Epoch 2020

The CommunityWiki was created 2003-10-24, and ran very actively for several years.

However, by the time of the 2010’s, activity had almost completely stalled out – with only an occasional post or edit throughout this decade.

This changed in December of 2020, thanks to a fresh energy from TimurIsmagilov, and a bold piece of writing entitled: WikiRevival.


That text begins:

Wiki movement is close to being dead. We all know that. This text will probably get read by just one person other than me which proves my thesis (hello, Alex, I decided to write this message to everyone instead of a private message). I can only imagine how this wiki used to be years ago. Lively, pulsating. Something like that. I’ve never been there.

..and here is another selection:

I have a dream. I have a dream that one day wikis will be a dominant form of collaboration. I want communities to be centered around wikis, not chats or source code repositories. I want people to lose their FearOfEditing and just write.

These bold words from TimurIsmagilov invited in AlexSchroeder and LionKimbro, and set off a burst of writing; MutualInspiration.

What Now?

It’s too early to know whether this activity will continue or not, but there hasn’t been such a burst of activity throughout the 2010’s period, so it is noted here now.

Major Pages of Epoch 2020

Several themes have emerged in our conversations, in this late 2020 period.

We talked about text-based formats, broadly. We revisited WikiSyntax and TextFormattingRules. We looked at text-based systems like Markdown and AsciiDoc. The venerable OrgMode, which is even today attracting people to Emacs. Also new systems like GemText (more on that later,) including it’s special RocketLink, and Lion’s pmarkup. We looked at WikiMarkupParadox, and Lion argued an ArgumentAgainstWysiwygForWikis?, vs. a VisualEditor.

Specific wiki technologies such as Page Aliases

We revisited historical policy decisions, on pages such as CleanLinking (which we are now experimenting with,) CommunityWikiNamingPolicy, and DenotingAuthor; And we are also revisiting the theory of TurnBasedVsInterruptedThreadMode and the WikiNow. Conversation was also emerging around reworking, including in new pages like TimurIsmagilov’s contribution: lambda calculus. Lion is mourning the loss of portraits, but seems is the only one doing so.

We also talked about the text medium itself, as a medium, in pages like: the PowerOfLanguage, and SchematicMedium. (SchematicMedium led to Lion posting about the interactivity systems architecture required to realize schematically expressed ideas in computers.

We praised the virtues of SimpleSystems and ExpertiseBuilding.

AlexSchroeder brought news (and invention) of a super-simple textual based network of systems, the “TransjovianCouncil:” Titan, Gemini, Phoebe, and their text formatting system, GemText.

We also revisited talk of older technologies – the dream of OneBigSoup, or a FediVerse (which is not a dream and is actually working well), and parts of such systems – a LocalNameServer, a DocumentServer, a GroupServer, a PersonalServer, ActivityPub, SmallFederatedWiki, … Some of these ideas look old indeed, and some of them, we can see traces of in the developments of other technologies that have developed in the last decade.

We talked about VisualEditors?, and wiki successes like Confluence. We started talking about the WikiLike – things that are not quite wiki, but seem to embody it’s DocumentMode focus.

Lion wrote about InternetOfficeHours – an approach to utilizing time together on the Internet, for face-to-face conversations.

We talked about notekeeping and information organization, in particular recent Internet enthusiasm around ZettelKasten.

There were also smaller contributions that were more personally focused. Lion spoke about the StarCommunity and the StarCommunityWiki. AlexSchroeder wrote about the Campaign Wiki. TimurIsmagilov wrote about his WikiEngine, MycorrhizaWiki.

Winding Down: March 2021

By 2021, the effort stirred at Epoch 2020 came to wind down. Efforts to bring in fresh energy, never quite reached a CriticalMass? of MutualInspiration.

AlexSchroeder wrote the InvolvementCycle pages to describe thoughts on participation within online communities. "I feel like I’m extending our LinkLanguage to better understand and describe what is happening and has happened here, but I’m also thinking of IRC channels, MUDs, Mastodon Instances."

TimurIsmagilov and DanInSpace gave it a solid go, and LionKimbro participated for a time, but it didn’t quite click.

We may or may not continue to talk here. The WikiMeet may or may not continue, but it seems less likely now.

It’s too bad, in a way, because the fundamental needs described in WikiRevival are as meaningful as ever. But the will to move on them here and with these people, is not quite there right now.

TimurIsmagilov expects the WikiMeet to go on, even if this wiki dies again, because he found out he likes to talk with people. The presence of LionKimbro on his own Discord server is not required as WikiMeet 2021-03-06 has shown us.


new: 2020-12-26 05:50 UTCLionKimbro:

I hope I’ve written something that was inclusive of most of our activity, and that led to everybody feeling like they were meaningfully included. If you feel like I’ve mis-represented something you said, or the history of events in a relevant way, please, I invite you to change the text above.

I went for comprehensiveness, over “accuracy,” whatever that would mean here.

I may have missed something extremely important, and I invite you to include the thing that I missed. Or maybe you just didn’t like my style – I don’t think I’m attached to this text.

