2007-04-22

I wrote this page at http://socialsynergyweb.net/cgi-bin/wiki/2007-04-22_Blog, and thought I’d also copy it here in case anyone else is interested in thinking about this:

The TechnoSocialGap

Blogging about Wikis: A cursed blessing

It seems that some of the small experiments that I have done with blogging about ObmWikiHive? were mostly successful in attracting spammers.

This is why I believe it’ll better for me in the long run to build ObmWikiHive? slowly, and socially, rather than through publicity. The blogosphere is a good place to get people to read these pages in short bursts. But, the trade off is that you then get spammers swarming on you for months afterwards. And, the blogging doesn’t really attract valuable participants.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the chance to be paid to launch and help grow some VirtualCommunity projects, and do some Wiki:CommunityBuilding using different SocialSoftware platforms, including different WikiEngine installations, such as SocialText, and DokuWiki, and MoinMoin. Plus, of course, launching ObmWikiHive? and KaboWikiHive?. Plus, I’ve worked with DrupalEngine, WikiCalc, Wiki:PloNe, and some non-open source platforms.

To be clear, what I am describing above is not just installing a site on a server and hoping that people will come along and use it. These are projects where there are people actively involved and interested in collaborating online, using text/audio/images and other media.

SilentBarrier

So, in that experience, I (SamRose) am finding that some elements of our WikiCulture that we incorporate into the OddMuse “interface”, plus UseModMarkup? can be a SilentBarrier? to participation for some people. Yet, and this is very important, these same properties and patterns can be required elements for the participation of people who are immersed in WikiCulture. In fact, some of the InterWiki and WikiNet “functions” will not work unless you are using certain conventions, like CamelCase, etc. So, it is not possible to create easy InterWiki “links” between engines like DokuWiki and MediaWiki, and engines such as OddMuse and MoinMoin, for instance. This is causing the emergence of a TechnoSocialGap in the internet KnowledgeCommons?.

Emerging Ideas

WikiCreole

People have proposed and have begun to adopt WikiCreole as a standard WikiSyntax and markup. This can at least facilitate InterWiki connections. SocialSoftware and blogging platforms such as DrupalEngine and WordPress are starting to incorporate tools that allow for the import of WikiCreole marked-up content.

WikiCarburator

MattisManzel introduced some OddMuse -centric ideas in WikiCarburator, and AlexSchroeder added some thought there, about the pros and cons of emulating tools that allow for quick and easy contribution. One of Alex’s points was that emulating blogs in wiki can create force the conversation in wiki from NonLinear? to Linear. ArchitectureLeadsPeople?. People follow the lead of InformationArchitecture of SocialSoftware.

MattisManzel has been carrying out the WikiCarburator experiment on OddWiki, ObmWikiHive?, and elsewhere. It would be interesting to see him discuss an overview of what is evolving from it.

MicroContribution and RapidIdeaEntry

Ideas were also explored in MicroContribution (BayleShanks ?) and RapidIdeaEntry. The idea that “people should be able to make a small contribution to discussion or decision-making on an issue (rather than being forced to either contribute nothing or to pledge tons of time to it).”

There are drawbacks or pitfalls to this line of thinking, and some of them are addressed in MicroContribution (and by AlexSchroeder’s comment on WikiCarburator).

MicroContent and MicroBlock TransClusion

MicroContent is a sort of “shorthand” system HansWobbe is experimenting with. The pattern allows people to make quick note entries, that he refers to as a MicroBlock? of text, then TransClude?? those into different pages. “The MicroBlock?? should include its own Name (URL) so that it can be edited directly, regardless of of the document (context) within which it is found.”

InterWiki and InterSocialSoftware (OneBigSoup) KnowledgeCommons Evolution

From my experience (SamRose), there are some people who will not use wiki at all to participate in conversation and KnowledgeCommons? building. Wiki itself is a SilentBarrier? for these people. They often will use blogs, forums, social media sharing and SocialBookmarking, and SocialNetwork sites, however.

And, in my experience, there are some people who will use wiki, but will only use very simple wiki, like commercial offerings such as WetPaint? and WikiSpaces. Or, they will only use MediaWiki or similar PHP wikis, for different reasons. Yet there are others who will only use Python or Perl based wikis for other reasons, such as traditional SocialPatterns? or programming language preferences.

One huge drawback is that these preferences are creating “silos” of OpenContent. The blogosphere is seperated by TechnoSocialGap from the WikiNet, and both are sperated from forums and SocialNetwork sites by a TechnoSocialGap. The “TechnoSocialGap” is literally a social gap that originates in technology.

I know that this issue has been addressed in many forms over the years in many wikis, such as OneBigSoup, and others.

