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In italiano: WikiOra - En castellano: WikiAhora
While RecentChanges gives prominence to the more (well) recent changes, but that is only like the train of thought in a healthy mind. The rest of the wiki are memories, but different in a way. A wiki exists in a perpetual state of nowness. Unlike WebLogs or other community models like that, the entire PageDatabase is always available and always relevant. Links to old pages are happily interspersed with links to newer pages. For pages that have been cleaned of their personal relevance, of their histories, this makes the text look paradoxically very old even if it is very current, as if spoken with an inevitable, prior, and divine authority (cf. Wiki:WikiIceberg). Conversely, it also means very old pages can be edited, can experience PageChurn, can be radically reworked (cf. WhatIsReworking) to fit new thinking since every page is always open to change.

This can lead to very strange effects, like a page written by an author linking to a page she had written years ago that disagrees with the new text (AuthorSwizzling), or even the author disagreeing with herself on the same page. Also, older text may have themes, perspectives, and styles that are alien or even counter to newer text. It also makes the corpus vulnerable to ContentSwizzling as pages linked to by older pages are reworked to reflect new thinking. For authors who sign their text, this can be very embarrassing as the necessary TemporalContext to disambiguate the history is missing. Even a full VersionHistory is not sufficient as it is not a good UserInterface to the context. While one solution to TimeInWikis is to use TimeStamps on posts, a better answer is to PostAnonymously.

One benefit of the WikiNow is that there is always more time. On a wiki, it may not matter whether you respond in an hour or a month. Two weeks is rarely important. Moreover, if you can't think of something to say, or if you forget to say something, someone in the future may say it. Conversations can last years, can be dropped by individuals, and can be picked up by others.That's not to say that being lazy is the way to go. Like anything, human attention spans are small. If nothing happens for a long period of time, people are likely to forget or stop caring. However, on a wiki, there is less pressure than on a WebLog to respond quickly. Taking time to consider your response is encouraged. No such thing as a FirstPost here.

It's interesting to see how on WikiWiki, the oldest wiki, of the 12000 pages there, most of the ones you will end up reading have been modified in the last year. Usually in the last three months. Spooky.

Most of the pages on WikiWiki were created in the past year (a product of ExponentialGrowth). A few numbers on recent growth:

  4970 pages on June 30, 1999 (earliest saved list)
  5858 pages on October 25, 1999
  8674 pages on April 13, 2000
  9622 pages on May 27, 2000
 12599 pages on October 14, 2000
  (page deletion feature added in December, a few hundred pages deleted)  
 14071 pages on February 12, 2001
 30966 pages on May 1, 2005 - and there's a lot of deleting happening

See also Wiki:WikiNow, BiggestWiki


I've been using WardsWiki since 1997. Now, in 2001, it can be like having a conversation with myself of 4 years ago. A 2-way conversation - I can read what he said, and I can reply.

I'd be very disturbed if he replied back, though.

The WikiNow would be more prominent without "This page was last edited on..." on each page. That text is also deceptive, as it is no real indication of when any of the content on the page was put in place (WikiSpam...).

If one wants to know, he should be able to go to the page history.

To me, the last edited date is not about when the content was put in place, but when there was last life on the page. Hiding living processes is a great way to end living processes, but I don't think that is our goal. The last edited date may be the wrong indicator of life, but having no indicator is kind of depressing in a way. This leads us to the question: What are more honest ways of expressing life? -- SunirShah

Perhaps an indicator of readership might be interesting instead? "This page was last read at ..." (obviously the last read of another user!) The main problem I can see is search bots :/ -- ChrisPurcell

Chris: Would you propose to go as far as CommunityWiki:WhoIsWatchingUs? [ed: which provides a full AuditTrail of readership, not just writership.] -- HansWobbe

With WhoIsOnline, we only have to display readers with UserNames, and then anonymous (N) where N is the number of anonymous readers. Re: who is watching us, I mentioned a full AuditTrail for readership for MeatballWiki in 2000 , but Cliff thought there were (legal) privacy issues to be cogniscent of, not to mention ethical ones. I don't have more details. -- SunirShah

"... A wiki exists in a perpetual state of nowness ..."

