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A fascinating idea for amplifying each other's intelligence. This could mark the starting point of an even more progressive WikiCulture. We have a lot to think about it. -- FridemarPache


This question is partly from a DevilsAdvocate perspective (I've become increasingly enamored with Wiki in the past month), but I'm curious about it nevertheless. ViewPoint, to me, seemed at first glance little different from providing each individual a certain amount of webspace on a common server. It merely adds the following on top of that:

Why should ViewPoint be any better than or different from simply facilitating the production of a variety of HTML-based page hierarchies? What is the significant advantage it provides? In how many situations will this advantage be compelling enough to encourage its adoption? -- anon.

These are good questions, and an interesting approach to the basic problems. In some ways ViewPoint is just a way to allow separate sets of HTML pages to copy from each other. (In fact, I was recently thinking that ViewPoint would be unnecessary if everyone could freely copy, modify, and republish any HTML page.) I'm not sure I understand the "technology-enforced" point--one's ability to copy within ViewPoint will be more like a "social compact/contract". The price of using ViewPoint is to give up one's restrictions on the use of contributed content. (This is similar to the SourceForge web site--they give free hosting services only to free software projects.)

One way to look at ViewPoint's goals is that it hopes to enable new contributions by lessening the difficulty of collaborating. Many "new technologies" can be seen as simplifications of the old ones. For instance, before the WorldWideWeb became popular, some people wrote papers in troff (a markup language preceeding HTML), and distributed them using FTP. Some of these papers included references to other papers available on the Internet. Instead of a simply clicking on a link, however, users would have to start an FTP program, type in the remote site, a username, a password, and a few commands to get the remote file, then finally start another viewer program to see the reference. The WorldWideWeb encouraged much more interlinking by greatly lowering the effort to follow a link.

Wikis are a huge step forward in collaborative writing. Wikis can produce amazing results within communities that broadly agree on topics and goals, by allowing anyone to improve any page. Unfortunately, when there are serious disagreements in a community, wiki collaboration can easily sink to the level of the least mature contributors. (This problem is also common in more traditional discussion forums.) Another wiki problem is that conflicts can effectively paralyze editors, who no longer make substantial changes for fear of angering (part of) the community.

ViewPoint attempts to resolve wiki disagreements by allowing separate views to coexist, and allowing editors (and their readers) to choose/change their viewpoint. Again, this is similar to choosing existing websites. (For instance, many readers of KuroShin were previously dissatisfied with SlashDot.) The social costs of creating a new community are rather high, however, especially for readers and authors who have very limited time for new communities.

One goal of ViewPoint is to allow groups of people to create new communities that can share the resources of the existing community, while allowing those who disagree to ignore either (or both) the old or new communities. For instance, suppose that a group was happily discussing software patterns, and a new group started discussing software methodologies. If some people don't care for the new conversation, they could subscribe to a viewpoint that ignored it. Others might subscribe mostly to one group, but also choose to see the best of other groups. A few will choose to read everything.

A key addition of ViewPoint will be simple sharing of content choices through views. Most other content-filtering systems presume users are willing to spend a lot of effort on individual filtering. I believe most people do not want to work at filtering, but would rather subscribe to a reasonable editor. People who cannot find a suitable editor will be invited to create their own collaborative viewpoints. Much of the editing work will also be sharable, requiring relatively little effort to create a view based on existing views.

Also in contrast with wikis, ViewPoint seeks to more clearly separate the roles of writers and editors. Wikis are often difficult for new users partially because they require writers to also be editors. If a writer has an idea to add to a page, the writer currently has to choose where and how to insert the text (considering issues like formatting, top/bottom/middle-placement, signatures, etc). ViewPoint will allow writers to make their contributions through submissions, leaving editors responsible for editorial decisions. (Frequent writers may often choose to edit their own work, but this will not be required.)

