look at SeedWiki:Suggestions or SeedWiki:Bugs. Clearly in this case the reason is obvious. In general, the timestamps appear (to me) useful as context information for the following reasons:

-- Mar 11, 2002, 13:47 PST FridemarPache

Let's add a timestamp to contibutions and refactorings, so that it becomes possible to understand a development of a content instead of having to guess what goes on and what went on. 031210 12:08 -- MattisManzel

My feeling is that a full VersionHistory typically provides the possibility of that understanding in a much better way than simple signed timestamps, pending resolution of the issues with ForgiveAndForget. Of course, I'm hypocritical here: on EnglishWikipedia I make extensive use of the automatic timestamping, so clearly I'm strongly influenced by the rest of the community. --MartinHarper

My feeling is that better writing and good nature usually sorts these things out. Otherwise, the confusion is indication (text smell) that better wording is needed, not more bureaucracy. You're just using technology as an excuse and opportunity to blather, and more blather is not what we want. -- SunirShah

Timestamping is no bureaucracy, it is an essential information to understand a nonchronologic witten text of differnent contributor reacting on oneanother. In a newsgroup you can rely on that what's further up in the tread came first. On a wikipage you can not. Up to now you have to guess on a wiki - good writing makes this easier, right. But timestamping makes it even easier, and also makes a chronological assignment of contributions possible that aren't that well written (and could contain good ideas nevertheless). -- MattisManzel

To be moved elsewhere, maybe CommunityMayNotScale...

If you want to go on in your specialists circle disussing till the end of time, just leave it all like it is. I could understand. It's nice knowing a place others do not and gather there. But if you want wiki to grow and change the world get going now! It will be all very different, very fast, and it will be all very confusing, right. The old hiding corner will be gone, right. Instead the only advantage will be: you will be pioneers. Hadn't that even something to do with a spirt a big country in the northern part of the continent of the americas was built on? I don't really remember. -- MattisManzel

CommunityMayNotScale, so you have to be careful what you make easier. You have to make organization easier, not disorganization. ThreadMess is disorder. Popularity is disorder. -- SunirShah

The latter not nessecarlily. But PopularityIsPower? (when commonly and cleverly organized). Proposed EditableTitle: About the advantages and disadvantages for wiki to have many readers and contributors. Anyone interested? 031211 21:33 -- MattisManzel

No, the mob is just a force. Power is the ability to control this force, but if you have ever started a riot, you will learn how impossible it is to control the mob after the fact. cf. QuebecCity. This is also why nothing ever happens in the WebLog world. As soon as an idea gets any attention, a stampede voices descend on the idea and trample it under noise (cf. SignalToNoiseRatio). Playing into this noise will destroy the idea. Many are interested in wikis right now, and if you read Many2Many, you will a lot of bloggers reinventing bad ideas we devised five years ago. They'll lose interest eventually, but we'll keep going. Why is Meatball interesting? Because we are mostly cohesive and coherent. If we became popular, we would become noisy, and thus lose our value, and thus people would lose interest like we did in WikiWiki. I suppose we should ask yourselves, "Who are the most important thinkers in the world?" and cater to them. It's not the number of warm bodies that count, but the number of quality ideas that are generated. -- SunirShah

Thanks technology and ample free storage now (2009-03-31) the individual needs or preferences for timestamping can be honored easily. Use ClipMarks or AboutusOrg TwinPages, which have automatic Time Stamped Signatures and a complete revision history respectively. -- FridemarPache PS.: This remark is ClipMarked by AmpliFy.



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