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Discussion moved from WikiCooperationArticle. It refers to the page Wiki:WikiChangeProposal that elaborates a technological solution to the perceived social problems at WardsWiki. CostinCozianu proposed the change and is now implementing a wiki engine (ETA end of June 2005). HelmutLeitner thinks that the social problems stay dominant anyway, because a change of the technological platform would require enormous trust from Ward and the community.


[...] There are almost no rules on WardsWiki. The main rule is that if you piss Ward (and one has to work very hard to achieve this status) you'll get banned. An ideal wiki standard set of rules should be minimal, enforcible by software as much as possible. The minimal set of rules would prevent denial of service attacks or other technical catastrophe but make no mention of content, and that should be enough. [--Costin]

I think we are running in circles. Rules are social elements, if you can enforce them technically, you don't need them. "Ward bans, but rarely" is not a rule, it is an observation. When a technical DOS defense exists - e. g. in WardsWiki and in ProWiki - this is not a rule. The status quo at WardsWiki is unsatisfying because the social rules are not specified and expectations do not meet. Therefore a lot of energy is dissipated in endless tries to get a common view of social situations and interactions. Wiki:WikiChangeProposal is an example - there is no understanding of the process needed to get it done or even to decide upon it. It's not clear how "market forces" or "political mechanisms" translate to wiki reality. What "market force" will help you? "Wiki is as it is" / "Wiki is good as it is" is not a good answer, because it doesn't not help us to interact and work together more efficiently. "wiki is like the world" and "wiki should be unlike the world" are two possible theoretical extremes, but we may expect that the answer will be somewhere in between. -- HelmutLeitner

Of course the status quo at WardsWiki is unsatisfying. Even Ward is disillusioned with where it went. But that does not mean that adding "social rules" to it is the way forward. As a matter of fact, Ward added a set of social rules that don't work and are even more counter-productive. Even Ward is unsatisified with where wiki is now, so let's not beat a dead horse anymore.

The process of getting Wiki:WikiChangeProposal done is, well, getting it done. I am working on the software, and plan to publish it by the end of June. After that, I can either convince Ward to upgrade C2, or I'll try to create another wiki from scratch. Market forces work like this: there is a need for a quality forum related to programming. People are unsatisified with where wiki is now (I know from personal contacts with several people who contributed quality content to C2 in the past). Other alternatives exist with similar or other problems http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/view/746 . In the meantime C2 is paralyzed. See for example http://c2.com/cgi/quickChanges?days=3 and tell me if you can learn the least new insight about programming. It can only go nowhere fast. So there's a place in the market for Wiki:WikiChangeProposal. Put up some quality content, attract a few friends, make it a useful resource for programmers, etc. On the other hand if, I am wrong, I'll end up with a glorified personal blog of my own -- still a useful thing, so the only downside that I see to this approach is the cost of opportunity in failing to choose a better way.

The way that market forces would work inside a wiki built around Wiki:WikiChangeProposal is that creators of good content will be rewarded by their readers, and will not have to fight it out on limited resources with spoilers trolls and even well intentioned but less than helpful contributors. --Costin

I think it's a good idea and the only possible way to implement the system and create a proof of concept. End of June is near, so there is no need to discuss theoretical details of the system now. It's simpler to wait and see. I think you will have to create a new wiki community anyway, because anyone will expect at least a year of practical experience before trusting the system (as a replacement for current c2 software). Doing this creates a very special social situation and and lot of social problems, those that you neglect and those that you want to avoid by a technical solution. -- HelmutLeitner

In following this, I find myself thinking there is a spectrum of choices.

The spectrum I am vizualizing ranges from a Individual's blog (mentioned by Costin as a limiting case for failure), through to a positively vibrant, collaborative community that I believe is one of Helmut's goals. If these are indeed the limits within which a set of solutions exist, then, given that

It seems to me that people are free to re(form) communities quite easily.

The only inertia that I can see is the inevitable debate about copyright, which (in my opinion) only becomes material when someone feels they are being 'dis-enfranchised' of their rights. While this apperas to lead to a lot of heated debate, I can't help feeling it is relatively easy to 'just walk away' and enjoy an alternative (site) experience.

The effect of this (to my way of thinking) is that those that wish to co-operate are already free to do so, and those that don't wish to, probably can't be coerced to do so by any set of defined rules that does not have an enforcement mechanism. Obviously the technologies exist to implement such mechanisms, but their use does defile the concept of an 'open' wiki.

I sense that the reason I am posting this is because I do not feel I have an adequate appreciation of the issues, in spite of having spent a lot of time watching various aspects being debated.

Can anyone offer me some clarification on this?

-- HansWobbe

The enforcement mechanism in Wiki:WikiChangeProposal is forking the content, and is intended to be used mostly as a safety valve. So basically it is a freedom of choice mechanism not a punitive one (as is the case with current community driven wikis).

To focus discussion, let's take a concrete example, but there are more applications than these particulars. Example one: say somebody is a pest intended to do harm or promote an agenda by less than honest means. Under the current settings there are a few possible reactions:

Now there's the option (C) "move elsewhere". It's not that easy under the current technology, it's not even fair or equitable. Say people who feel they ahve more expertise in a particular domain (say databases on C2 ) see that content area driven towards mediocrity. Ok, they can move it elsewhere, but they also have friends, collaborators that they worked with on other areas of C2, so the social fabric that makes wiki interesting is broken by such a move. It's not very equitable either. Participating in a wiki is contributing to building a useful and livable place, then forcing anybody to move out is a bad thing in and of itself.

The option (D) is to simply fork the affected content in place. So now under the same page name there will be two (or more) different ViewPoints. Perpetrators can no longer enforce TragedyOfTheCommons, nor can they use EditWar as a blackmail mechanism. Hope this helps. --CostinCozianu

For this you need very fine-grained administrative power. You must be able to restrict the edit rights at the page level (or create namespaces that reflect these rights). You have to install a group of admins that handle that. Who (or what community process) will assign the admins? --HelmutLeitner

Hans, we are in a very complicated stage of the discussion. Costin's technological innovations have not been presented or discussed in detail. If he creates a new wiki engine or new ideas, this might be interesting for any new wiki project, not only for WardsWiki. The insistance to solve WardsWiki (perceived) stagnation by a technological solution - and declare the social situation for hopeless - creates a potential conflict and reduces the chance for a consensus that would be needed for the change. The main question for me is: what could be done to support Costin and the WardsWiki community at the same time? -- HelmutLeitner

Thanks you both for the clarifications. I think I have a better grasp of the issue(s) now. My initial reaction is to personally focus on the technical aspects of situation, but that is probably because I feel stronger there than in the 'community' aspects. In any event, out of respect for Helmut's "... very complicate stage..." comment, I intend to mull this over a lot more before commenting and risk hindering rather than helping. -- HansWobbe


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