digested summary
How to display the summary of a page and a row of poetic reminders for the latest contributions in two different paragaphs in the summary-field on the recent changes?

This wiki uses a form of MeatBall:DigestedSummary. Basically every summary you type when you edit a page has a “life expectancy”. If somebody else edits the same page within that time, the same summary will be used as the default, allowing you to gradually refine it as the discussion progresses.


Discussion Of User Reactions On Emacs Wiki

On the Emacs Wiki page 2005-05-01 I have a user reporting that most people don’t actually change the summary, resulting in misleading summaries. I’m not yet sure how to deal with it – maybe the old summary is in fact what low frequency readers (like Bayle or Scott) would expect. Then it is just a matter of re-interpreting what the summary is all about. As a work-arround I suggested to further reduce the “summary life-span” to a mere two or three days – much shorter than the kept pages expiry. After some more discussion I decided to reduce the summary life-span to four hours.



Do people engage in long conversations on EmacsWiki as much as we do here at CommunityWiki?

Perhaps they have less need of it. When it isn’t necessary, its more likely to be an obstruction: You have to delete what was there before.

Or perhaps it’s just UserInterface conservatism.

So, two theories:

  • actual obstruction when people aren’t holding long conversations
  • UserInterface conservatism

I wanted something on the page that says, “Here on CommunityWiki, we like it.”

There are some conversations on homepages and help pages, but they are rarely longer than five or six messages, and these messages are usually short. The rest of the pages are usually very technical. Under these circumstances, spam hiding under erroneous summaries is the bigger problem.

Having tried this for a while now, I’m not sure I really like it. How about this alternative:

  1. We change the text “Summary:” to “Please provide a summary of what has been discussed recently:”
  2. Show a list of all contributor names and their summaries (unique ones) to help people write a good summary.
  3. Keep the summary box empty.

The plan is to cater for RareVisitor?s.

Or split the summary into two fields:

  1. The summary field is always empty (maybe if you’re the last editor of the page, then show you last summary)
  2. Add a new long-term summary field called abstract, whose content will never be cleared. Maybe move this abstract below the header of the edit page, and maybe show this abstract on the main page.

Here’s another reason why I don’t like editable page summaries. People are lazy. They feel that the summary is useless anyway. And therefore they accept summaries such as these:

  1. About unleashing the flow of ideas <br> Stupid is good! / sometimes| It's something without stupid; singing idea-generation tube is awesome| editable title and explaining subtitle added / ideas <> modelling
  2. Hans & sigi want to know if Bayle's opinions have changed. Moved the comment into a separate section. & Helmut too & Ted
  3. differences between SEAS and "argument mapping" ? PowerOfNumbers . both
  4. How can something personally benefit every person in a group, but cause problems for the group? / system theory, everything is possible

All of these seem to display the same pattern:

First, somebody writes a short phrase or sentence to summarize his initial edit. And then people come along, and add snippets so short as to be nearly meaningless unless you know the page in question anyway. Sometimes strange punctuation is used, too.

Basically, what I’m saying is that the system is not delivering what we thought it would. I had hoped that this system would allow me to read less. I thought that I could leave for a week, come back, and look at RecentChanges, and it would make sense to me. I thought we had rare visitors like Bayle in mind. Now that I’ve been away for two short trips, however, I find that I can hardly make sense of these longer “digested” summaries.

I think the current system needs fixing.

I don’t like MeatBall:DigestedSummary either, by the way. I added my reservations to that system on the Meatball page a long time ago, in case you want to go back and read some more background material.

I’m currently thinking of adding an abstract field: The edit summary would revert to the old behaviour, applying to an edit only. The page abstract would act like the page text, but it would appear on recent changes, in RSS feeds, and below page titles – thus supporting our rare visitors.

Does anybody know of an example of a wiki that has this kind of abstract built into the architecture? And does it work, ie. does it make a difference compared to the simple request to add an abstract paragraph at the top of every page?

See on top of the page, please

explaining subtitle, 2 lines max

The subtitle is included in the summary. Below the short term news follows. Two lines maybe three max. New text written makes older text disppear.| is used for seperating between commentators. Maybe a leading sign like ma: Anyway, we have to save space. Improve the subtitle please and copy the new version into the summary replacing the old version before saving. You talk to the “recent changes” reader, remember.

I think using the vertical bar, the br HTML element, or having statements by various commentators are all too complicated.

This is polite, Alex but I don’t think they are that stupid. Concidering the advantage, I mean. The chance of being translucent and understandable already on the recent changes level is too tempting. And if not and we two are alone here, well, anyhow.