Finally, I'm not certain that anyone will find ViewPoint compelling enough to use. I hope to find out in the next few years... --CliffordAdams


ViewPoint would be the natural state of affairs in the world if copyright didn't exist. People would generate content because that's what people do. Then other people would try to contribute their value by finding signal in the noise and then publish digests. ViewPoint is the RealWorld sans copyright. I think that would be a funny nickname for ViewPoint, punning on Xanadu's TransCopyright: SansCopyright?. -- SunirShah

How about integrating income for a(n online) SansCopyrightSystem? (e.g as MicroPayment). Otherwise such a system could be seen as an IntellectualWorkCapturingSystem?, where some 'idealistic idiots' are delivering their original contributions, whereas some 'clever guys' reap off all the stuff as 'bookwriters' (or something similar;-). -- fp

Isn't this very similar to what MojoNation? [1] has already done only over a PeerToPeer framework instead of within a web application? -- AdamShand


All submissions must be essentially public domain, as they may be copied and/or altered at will. [Exceptions to this and attribution would be handled by links to an outside controlled system.] Even the Open Content license is too restrictive. Perhaps the freedom to copy/edit may be restricted to within the system, however.

A GPL-style license may be too restrictive ViewPoint, but take caution to consider the motivating factors, for the restrictions (such as they are) in the so-called "modified" BSD approach.

A "modified" BSD license has as the *only* restriction that use is licensed by accepting the disclaimers attached to the material. Unlike traditional intellectual property right protections, the interest in using this kind of license isn't to protect the authors (or anyone's, for that matter) rights *to* something, but rather protect the author *from* something. Unlike GPL-style licenses, the protection is not to protect the rights of others to use the work, but to protect the author in the event that others should *misuse* the work, whether through malice or negligence. The protection of Open Source-like disclaimers remove a barrier to an author's releasing aspects of his copyright for others to use.

I Am Not A Lawyer, but my understanding is that those who release material in the public domain are not able to make such disclaimers, and therefore that they carry a higher risk than those who have released under an Open Source-style license. The Open Content license is an analogue to the GPL--perhaps what is needed is a content analogue to the BSD license.

Any of the Open Source licenses has the requirement that the license, and therefore, the disclaimer, be propogated alongside the content. Releasing into the public domain does not require the propogation of the license, and with it, the protection for the originator of the material.

Given this understanding, then, if truly anonymous contribution were possible, liability adhering to the release of content into the public domain would not be problematic to the author availing himself of anonymous contribution mechanisms, even in the absence of BSD-style disclaimers (The problems in assigning credibility to the contribution on the parts of editors or readers would still obtain), since assigning credit/blame for a piece of material would be impossible. But, as we know, true anonymity is difficult to practically secure given the nature of the Internet's protocols and the social medium in which they are embedded.

Further, if a ViewPoint site participates in the release of that content into the public domain, then its proprietors give up disclaimer protection, as well. In the meantime, the original author may be subject to liability affixed through traffic analysis, etc.

I was thinking of a BSD-style disclaimer licence on the content. Of course, anyone can (try to) sue anyone for anything regardless of disclaimers, but the intent should be clear. --CliffordAdams


As i have indicated elsewhere, i would be very excited about a ViewPoint type of system. Question: would ViewPoint be able to do Wiki as a special case? -- BayleShanks

Not really. One of the "social features" of a wiki is that it forces the community to deal with disagreements about content. (In a wiki a given page name can only have one "current" version.) ViewPoint would not require the community to agree--any cooperating subgroup could have its own policies. (This subgroup could be as small as one person, or it could contain all but one community member.) --CliffordAdams

i see; there would be the social difference that if someone disagreed with that "view", they could start their own branch-off "view" rather than forming a consensus. however, technologically, what is the difference between a certain "view" and a Wiki in your idea (assuming the parameters of the view were chosen to try to make it act like a Wiki)? -- BayleShanks


Very similar ideas occurred to me, but I was still hoping for something very much like a wiki, at least to the extent that it could replace Wikipedia: http://community.livejournal.com/trustmetrics/5982.html -- PaulCrowley

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