MicroFormats

One of the promising emerging areas is MicroFormats, which can potentially allow data and information to transcend the TechnoSocialGap.

The best way to develop MicroFormats towards the goal of bridgign the TechnoSocialGap, is to try and bridge it right now with existing tools, and then think about how existing or yet-to-exist MicroFormats could enhance and facilitate that bridging even more.

Discussion

Hey Sam. I agree there is a problem. I’ve thought about this quite a lot and written a few pages at CommunityWiki about the format and linking ideas I have.

I would like again to present the 2 main ideas and hope my delivery is clear and polite.

These two solutions might seem too simple to matter, but i think they could cut learning time to almost 0.

  • WYSIWYG editing in regular edit boxes by respecting all whitespace (”\n” → “<br/>\n”) and by “passing through” all markup characters. See PlainTextWiki.
  • We could have syntaxless (no []‘s or -‘s or Case mangling) linking that respects whitespace in Title names so linking is automatic. See AutoLink.

“How do we resolve the TechnoSocialGap?”

I agree that there is such a gap.

It’s as if each technology is a language. “Can you speak MediaWiki? You can? Oh, we can collaborate. Oh, you can’t? Not so well? Damn.”

Further, each site is an island. CommunityTiedToOneTechnology. You can’t talk with someone outside your system, while still in the view of the people within your system.

And I agree: Wiki has a deeper gap (more of a chasm,) considered side by side other SocialSoftware. (I suspect it is because WikiIsDocumentBased.)

One strategy is OneBigSoup. Basically, “create protocols that allow different SocialSoftware applications to communicate with one another.” This was the approach I thought was the way to go, and LocalNames is a direct child of it. MicroFormats would be a flavor of protocol.

But I think now that I would want to go from the other end: “What should the UserInterface look like?”

We are imagining something that it is to “be online,” and not have the problems of being tied to one particular technology, or one particular platform for communication.

So what’s the user experience like?

I’ve visioned into this with DevelopersVirtualWorld, a little before, but there are still hoards of questions.

I suspect there’s a better question to ask, even, than “What’s the UserInterface like,” or “What’s the user experience like?”

I’m looking for something about how people learn to use technologies, how people communicate, how people decide how to author for whom, perhaps an environment for the containing of other environments, (like the DevelopersVirtualWorld,) and so on. I’m looking for the shape of the question space; There are mathematical-like questions about the ability to bring knowledge from one sort of world, to another sort of world. There are population and language questions about how language is itself networking– how people come to share similar words not because the words are perfect or right, but because everyone else knows them. People learn English because it’s the language to learn, not because it’s engineered right, or easy, or spells consistently. What are intrinsic limitations? Observe that German is not English, and English is not German, though there are rhymes and histories between them, and never the two can meet, and the person must learn both to speak both.

Ah-hah.

The TechnoSocialGap is a social gap that originates in technology– a difference in technique and method, more precisely.

Is this a helpful way of looking at it? Isn’t there something we could do?

Fortunately, I suspect it’s not so bleak. There is, after all, for better or for worse, English.

The Chinese can hold more digits in their heads at once, because each number is a single syllable: A superior method for the purpose.

Wiki may similarly hold an advantage over other methods of communication. Only if that method is noticeably superior for a purpose, though, will people use it, provided that that purpose motivates them.

Well, I personally suspect that as LocalNames and other techniques bridge our things into OneBigSoup, we will develop a “Technical English” of the Internet. It would be interesting to see if the other spoken languages on the Internet, that have less connection with English, develop their own “Technical English”-es, and the difficulties as people interact across them.

To collapse complexity, you could create UI Esperanto:

  • identify the most important ideas (edit the page, name the page, refer to the page by the name, hyperlink to address, write in the box and press enter, subscribe to the feed, …) in each user interface (blog, email, im, social bookmarking, annotation, …)
  • encode them in a consistent (and powerful!) user interface
  • program the infrastructure
  • program the adapters

I worry, though: While you can learn the basics of Esperanto in like, 2 weeks, … …It probably takes a year to really learn it to fluency, and then after you have it– who else speaks Esperanto?

@Patrick I’ve got a friend who is working on AutoLink wiki (he’s making it in PHP). There are drawbacks and there are advantages.

@Lion

I forgot about CommunityTiedToOneTechnology. I guess the TechnSocialGap? I am experiencing relates mostly to communities with CommonCause. This is starting to emerge outside of OpenSourceSoftware development. PinkoMarketing?, BarCampBank, OpenBusinessModels?, CoWorking are some examples. The part of the core CommonCause with these groups is both TheoryBuilding and CollectiveProblemSolving. This allows these communities to have activities more towards the OneBigSoup technology range.