I think your proposal is about as simple or complicated as MeatBall:DisgestedSummary, which I think is too complicated. And I also run other sites such as EmacsWiki and my blog, of course. So I’m interested in a solution that would work outside of CommunityWiki

I’ve been thinking about this a little since you mentioned it on #wiki, and I think that the simplest is the best. I’d do it like this: check if the first block on a page is a paragraph. If so, assume it is the “abstract” of the page content, and use it wherever such an abstract is apropriate. If the first block of a page is any other element, e.x. a heading, then just assume there is no abstract.

I went ahead and made an experiment (warning, shameless plug ahead). While testing my new style, I added a simple “abstract.css” file to it, that just renders the first paragraph of the page differently (only if it is the first element of the page). Then I went and browsed CommunityWiki a little. I must say the cases when the first paragraph didn’t qualify as an “abstract” are rare and easy to fix – so it’s certainly a “doable” solution.

As for how such system would work – I don’t know. I think the abstracts would be touched much less than summaries, and mostly for pages that are relitvely short or that changed greatly during the discussion. You won’t feel forced to change it with every post. On the other hand, the changes have more chances to be meaningful, instead of just a single sentence slapped at the end.

I don’t know any wiki that would use such a system, but I seem to recall some CMS that had something similar as an option. Maybe it was plone… But it was long time ago, my experiences with Plone are over, the wounds have cured.

What about two seperate fields: one for the abstact (equals the second and third line in the document, people see that) and one for two lines of fast news comments called “summary” up til now? I proposed that new text replaces old text in these two lines. In the recent changes just devide them by <br>.

Alex: I agree that the original goal has not been met. These are not “digested summaries.” You can’t just look at them, and tell what’s going on.

But, I think they ARE useful - you can use them to communicate at a high level, without going deeper into the page.

For example: You can say “me too,” in the page, and then put it on the RC page as well (via the DigestedSummary.) That “me too” can be seen at the high level, without having to go in deep.

I dunno: I look at those “digested non-summaries” when deciding: “Do I want to look at this in more detail?” If there’s a lot going on in there, I see it, and I see a little about whether I want to read it or not.

I’d be really disappointed if I lost that “vision” into the activity. And, I don’t think simply seeing the names of the people and/or the number of edits at play, would help: I really like seeing snippets of the traffic.

It seems the digested summary is being cut off!

Hopefully that’s fixed now.

Ting for the vikings, palaver for the american indians, you speak and you end your words with a finishing phrase that give them a bit of a punch. That you put in the summary. Older text should be deleted for them, so this stays two or three lines. Then you say hugh! = press the save button.
Think about rap. Five guys standing on a corner talking, together. Emphasizing key parts of their talk by doubling voices. Think about standing 20 meters away but nonetheless getting what these people talk about. Both being internal speech, something you can’t understand unless going deeper into it and also being public, taking a voice, showing communication not only on the pages, but already in the recent changes. It’s not a summary, true.

  • page-title - song-title
  • summary / the “latest rap” about the page - the song’ lyrics
  • the page - the song itself

The image you evoke has emotional appeal, but I can’t change my emotional reaction: I don’t like the example summaries I gave above, and I don’t like the summaries we are producing in general. The current summary is another example. This part is ok: Mattis: vision of <br>'s in summaries. Alex thinks it's too complicated. The next part already requires some guesses: Radomir: first paragraph = abstract? Then is the first element that basically requires me to read the page before (!!) I can understand it: Lion: being cut off. Hopefully that's fixed now. In this case I was too lazy to rewrite Lions bug report, and thus my addition makes just as little sense. Mea culpa! The last part is both cryptic, and uses creative punctuation and orthography: | both internal and public, no summary – it doesn’t help at all if our goal is to allow rare visitors to decide whether they want to read the page or not. It may serve as a poetic reminder for those of us who have already read the page before. That’s nice, but not enough for me. In a fit of frustration I’ve decided to add an equally useless piece of summary: | no good.

If this is how we are going to write summaries, then we might just as well concatenate a few short poetic fragments various people supplied. That would at least be easier to understand than the creative mix and mash I’m seeing right now.

I used the term summary for the summary of an entire page (line two and three, see above) and for the summary-field in the recent changes. the latter I now call summary-field.

I tried to make a summary of the current page. I put it in the second and third like of this page. I should from there automatically be inculded into the top of the summary-field in the rc’s. No copying neccessary. To change it you simply change the first two lines of this page, save and the summary in the summary-field is changed.

Line three to five of the summary-field is for the poetic reminder, the rap. It’s dirty compared to the summary, yes. It’s mostly a fast communication between the people writing. Entering new text to it removes old text from the beginning. Thus you always have the latest three lines of rap. The summary and the rap are independent from each other. What they have in common is that they both get displayed in the summary-field on the recent changes. To be precise it’s the summary/rap-field therefore.