I don't believe this is true (although this may be a common saying). To agree on its truth, one would have to agree on what a wiki really is. According to Ward Cunningham a wiki is following the Wiki:WikiDesignPrinciples. There is no mention of WikiNow but of "Wiki is observable": a user must be able to see what has changed, at least for some time. This is a very real need. Basically this results in rc, diff and page history. In our reality there is much more a WebNow? than a WikiNow. WikiNow is not compatible with observability, so I would argue that WikiNow is an idialization of early wiki implementation deficiencies. So why not just forget about it? -- HelmutLeitner

There's still an idea here that needs a name, even if the fruit of the idea is misshapen. It's an idea that comes about with all written medium: writing is a one-way communication with the future. It's easy to forget that on a wiki, to become lost in recent changes. When one reads words one wrote years ago, and disagrees with them, then it becomes clear. Those words may be in a paper published, and thus to most intents public and eternal; in a diary, personal until death when a biographer comes along; or on a web-site, public and transient, lasting until the host shuts them down.

I think the idea of writing with this simple fact in mind is what we have come to use "WikiNow" for. Now all we need is a better name to communicate to the future with ;) -- ChrisPurcell

I don't agree with Ward's definition of a wiki. The idea of the WikiNow is that all conversations are current, no matter at what time they are read. This means two things: as a writer, that readers five years in the future will look upon what you write with currentness; and that as a reader, what was written five years ago is still prime for continued discussion. -- SunirShah

I've come to only use the term WikiNow as a sort of ironic pejorative term. Something you roll your eyes when saying. "Yep, that's the WikiNow for ya". The reason for this usage is, when parts of an active page get stale, they never get updated, even when there is continuing conversation on the page. So we get pages talking, for example, about features in C# 2.0 on a page that begins with "Microsoft's upcoming .NET seems to be vaporware". There's little ability to get a timeline of a page, e.g. with hidden timestamps. What interface there is to history isn't really designed for such a task. So such a lack creates the "WikiNow", which is almost synonymous with "out of date". --ChuckAdams

Refactor stale pages. Delete cruft. What you describe is a failure to understand the WikiNow. All pages should be written in such a way they make sense to a reader five years from now. That doesn't mean written Platonically, but simply that if there is material that has TemporalContext, make that clear. However, most of the time (around here), there is no temporal context that matters, so keep your written free of temporal dependencies. -- SunirShah

Wonderfully succinct, but it just doesn't happen except on the most EgoLess? wikis around. Even then, there's a disincentive for people to play "topic editor" because they're certain to be roundly flamed or at least subjected to inquisition on particular motives for editing -- especially when summarizing. I won't even start in on definitions of "cruft". As for my "failure to understand", perhaps I fail to understand your definition. I'm giving mine, which is a fairly typical "glass half empty" view. I disagree that it represents a failure on my part. Conversation is sequential; keeping it "free of temporal dependencies" defies imagination and sense.

I could work in an argument for SubPages to store branched history to make edits with large deletes less contentious, but that veers off-topic.. --ChuckAdams

Many pages on MeatballWiki are written without temporal context, so I disagree with empirical proof. If people AvoidConflict on the wiki you have in mind, then they have social issues that are far more intense than the ability to write in the WikiNow. There is a reason why we have spent so much energy learning about ConflictResolution. Frankly, I don't think there is any value in understanding how the egoful wikis break down. There so many things more wrong on wikis with too much ego than writing style, that it is pointless to even use a wiki, as you are suggesting here. It's better to focus on the positive, on keeping wikis functional. -- SunirShah

Nearly everything is attributed here, and comes in the form of conversation such as this -- this is an extremely egoful wiki. Whether it's egotistic, egocentric, or whatever, is up to some question, but no doubt any such attributes reside with the individual and very visibly-marked authors. Anyway, this has gotten fairly off the topic of WikiNow, since it's become a general philosophical question about group authorship and editing, little to do with temporal context. The wiki stores history, and therefore is quite aware of the timeline. Making that history more visible to those wanting it, something going beyond clicking (diff), is a purely technical matter concerning user interface and backend implementation.

WikiNow was coined on c2 to refer to the tendency of old debates and conversations to come back to life. The phenomenom is hardly unique to Wiki, but such rebirth with the original source material still intact is. It wasn't intended to be a justification of any sort. The analysis on Wiki:WikiNow gives the term a rather neutral value connotation. --ChuckAdams

MeatballWiki does not store history. MeatBall:RecentChanges is not MeatballWiki. Current discussions aren't the important texts. We rarely refer back to ThreadMode. We aim to work in a style that tries to remain free of ContextSwizzling. We do this, perhaps, because as computer scientists first, we understand the need to be loosely coupled. 'Egoless' editing and the WikiNow are the same problem. The ideal is that what you write is detached from all things, time, context, and AttachedEgo. When text is in that state, it is free to be edited by others. -- SunirShah