I think that mainly, somewhere in me, I fear that this “ride” will end. I think it is very likely that – if we don’t find additional collaborators within a time window, that our activity will decline. I mean, I certainly have pulls on my time and engagement. But I’m really inspired by the sense of possibility that has opened up in the exchange so far.

I am seriously contemplating approaching the others, and inviting them, one by one, to come to the wiki, and see if it still has a pull from them. I gave a shot-gun invitation a week ago, and so far, no bites, but maybe it needs to be more personal. “What would you like to see or be different, in order to re-engage?” “What of yourself would you like to bring, that maybe there wasn’t space for before?” I’m not sure what the right invitation is, but I’d like to see some hum here.

One thing I have realized in the development of StarCommunity is that it’s valuable to be able to identify the ethos, or the philosophy, that is operating in a space.

I think it really was TimurIsmagilov’s manifesto, in WikiRevival, that really set this fire.

Timur, I want you to know how much I appreciate you, and what you wrote. I think I have some “old-timer” bias showing up, but I want you to know that I want to be flexible, not totally closed-minded, and I am actively working on that here. There are some things that I think are important, and want to protect, like in TurnBasedVsInterruptedThreadMode. I stand by my reasoning there, though even there I can find room for some give.

If for example you want to experiment with managing threads in the trust as like a PageMaintainer, and like I think I see you doing on WikiRevival, I will accede to that. The critical thing for me to do is to trust that you will not be mis-representing what I am saying, that you will be keeping it orderly, and to just trust that you will be doing so.

I’m acutely aware that for the jam session to work, everybody has to have a good time, and it has to be known that people’s contributions are appreciated and valued, even if there is disagreement.

new: 2020-12-26 16:01 UTCAlex Schroeder: I love this summary! Feel free to invite more people. I’ll post a link to this page on Mastodon. Who knows. 😃

new: 2020-12-26 17:57 UTCTimurIsmagilov: So, I’m a historical figure now.

I think I have some “old-timer” bias showing up

Less than expected, to be honest.

I stand by my reasoning there, though even there I can find room for some give.

Same here.

The critical thing for me to do is to trust that you will not be mis-representing what I am saying

I can’t guarantee that. SchematicMedium is a proof of that.

Overall, I agree that we need to somehow make the community larger. To do that, we have to find an answer for this simple question because everyone will ask it:

What do we do here?

We discuss… things? Mostly, metathings that are related to wikis only, mostly this one. Why would anyone be interested in that? Why have I become interested in that? I guess because I liked Alex’s stuff I found 😄

It’s funny that the whole Epoch is just one month.

new: 2020-12-26 05:50 UTCLionKimbro:

Ha! Well, you know – some epochs are short, and some are long. I think I can say correctly – that the amount of content in Dec 2020, rivals or exceeds the sum total of all content throughout the 2010-2020 period outside of Dec 2020.

But I don’t know that this “Epoch” is done. If We are active for a number of years, “Epoch 2020” may come to mean, “The 2020’s as a decade.” Who knows.

To point:

Yes, we need to somehow make the community larger. With three people, it’s a bit fragile. The network of MutualInspiration between the 3 of us feels good to me, as a starting point. But if it’s really going to be stable, it has to be possible for people to take several months off at a time, so that they come back later after those several months are over, and there still be a humming community here to come back to.

What do we do here?

I think that the original MissionStatement still stands, is still pretty good.

Structurally speaking, there is an OperantPhilosophy? in the space, embedded in the WikiText?, and embedded in the people who have historically made up and developed the CommunityWiki. It’s not like we’re coming “from scratch.” No, we’ve put quite a lot of thought into – CategoryWikiProcess, into CategoryWikiDynamics, CategoryReasoning, etc., etc.,. There’s a philosophy here.

And then agenda-wise, I think our focus is on MutualInspiration.

It’s kind of why I wrote this page – In addition to a historical marker, I was more attempting to understand: “Okay, what is it that’s energizing us? What are the ideas that we’re excited about?”

In my quick review, it seems to me something like:

  • the shared feeling that: “Wiki, as an idea, does not seem quite done yet.” There are still problems with online communications, and wiki, or something WikiLike, seems to be very important and remains worthy of exploration and development, both socially and technically.
  • a fascination with contemporary web alternatives – I still hope we see a page on this soon, it’s alluded to around the topics of Gemini – oh, I just now am looking at TheWebIsBroken – Yes, that.
  • continued interest in programming philosophy and software architecture – SimpleSystems, ExpertiseBuilding. We haven’t gone into as much, but I certainly have a lot of interest in it, and I think that AlexSchroeder tracks similarly as well.
  • continued examination of text, and text alternatives – I think in some ways that “Text is the original Interactivity System.” Ways of using text, and things like ZettelKasten.

I don’t mean to say that this is the limit – these are just the starting points of activity that I think I notice in the space immediately (and I mean: “right now right now.”)

If this is true – then … What do we do?

Find people who seem to resonate similarly, and invite them to participate and consider playing with us?

Broadly communicate to the world, “Hey, a thing is happening here, and if you are interested, we invite you to come see?”