For this page it would currently look like that:

How to display the summary of a page and a row of poetic reminders for the latest contributions in two different paragaphs in the summary-field on the recent changes?
ax: thinks it’s too complicated. ra: first paragraph = abstract? ln: being cut off. ax: Hopefully that’s fixed now. ma: both internal and public, no summary. ax: no good. frustration. ma: Reexplaning and giving an example.

My old rap was cut out to stay under four lines for it. I start with ma: for Mattis, I finish with | instead of ”.” to indicate that the speaker changes. When using abreviated leading signs we don’t need | mmaybe. Just came to my mind, tried it and think sign with colon is better. Removed the |‘s.

Alex, what’s so bad if random passer-by’s don’t understand it?

I’d be very sad if we lost the DigestedSummaries? that you dislike so much. So “Radomir: first paragraph = abstract” doesn’t help the stranger; I’m actually OK with that. But for me, that means a lot. It’s one of the key ideas in the text, and I want to keep it on my, and the group’s, mental focus. “This was a major idea that was in the lengthy text.”

If we got rid of it from DigestedSummaries?, that idea would be “gone” from my working memory. It would only come back, if I reread the text.

I think that these organic accumulations that are occasionally re-condenced are very good, and quite functional. Your list of negative, examples, I see them all as positive. So, we definitely have different perceptions at work here.

I see that you want something for strangers, though. So, what do you think about Radomir’s first paragraph idea?

It will take a little while for the wiki to adjust, but I think we could, as pages arise, rework the first paragraph to a 2-3 line “abstract.”

Perhaps we should say: “If there’s a first paragraph, and if it’s all italic, it’s an abstract.” I don’t know; It’s your call, really.

Where an “abstract” is something that appears on RecentChanges, to help the readers.

It seems to me that Mattis is talking about some kind of non-interactive chat taking place along the page editing – a bit like when you dicuss while drawing on a blackboard – what’s on the blackboard – stays, but there is a lot of addtional communication.

Normally most wikis do it in form of edits to the page itself, that get overwritten. But as the summaries are displayed in RecentChanges, it’s natural that the discussion naturally moved there, in a search of a faster medium.

It’s however debatable if the move is for the better – the changes on a wiki page would hed archivied, and could be checked at all times. They can contain links, pattern-language, etc. On the other hand, if the page becomes TooBigToEdit? – especially, when there is a lot of discussion on a page – then this way of “rapping” becomes uncomfortable.

Maybe just disabling the “Summary” field would bring the rap back on the page, or maybe it would then move again, in search of faster/more comfortable methods. One such method could be a “log” page, parallel to RecentChanges, but written by the users instead of being generated automatically. Such a log, in MessageBoard format, could really become a “summary” of what’s happening recently on a wiki.

These are just some random thoughts, but I think they could be researched a little more.


Taking a tangent on one theme:

  • What if we split the text editing into two parts, oriented vertically?

That is, on the left, you have the page, and on the right, you have the “talk.”

You can reference the talk, by scrolling up and down, while you work on the “page” on the left.

Would that do anything to the way we communicate?

I hacked it like that in the Tango style now, just for testing. It will break on narrow screens though. This is to go back to the default style.

I see what you mean, Lion. Maybe we can do that. However, I think that having a first paragraph show up as an abstract will not provide enough incentive for authors to revise it as a discussion evolves. The use case I have in mind is not newcomers, but “rare visitors” like Bayle or myself, when I come back from holidays. People coming back to the wiki after a week or two.

I think that maybe my problem is that I felt this was the reason we introduced the feature, and it failed in that respect, but it has proven to be useful in a different area, and perhaps I’m failing to appreciate it.

Recovered the summary

How to display the summary of a page and a row of poetic reminders for the latest contributions in two different paragaphs in the summary-field on the recent changes?
ax: thinks it’s too complicated. ra: first paragraph = abstract? ma: both internal and public, no summary. ax: no good. frustration. ma: Reexplaning and giving an example. lk: we have different ideas about what this space is for. ra: other means to rap

I’ll cut the early rap to keep it short and paste it in the summary field. Maybe complete for the missing contributions, It’s only here we can develop an agreement on it and culture by agreeing

Alexes long one should be shortened and added. It was

I think that maybe my problem is that I felt this was the reason we introduced the feature, and it failed in that respect, but it has proven to be useful in a different area, and perhaps I’m failing to appreciate it.

Is the summary on top of this page and in the first two lines of the summary-field improveable?

Define external redirect: DigestedSummaries RareVisitor TooBigToEdit

EditNearLinks: MessageBoard EmacsWiki UserInterface


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