I think we’re at kind of a transition where people are reviving some old ideas, and also shaping old ideas into new ones, that can bridge the TechnoSocialGap. OneBigSoup thinking is a CommunityWiki example. LocalNames also is interesting (leaving a comment for there next).

Just read today about a new focus in the MicroFormats community on POSH, as a way of dealing with everyone’s tendancy to want to brainstorm new MicroFormats. POSH is now a “layer” of MicroFormat development, and in cases where POSH usage is shown to be in the “80%” range, POSH formats will sort of “graduate” to official MiroFormats?. This will (hopefully) encourage more people to develop applications that can use POSH, and in turn use MicroFormats.

It seems fairly trivial to get lots of different applications the ability to both output and use POSH and MicroFormats in different ways. What if all LocalNames were also output as some sort of POSH? Or, also as some existing MicroFormat, like xfolk? Someone could write an application, or an extension to almost any existing application, that lets you search SocialBookmarking folksonomies with LocalNames data.

I have been thinking about this for a few days now. (Just wanted to let you know.)

It has led through various twists and turns in my thinking to altogether different places.

My understanding is that POSH exists because the MicroFormats inner ring wants people to write software implementing their pre-made MicroFormats. They do not want tons of people looking to use MicroFormats for private label branding of their pet interests. (Such as LocalNames.) I found this answer to a question to be, personally, very enlightening: [1]

My thoughts return to PICA.

A few more ideas have occurred to me. One of them was a vision of an “InventorsHive?.” The idea is to find 12 people who were passionate about an idea, and then mix them all in, into a single program, or a network of inter-related programs, that include all of the ideas. I can imagine, for example, BayleShanks work on WikiWindow, my work on LocalNames, and other people with ideas, saying, “Okay! Let’s put this in!” I would call, whatever came out of it, “the Cool Thing,” after MegaTokyo’s “cool thing,” because the cool thing was weird, and this would definitely be a weird utility. But, at the very least, it should be an interesting utility. The focus is on friendly collaboration and invention.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the role of fame in the distribution and uptake of new technologies. I’ve seen excellent ideas casually dismissed by inner rings, and I’ve seen somewhat less-than-mindblowing ideas regarded highly by inner rings, and mass attention, opportunities, and promises follow the flows. This is all clearly in the Political network, by the EcosystemOfNetworks. I’ve been thinking about, “What social reasons are there, for attraction to MicroFormats, in addition to the (obvious) technical merits?” “How did this play out?” “What are people looking for, from MicroFormats, and why did they think they would find it there?”

I had a brief (unexpected, and totally accidental) encounter with fame myself, with my notebooks book. I was in the BBC magazine, and was on a popular radio channel, and a few other things. Interest was, strangely, localized to Britain. If ideas became famous on merit alone, then I would expect to have been picked up everywhere, no? But for some reason, the media pickup was high in Britain. Clearly, then, fame must be an organic process: Someone finds something they think is interesting, and tell people in an area, who may or may not find it interesting, and then if they are popular enough (like, say, the BBC,) then the thing blows out and everyone is interested. Also, I found a common theme in the e-mails people sent me about the book, and what people chose to quote in the book – people were very interested in the theme of personal empowerment. It turns out, (I believe, from my experiences, and reading these people’s emails to me,) that this is very important to people.

And rightly so!

I recently began going more deeply into asking myself about fame. We’ve all seen hoards of books on shelves on “How to get rich” and “How to get a fortune” and so on, but why have I never seen a title, “How to become famous?” What would such a thing even look like? So I googled it. As usual (in my experience,) the most bizarre is also the most helpful. I read this weird page, and saw a lot of advice in there that rings true, on the subject.

I’ve been thinking about all these things these last few days, and about the kind of society I would want to live in (I’ve been calling it, in my head, a EudaimonicSociety?, [2] after the name for it in Alpha Centauri,) and about how “fame” fits into this. People who work on branding understand this very mechanically. Fame, reputation, trust, technology adoption, these things are all clearly inter-related.

I have no definite shaped conclusions yet; Only a broad view that I’m turning dials to bring into focus. But it’s where I’m at.

As for LocalNames specifically, I am asking myself my usual questions. It would be insufficient to merely work hard on Local Names. I know this, because I have done it before, and the result was brief, temporary adoption, on behalf of, say, 3-5 people. In theory, you can build from there, but I’m not sure that meets reality. It’s very very far away, from the goal of becoming “a basic part of the DNA of the world,” such as RSS. With no assistance, no guidance, no knowledge of who I could even pay to help coach me through it, I feel lost and stranded.

“Working hard,” for a time at least, on Local Names is not hard at all. However, I have reason to believe that it is insufficient. In addition to “working hard,” something else needs to happen. It has to be the right kind of “hard” labor, I believe. Intelligence is required, as well.

