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Bayle, sorry that I ask this silly question. But why do you want to put your content (or some content) into the open? It should be clear that only people that don't live on their writing can afford such an attitude. Professional writers - and those are the high quality writers anyone will love to have in a community - will never work on this basis. So I would never give away my rights or rights of community members away for free. Anyone can read in a wiki, that should be a sufficient gift to the public. On the other hand - if somebody wants to use some of my writing, I typically do not deny it. But it's nice to know about it. It also seems fair to be asked. And I don't mind to tell people when I like their content and ask them for permission to use. It just feels good and sozial. So what is the reason that you want more openness than we have here? What should it be good for? -- HelmutLeitner

(I don't think it's a silly question). There are two reasons.

First, I'd love to make money off my text when it is used by someone else. But, the chance of my text being found and being useful enough to be bought is negligable. So, since there is almost no chance I'm going to make money off it, I might as well make it as useful as possible. It seems such a shame to take the time to write text that someone else might have to throw out and rewrite later because of some CopyrightTrap.

It's a simiar situation to closed source programming; there are tons of small companies that write interesting programs hat are only used by a relatively small number of others until, years later, the project is shut down. It's such a shame, because the programmers spent all those years coding a project that gets a little bit of use and is then mothballed; and at the same time, their work has to be duplicated many times by all of the other companies that provide similar products. If companies would always find a way to sell their code to someone who would use it instead of mothballing it, nothing would be wasted. But the transaction costs are too high to make that worthwhile. Similarly, the transaction costs are too high to make it likely that anyone would buy any of my MeatballWiki contributions.

Second, improved visibility of my text might advance my career, which is more valuable than a small sum of money. Especially since I'm considering a career in academia, where visibility is crucial for getting and keeping your job. Academics don't support themselves by their journal publication income (do they even get any?) even though that is their chief "product". In fact, it is in their interests to put their publications on their website to increase their visibility as much as possible. -- BayleShanks

Thank you for answering the way I expected. I think your answer makes two problems clear.

First it tries to transfer OpenSource ideology to the world of writing. But OS only works because (1) software quality is "kind of measurable" (2) software needs maintenance and development, (3) is impossible without community and (4) is for all this reasons expensive or difficult to fork. Forking is a safety, not a senseful way of operating this system. None of these is true for writing. If you write a book or article, typically the work is done. Software needs feedback and forces the users back to give feedback and contribute, text doesn't. A software developer will get something back, an author won't. Software enforces a TitForTat, text doesn't.

Second it looks at the problem not from a community, but from a personal perspective. As a founder you want a community to prosper and grow, so you want the place to be as acceptable to as many contributors as possible. What you see as an optimum for yourself effectively exludes 50-80% of the interesting - especially the professional - writers. I would estimate that this reduces the chance for a community to succeed by 20-80%, depending on the circumstances. Which founder can afford that? I think it is important that a community that lives partly on its content has "unique selling points", things that can be found only once in the world. This creates individuality for the system and identification for its members.

My advice to founders is therefore *not* to select open content as their copyright policy. This may be difficult to understand when founding, because at that time everyone would like to be able to copy and paste without restrictions. But in an abstract sense this creates a negative value by producing redundancies. It creates a content separated from the minds that produced it, a content one can't communicate with - a straw man. -- HelmutLeitner

Helmut, you are not addressing Bayle's situation. Bayle, you aren't address Meatball's situation. Helmut, Bayle is talking about his own personal contributions, not Meatball's as a whole. Your whole response misses that point, which is a critical distintion. Bayle, you are free to release your works elsewhere, and encouraged to do so actually. You miss the point though that Meatball does not hold the copyright to your writing. Since you still retain full control, you just need to state on your namepage (or per work) that your works are also available under CopyLeft. You are discouraged from using FermentWiki because that would make my interaction with Meatball less enjoyable, which I hope would mean something. -- SunirShah

Bayle has to put his content somewhere, because people won't be able to distinguish between his contributions and other contributions in the future. -- AlexSchroeder

However, if his public mirror reflects MeatballWiki's structure, that becomes a problem. We could set up a wiki on usemod.com for the purpose of mirroring. At least then we could develop CommunityExpectations to control it; i.e. move new contributors from there to here. But then we end up in this world where we might have two communities. One CopyLeft and one traditional. You can guess where I'm hanging out. Also, it's a pain in the butt to manually copy entries from one wiki to another.

Another option is to autoarchive all contributions per UserName cookie for those who request this. I'm not sure what the mechanics of that would be, however, since wikis have no computer-friendly structure that says, "I wrote this." KeptVersions might be an option. -- SunirShah


After a morass of discussion and refactoring, a page's authors are almost impossible to determine - especially on a wiki with KeptPages, since there is no permanent VersionHistory. The problem is not in getting consent, or asking for consent, but in knowing who to ask for consent. This problem is reduced, but not eliminated, in a site that keeps permanent edit history.

If the author is unavailable the rights are with the community. -- HelmutLeitner

Could you expand on that?


A software developer will get something back, an author won't.

Not all authors would agree with that. Software documentation does very well under copyleft, but it's closely related to software, and thus needs to change as much as the code it describes. There are also a handful of authors who are experimenting with copylefting other types of writing; I'll see if I can dig up a few examples later. And of course, there's WikiPedia, which has no trouble finding writers, some of who are even professionals (but see WikiPediaIsNotTypical for arguments why what works for Wikipedia may not work for other wikis). -- StephenGilbert

You're right that OS inspired a lot of experimentation in this area. A number of books are published online in addition to printing them. It doesn't seem to harm successful books (like those by Bruce Eckels, for example). Less successful authors post their books, because otherwise their work would be lost. It's not common that online publishing make substancial contributions to "make a living". That's the reason why I think one should be careful and leave the decision (and the rights) to the individual author. -- HelmutLeitner


It creates a content separated from the minds that produced it, a content one can't communicate with - a straw man.

I don't follow this argument. You can't communicate with the content of a book, either. You can, however, communicate on a wiki, so I can ask you to clarify a bit. :) -- StephenGilbert

I primarily talk about wikis, not books. Wikipedia is special because it's target is to be something like a book. It's target is not to talk about the content, neither to cooperate for new knowledge nor to be a public place for people. I think the typical wiki is "for people of a target group" and this means for "the interaction of people and content" or "the building of community catalized by common content". To me it seems important that content is not duplicated in separate wikis, because this would mean that it is separated from those who created it and who are best to interpret and expand on it. So this is not so much about "keeping the rights" but about "focus the communication", "get the important people for a topic in one place" and "strengthen the community" and therefore also "improve the content as catalyst".

Ok, if you're talking just about wikis, I can follow that. I'll post a response later.

I'm very much interested in the WikiPedia development though. I think its success is fascinating. It's good for the whole wiki community, although I don't think that its experiences can be easily transferred to other wikis. It seems that people very much like "to show that they know". And WikiPedia is so extremly widespread that everybody can contribute, even if he only takes an old encyclopedia and copies from it. This makes up for a lot of deficiencies that I always note when I visit it. But that's a different story and not "my beer". -- HelmutLeitner

It's obviously my beer, though, since I can't seem to post more than three comments here at MeatballWiki without talking about wikiPedia. :) -- StephenGilbert

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