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Some people think that fractality is an important "general system" property. First I'll try to explain what they mean by the term. Then I'll try to create a picture of what WikiFractality might mean. -- HelmutLeitner

Everyone knows fractal images. They have the fascinating property that if you look at some feature and "zoom in" the feature doesn't fundamentally dissolve, but it is found again in the finer details that you see. A car is not a fractal thing: zooming in you arrive at modules and parts, at molecules and atoms but nothing of this will look like the original car. Objects of OO programming have the quality of fractality: objects are composed from objects and these may be composed from other objects indefinitely.

WikiFractality would mean that any single wiki page can get the quality of a full blown wiki. Basically the page becomes the root of an independent subwiki, all it subpages are pages of this subwiki and link independently from their parent wiki. Its not enough that a wiki allows subpages. The subwiki should have mostly independent properties (template and design, owner, configuration information, interface language, automatic link properties, index, recent changes, search focus ...) and may contain any number of pages, subpages and - again - subwikis.

On the other hand, fractality isn't a one-way road. We may also "zoom out". So WikiFractality might also mean that we can take any number of independent wikis and put them into the framework of a new wiki and treat them as a new unit, a "superwiki".

Of course, a nice idea is one thing and to implement something is completely different. So the questions are: Is there enough need to implement wiki fractality? Are we able to implement it, what level, what quality?

My answer are: yes, the need is there. We have 15% and will implement 80% step by step over the next 3-12 months. We'll do it on a single server level (this means more or less "zoom in") in medium quality (not all properties may change on all levels).

A related term is WikiContextuality.

Helmut is currently testing some of these concepts in the FractalWiki.

The main problem with making a fractal Wiki is that of reference: if you can be inside an arbitrary number of superwikis, and can contain an arbitrary number of subwikis, how do you make it easy to link up and down?

That's only a syntactical problem. We have absolute page names like namespace:page/subpage (up) and we have the relative subpage syntax "/subpage/subsub" inherited from UseMod (down). The glue in between should come from AutoLinkStrategies. -- HelmutLeitner

PeriPeri has no absolute syntax. This decision I actually made to make the system more internally consistent; with a little reorganization, it makes the site and the link format simpler.

One easy answer is just not to bother: if such linking is needed, the structure should support it, with unreserved names, etc. This limits the structure of resulting fractals, but may be clearer.

Fractals have another interesting feature: they overlap and do not have easy borders. Modeling such with a standard directory-tree is difficult, but important. If a page rightly belongs to two subwikis, it should be possible to do so. -- ChrisPurcell

...if a page belongs to two subwikis...

I'm not sure about this. At least I think it has nothing to do with fractality. Many living things have fractal structures but do not share structures. -- HelmutLeitner

I'm not sure I see how this would work yet (well I doodled around with the prototype) ... how important would the hierarchy be ? to me, linking up and down the "tree" would be a quite important part, and so would inter-tree linking, so I don't know if the tree structure would survive all this. I prefer hierarchy-less PeriPeri ... but then I may not get all the differences yet. To me PeriPeri deals with WikiContextuality pretty well -- EmileKroeger

Wikis are pretty flexible tools and there are dozens of different application types. Many won't need hierarchical structures. Some can't live without them. You start needing them when you do projects in a wiki. The pages need to be kept together and duplications like ProjectTeam and ProjectHandbook need to be avoided... Some projects should only be open for the project group... You could create separate wikis for each single project but that would create other problems. -- HelmutLeitner

A nice intermediate step is the PmWiki, as used by the [Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi]. PmWiki has so called WikiGroups?, which act as semi-invisible namespaces.

As soon as we try to describe, precisely, why this particular thing is a center, we find that we have to invoke some kind of description in terms of other centers. In mathematics, such a concept is called recursive. Grasping this idea, and grasping the fact that this bit of understanding is a positive step forward, and not problematic, is the key to understanding wholeness. The apparent circularity here is - I believe - the crux of the problem of wholeness. The reason that deep wholeness (or life) is so mysterious, is that centers are built from centers, wholeness is built from wholeness.
Wiki:ChristopherAlexander in ThePhenomenonOfLife p.118

Upon first hearing about the concept of wiki, my immediate reaction was that a Wiki was sort of like a smaller version of the internet as a whole, in that it is constantly changing, decentralized, anyone can add to it (though the limitations of an individual on changing the two levels are different), so there's two levels of fractality already.