And when I started Local Names, it was done with the belief that the Internet was something that “anybody could contribute to.” If I can work really really hard, and then also work really really smart on top of that, I may be able to add some small piece of intelligence to the Internet. But will others be able to do so, as well? It is important to me that the answer to that be, “Yes.” I find that LocalNames is not completely separable from my dream of the EudaimonicSociety?.

I’d really like to see PICA. It is not only LocalNames that I care about. I care intensely that people who want to make formats, who want to extend technology, and are willing to work hard, can have easy paths to do so. And for people who are eager, and excited, I don’t think that working hard is an obstacle. The obstacles are imaginary unknowns that become materially manifest when we bump into them, though we don’t know what they are, and why they are poking at us. (We only know that something out there, unknown, is poking us, and we are impaling ourselves on them to go forwards.)

But it’s more than just PICA. PICA is a publishing forum, a family branding strategy for inventors. More importantly, though, I care for the health (GeekHealth) of the people who want to contribute, and for the psychological mindset. I believe that in order for dreams to become real, it requires either (A) extreme fortune, either in luck or money, or (B) nurturing, support. This goes far beyond just having a forum for publishing ideas, though that’s definitely part of it.

Well, at any rate, there it is.

I need to sleep now; Have to get up early for a hiking trip w/ family.

Take care, Lion.

Afterthoughts– see also: ExperiencedInteractionWithInexperience (by MarkDilley); also, David Cary’s Law, which I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but it goes something like this: If someone comes to your node looking for something, but you can’t help them, refer them to the nearby node where they can find it. In the inclusive environment that I imagine for a EudaimonicSociety?, this would be a cultural norm. If there were no other place for that person, I would offer assistance, or at least endorsement, in the creation of a new place. If (let us pretend) an InventorsHive? became popular and successful, and other people came and wanted to participate, but the creative network was full, then you would say, “Not this one, but make another one, we can help you collect names, and we will use our name to say, look at those people– they are doing it too, to help you grow your group.”

What’s the user experience like? – excellent way of taking the next step!

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Setting up smaller wikis for ordinary people again and again is sort of helping me understand the kind of thing that might work. I find that using very simple online services like Writeboard or forums or using InstantMessaging with non-geeks is inspiring. It shows what kind of markup people like to use when they are in a hurry:

  1. None.
  2. Most use quoting.
  3. Some use named links.
  4. Some use various kinds of emphasis.

This is the kind of reduction at the user interface level that I’m looking for, and it’s an old topic as far as wiki markup goes. The next big leap is when you apply this to all sorts of media. Google made a big leap when they moved Chat protocols into the realm of mail, and changed the default way of displaying mail threads, and provided the same kind of interface to the archive of old mail and old chats. I’m sure that blog posts could use the very same interface. Have a folder with the current blog posts. Archive them. Search them. Maybe even thread them. Treat comments as follow-ups. It’s all the same thing to them.

It lets people transfer expertise gained in one medium (mail) to other media (chat, blog).

Add “editing” of old mails, logs, and posts to the mix, and you have a real blog. Add collective editing, and you have a kind of wiki.

The convergence of all of these things is possible.

(Also note the convergence of mailing lists and newsgroups in Google Groups!)

I can’t add any specific insight yet, but I would like to encourage the way Alex is thinking about this.

One example I consider to be related and very pertient is the adoption of GUIs. I have very clear memories of the problems of getting people to use a mouse and to look for the standard Windows controls that everyone now just takes for granted. We even had intense debates about the relative efficiencies of “command line” versus “GUI” interfaces. In retrospect, this seems to support Alex’s suggestion that we build on the collective experience of larger groups and add (perhaps small) incremental changes to what they have already mastered. After all, as recently as two years ago I had a painful mis-communication with a MAC user that resulted from by instructions to “… rightClick for a drop down menu…”. I had no idea that that the Mac did not support rightClick, much less a three button mouse! (But hey, I rememebr searching futilely for the Backspace key on a ‘next’.)

(CommunityWikiFooter)

Define external redirect: TechnSocialGap WetPaint SocialPatterns MicroBlock KaboWikiHive OpenBusinessModels TransClude ArchitectureLeadsPeople EudaimonicSociety PinkoMarketing InventorsHive NonLinear ObmWikiHive MiroFormats UseModMarkup KnowledgeCommons SilentBarrier

EditNearLinks: CoWorking VirtualCommunity WikiSpaces WordPress OddWiki CamelCase WikiEngine UserInterface DokuWiki WikiCalc OddMuse InstantMessaging OpenSourceSoftware DrupalEngine BarCampBank SocialText WikiNet MegaTokyo WikiCulture MoinMoin MediaWiki InformationArchitecture

Languages: