Mar 02 2009

Unfinished is good news

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Published by at 2:03 am under Technology,technology_stewardship

Looking over each other's shoulder
“In a community, unfinished is good news” — that’s almost completely obvious and common-place in the world of wiki practitioners and wiki masters. That’s who was there at the Recent Changes camp. In a world of proposals and business plans that aim to be “done with it” and iron out uncertainty before things have begun, the wiki view is very refreshing.

If you think you know what a wiki is, you might want to think again. In a way the definition is also incomplete although you can find one in Wikipedia.

Once upon a time there was just “the wiki” — the one and only C2.com. But now there are thousands of instances and people are even writing wiki software from scratch. There are competing indexes of wikis such as:

One of the interesting themes in the conference was “extending wiki permeability.” Most wikis allow “everyone” to edit their contents. But I saw that model being extended in a number of ways:

In the conference itself, there was plenty of tweeting and chatting and blogging. Wikis live within a larger ecology that’s extremely complex and changing constantly.  But this community regards wikis as the center of the world.

In a session that I hosted on “social hacks aka business models“, Ray King, the CEO of About Us reflected this relentless experimentation, describing how his company had tried six different business models or sources of revenue over time. Each model required a different set of delicate negotiations and agreements with the company’s partners and clients. None of the models was the last word, nor will be.

Evolutions in permeability mean that the communities or businesses that sponsor those wikis are both developing new ways of creating value and new ways of generating revenue. It was striking to me that from this perspective the “direct fund raising appeal from Jimmy Wales” that we’ve recently seen on Wikipedia seems very old fashioned. The campaign might be hard to distinguish from a public radio station’s fund raising. Where’s the wikiness? And it makes me wonder whether Wikipedia’s dominance in the public’s imagination won’t also dominate people’s ideas of what a wiki’s business model should be.

This blog post feels fairly incomplete. I guess that’s OK. Very wiki-like. Here are some of the other URLs that I accessed during the conference:

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Unfinished is good news”

  1. smithjd8 says:

    Actually, Ward Cunningham's words, as I captured them on twitter at the time, were: "A community thinks that 'not done' is better than 'done'. A group of experts has the opposite view."

  2. Laura Hale says:

    Fan History actually does some article creation by scraping similar to that of AboutUs and foodista. Our examples: http://www.fanhistory.com/wiki/User:LiveJournal_B… and http://www.fanhistory.com/wiki/User:FanFictionNet… . They just don't continually create which might be a bit different.

    • smithjd8 says:

      Laura, I'm fascinated by what you're doing but I haven't participated enough in fan subculture to understand what's really going on. Could you point to an example where a bot has collected something and then a human has edited it. I looked around your site and just didn't recognize that behavior — or is that what you're expecting users of your wiki to do?

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