It might make it easier to read if we clearly distinguished between what we observe, what we want and what believe is necessary. Maybe this page needs a rewrite: 1. We observe that many wikis do not provide a complete, annotated history of every page, both because they are trying to keep things simple and because no good user interface for this kind of information is known. 2. When you accept this fact, one of the effects is that people will write messages that make only sense given some temporal context. If this context is missing, the page will turn stale as time passes. Note that some people believe that adding timestamps adds temporal context. This only works in the most prominent cases. You may know about the wars in Iraq, but do you remember the relevant dates of C# history? 3. Given this observation, we propose a wiki writing pattern, the so-called WikiNow: Edit pages as if they exist in a perpetual timeless "now" -- think of a wiki as a one-way communication channel into the future. Your writing must be intelligible to your future readers. -- AlexSchroeder

This intention may be good, but the arguments aren't: (1) there are a number of wiki engines providing complete page histories (2) WhyClublet has an almost perfect user interface for this. (3) isn't "must be intelligible" true for any substancial writing to an audience? -- The message of WikiNow seems to be "you needn't be interested when this was written". This is grandmothering and as reader I don't want to be told that. In some situations I don't care about certain information, in other situations it is vital and I will use it.

Referring to what Sunir and Chuck said about ego, I think it's interesting that not a single page about the ego topic exists (here). Many seem to assume that a thread or a signatur is a sign for egoful writing. I do not agree with that. An EditWar is often egoful, although it often keeps the form of a document and may be unsigned. Anonymous contributions are often extremly egoful. This thread, although I started it with a controversial statement, doesn't seem egoful. We are seeking something together and "to be right" doesn't seem to dominate that. We have a nice rhythm, like players warming up in a cirle passing a ball. -- HelmutLeitner

I think this is exactly the kind of refinement of my proposal we need.We need to improve it even more, however: 1. While a page history can provide some context, it doesn't always provide the correct context. What about current events? These are not in the page history. 2. The interfaces will not allow you to see what other pages were edited at the time, what the content of the other pages was at the time, etc. Personally I know the problem from CVS. Investigating a particular decision made in the past is a painful and complicated process. The user interface lousy. 3. "must be intelligible" is a requirement for any kind of writing. But the target audience is important. Writing on a blog or for a newspaper, you can make certain assumptions about your readers. Similarly, writing for future readers of the site, you need to make certain assumptions. One of them being that they will not be able to know the original context in which the page was written. You need to provide the necessary context, or write around temporal references. Either of which is not a trivial "writing pattern". To address Chuck's issue above, I think such a rewrite would help because we would make clearer that this is not some universal law but an observation and a suggestion based upon it. -- AlexSchroeder

We aim to be clear, explanatory, and helpful; not pretentious. But I don't think the description above states anything except the actual phenomena experienced. If anyone would like to make improvements, it's better to write something concrete (even edit the headword) and we can talk about it. This is a wiki, not a blog. -- SunirShah

A wiki with a complete version history includes all the advantages of the WikiNow but adds some new ones to make it more appropriate for integrating an income model for its wikizens in the sense of CreateAndShareWealth, which currently (what is that without a TimeStamp :-) is focussed on OpenBusiness and ExtremeOpenBusiness. -- FridemarPache

Keeping a complete version history makes it impossible to truly ForgiveAndForget, which would be a big liability for any community -- and having an income model only raises the stakes. I feel that it's more sensible to accept that ForgiveAndForget is necessary, and to focus on keeping it feasible. -- NathanielThurston

Why impossible? A history being available does not prevent forgetfulness. I admit I am also not fully aligned with the ForgiveAndForget concept preferring to forgive but not forget. Practically speaking humans do not forget such things that ForgiveAndForget is designed for in a given lifetime. Bitterness and Resentment is remembered well past event like where you put your glasses or even what caused such resentment. Remembering is not the same as obsessing to me. Why am I talking about this in WikiNow? -- AaronPoeze

Well let's exit this comment mode. The EternalNow? as I like to think of it is the EdgeOfCreation? which is the timespace where every action is conducted to cause every future and every change. This is where culture, technology and great ideas are formed. If we call this the WikiNow it could only exist for an individual during the process of interaction and creation on this wiki. The server, the wiki memories as a whole and the recent changes are not WikiNow in this sense. The other kind of WikiNow I see discussed here is the idea everything on the wiki is current as if said in the EternalNow?. I think this concept leads to far better collaboration because it lets many of us create together but ignores temporarily in our language (especially in replying to each other) and also ignores the temporal reality of the text (eg spam, pages that are ignored).

Pondering: I feel the first WikiNow is more honest but the second more practical. To close this gap probably a new media would be required? -- AaronPoeze



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