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Most people look at a wiki as only the script or website, because that is the only part they can see. But this is focusing on the wrong part, since one doesn't come to a wiki to use a wiki, one comes to a wiki to interact with other people. Undoubtedly, since the people involved are not immediately visible, the thing many people become fixated on is the technology.

However, we all know that if people really want to work together, the particulars of the medium they work in become background noise. It's only when that medium gets frustratingly in the way of how people want to work together that it gets noticed. Otherwise, technical problems get looked over in the march towards social interaction. People use e-mail all the time, and e-mail is terribly designed.

So, consider how people congregate face-to-face. A wiki, a free form, unstructured space, is like a room. A room can be used for anything. For meetings, for sleeping, for swimming (provided it has a pool), but a room is just a space. And to the people using the room, that space becomes a place. A place to situate themselves, a place to call home, a place to organize themselves, or a place to orient from.

Think about how rooms work. Most rooms do not have social rules embedded in the walls. Most rooms are plain boxes. The social rules are created by the people in the room.

Think about when you enter a room. Do you stop on the threshold and say, "I don't know what to do?" But many people do this with wikis. Part of this is that most SocialSoftware does try to embed social rules in the wall, so to speak; they require logins, or they have moderation, or ratings. And so people have learnt on the 'Net that someone else will try to control your every move.

Wikis aren't like this. They are simply rooms. When you walk into a room, your own social skills will tell you what to do. Certainly unless you are comfortable with the people in the room you do not just jump into a room with a dramatic entrance. Most people LurkBeforeYouLeap? to some degree. We all know that if a meeting is in progress to sit down quietly. We all know that if a party is in progress to introduce yourself and mingle.

Some rooms have social rules embedded in the space in some way. A board room has a long table and chairs, and this constrains the type of behaviour in that room. Some wikis also do this. A wiki used as a FAQ will be structured in a way that will lead people to interact through the FAQ. Other rooms have features that enable activity not possible elsewhere. Swimming pools have big holes with water in them. And some wikis have features not available in most others, like SenseiWiki has a Go board.

Rooms are also not biased towards one type of use or another. Many people can use a room or only one person may lay claim to a room. There is no intrinsic requirement that a room be available to all. We have UnlockedDoors and locked doors. My bedroom is a room, but it's mine, and I control who comes in. But the public library belongs to the public, and it is open to anyone. Similarly, some wikis are open to all because that is their function, whereas others are WikiAsPIMs and open only to an individual.

WebLogs are also rooms. They are auditoriums with microphones. A single speaker or a panel has control of the microphone, and they make their presentation. Sometimes, but not always, there might be audience participation, but only in a controlled fashion. Floor mikes that queue people behind them, with a moderator to control the conversation, and always aligned along an axis fixated on centre stage.

This is why it's possible to have a weblog in a wiki simply by typing it by hand. A wiki is just a plain room, and a weblog is only one social organization of a room. But we have more types of rooms in life because it makes things easier.

So, if you buy that wikis are like rooms, then you will buy that the major reason wikis succeed or fail is not that the technology is bad--because, let's face it, there really is not much technology--but rather that the social organization of the people in the room breaks down.

Similarly, it's not the case that if IfYouBuildItTheyWillCome. If you herd people into a room and they don't want to be there, it is unlikely that good things will come out of it. Or, if you simply "make a room available", no one will use it. Rather, you have to lead the people. And that means you have to see the people.

Focusing on the physical artifact of a wiki is ludicrous, just like focusing on the ceiling tiles of a board room is ludicrous. Only the hard core carpenters and engineers look at the drywall, the lighting fixtures, the ceiling tiles in a room when they walk in. The rest of us look each other in the eye because that is the most important thing.

Hence the Meatball motto says, People and people and computers and people. The ductwork may be important, but in the end it's each other that count the most.

The above text is PrimarilyPublicDomain.

What does it mean to SeeThePeople? -- a WikiForum Yahoo Groups reader

See also WikiAsFire

Une traduction de cet article est en cours sur WikiEnTantQuePi├Ęce.


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