Sunday 26th of June 2022

Forum vs Blog vs Wiki

I've pondered a few times the benefits of various tools as a means of building an internet community.

  • Forums: Get lots of momentum and conversation happening, but things tend to vanish into the archives and get lost. Topics can also get off-track quickly
  • Blogs: More directed than forums, but less flexible.
  • Wikis: Most flexible, great ability to cross-link information. Potential to be ruined by vandalism / revert wars. Less structured format doesn't lend itself to debate / discussion / conversation as well, but can result in a more coherent final position.

I feel that, overall, wikis have the potential to generate the best results. Perhaps recent changes can be highlighted and grouped in some way to appear more like forums. Maybe some user-education would help to make people feel more comfortable.

Wikis

We're pioneering a slightly different path, whereby blogs and forums are a bit blurred together and everything is sub-edited but virtually always published if it complies with the law. We lose some of the spontaneity of automatically published forums with, we hope, an extra degree of quality, accountability and, well, moderation.

Politically I love wikis, the Wikipedia and the whole idea of open-source information. I have only discovered them through helping with this site as we use one to work out ideas on. But I reckon we need a version of our site as comprehensible as possible for as many as possible and, as you say, wikis require a bit of workshopping.

Wikis

Inclusion via wiki is the only way I could feel involved enough to put any work in around here. Permanent moderation implies difference. It hides process. It also involves so much work that it will choke participation if there is any response above the current trickle. Probationary moderation is an ideal to be preferred.
Of course, if you want absolute control and direction to remain in your hands, then wikis are to be avoided.

Hamish: Politically I love wikis, the Wikipedia and the whole idea of open-source information. I have only discovered them through helping with this site as we use one to work out ideas on. But I reckon we need a version of our site as comprehensible as possible for as many as possible and, as you say, wikis require a bit of workshopping.

If that we is a governing group, then you have already set your project in concrete.

If however, the we is a launch group only and the working out of ideas is something to be shared as fully as possible, then open a forum on wikis and those with the desire to interact will get informed. And you can issue them with machinery operator's tickets. Not difficiult lads. And the process is fully transparent.

It's the editorial policy, not the vehicle

As someone who uses wikis a lot (I'm active on a daily basis in four), can I please just clear up a misunderstanding?

Wikis are just vehicles for delivering content, similar to blogs or forums in lots of ways. What often makes them truly unique is the wiki philosophy that anyone can edit anything on a page. That, however, is a philosphy - similar to an editorial policy. Technically wikis can be just as restricted as any forum or blog - and, truth be told, to comply with various legal requirements they have to be under some editorial control. If you don't believe this, go and post some highly offensive content on one of the mainstream wikis and see what happens.

Okay, I don't want to get into another discussion of what is offensive, so let's cut to the chase. So just try that experiment with some hardcore pornography or similar.

The interesting thing about wikis is that because anyone can edit any post, it is actually considered good manners to correct someone's typos, obvious gramatical errors etc! Probably far more editing then you'll ever be subjected to here. In addition, wikis are vulnerable to people simply 'editing' to spoil stuff. Of course there are a steps that can be taken to mitigate this, but as far as I can see, most people who've contributed to this debate would regard that as 'editing'... Don't believe me? Google for WikiWikiWeb, the original and most free wiki and read for yourself.

I don't think that use of wikis on overtly political sites have become that popular - but I stand to be corrected on this. So, examples, please and then let's examine their actual editorial policies. My guess would be that because they tend to be controversial, and to be pushing a particular line, most political commentary and campaign sites are not wikis, no matter how much they espouse democractic processes. Wikis are usually good for cooperative, relatively non-controversial projects.

I do take some of the points about editing. At heart I wish editing wasn't necessary. So, the engineer in me is crying out for a solution; perhaps a different fix to the problem. I suggest one way to go would be to have a contributors' representative to whom any disputes can be referred as a matter of last resort. In the meantime, let's give the editorial team chance to provide us with readable content and to safeguard the site against obvious abuse.

I have no doubt that, when required, additional editorial resources will be made available and also that as the site matures paticipatory moderation will play a role. The latter is one of the reasons this site is not a wiki.

more on wikis

Hi, yes, once there is some delegation of trust for the running of parts of the party, a wiki should be a good way to move along more efficiently in some areas.

There will always be many reasons not to do something differently when you are only familiar with a single way. Experience should get you a little happier with trying different stuff.

I have several connections with members of this trial wiki and it is not only not getting despoiled, it is emerging with a very strong info base in the wiki beta.

This is because it takes much more effort to undermine a wiki than it does to restore it. A wiki is most definitely as strong as the writer of the original page.

I'm not going into detail with analogies and listing the proliferation of wikis in groups I work with. They are a proven way of sharing both information and an ethos and I am sure a wiki would facilitate development here - if not for the whole site, at least for one of the sub communities.

All the best in your brave endeavour.

Hi Nancy

The 'We' is various people with tech and design skills who volunteered in response to an email to the nothappyjohn.com contact list. Have a look at James Woodcock's opening blog, The Journey to yourdemocracy.net.au for a bit more detail.

Margo Kingston is the owner of this site. She has a vision for the site, and it is this which motivated her to put some time and resources into setting it up.

It's also her sincere belief that the site will benefit from a maximum amount of input from every one who has a look, from as early a part of the process as practicable, and for this interaction to happen on the site itself. Believe me the input has a huge impact on where the site goes and on priorities.