I think that depends on the way you view it.
In a way the web is fractal: When you look at it as webpages that contain links to webpages that contain links to webpages. But then the wiki pages are just webpages.
In another way the web is not fractal: The domains are in a linear space and aren't able to contain other domains. The way top-level domains (like .com) domains (usemod.com) and subdomains (xyz.usemod.com) are organized it is not fractal, because op-level-domains are not working domains on their own (just namespaces), subdomains are little more than pointers.
When I talk about a fractal wiki, then I think about the typical wiki features: a separate space with its own little universe of links, its own community and host, recent changes, cultural context, layout, rights, ... so if a wiki allows to configure a single page to act that way, then I call it fractal. -- HelmutLeitner

But a wiki is discrete and finite. So it's more like the pseudo-fractal [Hilbert curve] than the Mandelbrot set; it's only truly fractal in the unattainable limit. Perhaps your intriguing experiment is nearer to Hofstadter's "[tangled hierarchy]" and "[strange loop]" than it is to "fractal". CeciNEstPasUnePage. ;-)

BTW, I like your experiment. :-) I'm just nerdishly trying to figure out if "fractal" is the right term. Carry on. :-) -- anon.

I believe the term you are after is "Self similarity" (or maybe "scale invariance"), not "fractal".

From WikiPedia:fractal : "In mathematics, a fractal is a set which is self-similar." There doesn't seem to be much difference. In fact we use the term interchangeably. "fractal" often runs smoother than "self-similar". -- HelmutLeitner

The difference is that similarity in that definition has a strict mathematical sense different from common usage. So the common sense of similarity applies to WikiFractality, but the mathematical term fractal doesn't (because there is no infinite regress). [But feel free to delete my pedantry whenever you please. :-)] -- anon.

Two related links: [The Fractal nature of the Web] by Tim Berners Lee. And my own [Scale Free Granularity]. -- ZbigniewLukasiak

Through BludgeoningTheData? I am trying to get at something like this with WikiIndex. I am interested in SuperStructure? as I heard LionKimbro say it. Although I currently think of it more along the lines of SelfOrganization? the way SunirShah talks about the way ants organize themselves. (the way nature orgnizes itself, the way humans organize themselves, the way wiki technology organizes it self, the way Capital organizes itself. People that are interested in SuperStructure? is the kind of community I feel MeatballWiki and CommunityWiki are and I aspire WikiIndex to be.) MarkDilley

See also: Wiki:AllInOneWiki


On the other hand, fractality isn't a one-way road. We may also "zoom out". So WikiFractality might also mean that we can take any number of independent wikis and put them into the framework of a new wiki and treat them as a new unit, a "superwiki".

An important argument is that this is IRRELEVANT and entirely wrong-headed as applied to the community, as argued at SocialNetworkScale?. The number of people interested in a given node and its subnodes matters more than its technical characteristics in this view.

That may be true. But it is still worth considering, in terms of theory of information.

This page was started probably about Mai 2003, and a little later we built FractalWiki. Over these three years a number of wikis used and explored features and we can report a lot of positive experiences. ProWiki is going OpenSource and I'm currently building an English [ProWikiCentre] as a community platform. It is not deeply nested but it uses spaces like "Options" and "Feature Requests" to structure the content. Suddenly I noticed that ChristopheDucamp had started a branch "FR" within [FractalWiki] to hold a [French translations of ProWikiCentre]. He just took the layout (the template) and transferred it, it is editable in a normal wiki page. Christophe is an WikiFractality expert. I think it's pretty incredible in terms of normal wiki thinking. Take a look and enjoy.

AndriusKulikauskas builds a large initiators network, that contains hundreds of persons and initiatives and therefore workspaces. Currently it is accessed through 7 or 8 domains. The main domain is http://www.ourculture.info. When you walk through this wiki the domains change to support a form of what they call "branding": you get part of the system, but all this is still one wiki. It started two weeks ago and its pretty much "under construction". This system will be tremendous in exploring fractality and also WikiVirtualData. To show its adaptability, I created a homepage and workspace http://www.ourculture.info/wiki.cgi?HelmutLeitner/WS. Andrius converted the system from an older PmWiki, so he should know the relative strengths and weeknesses. I can only assume that he has had good reasons to switch the wiki engine.

I can only say that wiki life in a fractal wiki is "deeper" :-) without doubt. -- HelmutLeitner

CategoryWikiTechnology CategoryUncommonWikiTechnology


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