Or, maybe just share some of the pages that we’re focused on, and see if people are interested in them. If they decide to connect after seeing the pages, – go from there.

I’m leaning more that way – to the last one.

But I don’t feel like I really know, particularly, what to do. Kind of… feeling around for an answer.

new: 2020-12-26 16:01 UTCAlex Schroeder: Perhaps the pages we share should have links that go nowhere, as an invitation to add content? MissingPages are an invitation to contribute, to make some of the wiki your own. I think that’s how I got hooked on WikiWiki, many years ago.

new: 2020-12-26 17:57 UTCTimurIsmagilov:

the amount of content in Dec 2020, rivals or exceeds the sum total of all content throughout the 2010-2020 period outside of Dec 2020.

What a sad time it was. I’m surprised Alex didn’t close the wiki for editing, like MeatballWiki and WikiWikiWeb did. Anyway, the fact he didn’t close it is what helped it to become active for now.

a fascination with contemporary web alternatives

Oh yes. I see these classic wikis as a type of alternative to the modern web.

What do we do?

Post WikiRevival to hacker news? We may get a sudden tide of new visitors.

Find people who seem to resonate similarly, and invite them to participate and consider playing with us?

Alex or me can make a gemini post 🤔 Some audience may come thanks to the traffic from CAPCOM, one of the GeminiSphere? aggregators.

Or, maybe just share some of the pages that we’re focused on, and see if people are interested in them. If they decide to connect after seeing the pages, – go from there.

Didn’t work for me.

new: 2020-12-26 16:01 UTCAlex Schroeder: CommunityWiki is also available via Gemini, of course (although formatting is probably incompatible).

I suspect that interest will be extremely low. What we would need is a new framing story. A bit like ZettelKasten and Roam managed to make the old idea of “note taking” interesting again.

Screenshot of Community Wiki via Gemini

new: 2020-12-26 17:57 UTCTimurIsmagilov: So, maybe we should make the idea of wikiing interesting again? Is it really interest at all?

Cool screenshot btw.

new: 2020-12-26 16:01 UTCAlex Schroeder: I was always bad at marketing… 😭

Kate Hill: Well, I tried to post once and it didn’t work and I couldn’t figure out why, so that may be part of your problem here. Let’s see if this works - if not, I’m giving up and waiting for Lion’s Office Hour next week.

Kate Hill: Okay then! Nice, it worked. Part of your problem here is that the site isn’t visually appealing, in terms of colour scheme and particularly UI. The edit button’s not salient and a little bit lost among the other mysterious stuff along the bottom of the page. My experience with wikis is finding Wikipedia arcane but very familiar such that I’m comfortable fixing spelling if I ever find anything wrong, and then much more extensive but not super extensive messing with TV Tropes and adding tropes to pages with my favourite obscure fiction. TV Tropes is a lot more visually appealing and also a lot more, hm, any particular link I see, I probably know roughly what’s going to be there if I open it up. Which will probably come with experience on this wiki, which I’m tentatively interested in, but only if gaining that experience isn’t too unpleasant.

new: 2020-12-26 05:50 UTCLionKimbro:

Oh, hey! Kate! From Russia? With the UniversityOfBayes? community?

Yes definitely. Hang on, we have Forum in StarCommunity right now, but I’ll be back later.

new: 2020-12-26 16:01 UTCAlex Schroeder: Welcome to Community Wiki, Kate! 🤚 I think there might be a problem with the anti-spam measure for first time posters: you need to answer a question, but the question is at the very bottom of the page so it’s easy to overlook, so then when you try to save, you’re asked the question again, and then maybe the text you typed gets lost, or this question asking interaction is seen as a failed interaction?

I’m sure the user interface could be better, but sadly I don’t know how to make it better. We can use CSS to style the wiki. Emacs Wiki uses the same software and there’s a CSS page where you can experiment with various themes. Installing one of those themes, or taking elements of these designs would be very easy.

Like, at the bottom Emacs Wiki renders the first row of links like buttons:

Image 1

I don’t know whether that would make a lot of difference?

And of course we could get rid of the wonderful green… 😄

new: 2020-12-26 17:57 UTCTimurIsmagilov: Let’s keep the wonderful green, it’s easy on eyes be it day or night.

Kate Hill: Lion: Yep, the very same. Alex: I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened, and I just made a minor typo and was made to do the anti spam thing again but it lost the text anyway! 😟 Buttons would definitely help, and an explanation of what happens if you press the first and fourth buttons in that screenshot, because it’s really not clear to me, and finally some sort of thing that separates the boilerplate copyright thing from the stuff you actually use - generally I expect that sort of thing to be under a line, in gray font colour, and a couple text sizes smaller than the other stuff. Low-key against the green and the UseRealNames thing, just saying that I think these things are going to lead to statistically less interest from younger people. Also, what the heck is the thing at the very bottom, after the copyright bit? It’s… links? Why those links?

Kate Hill: I’ll try to explain why not UseRealNames. I think in the 2010’s, at least in my circles of the internet, we’ve developed this orientation towards pseudonyms where - in the vast majority of cases, the person tries to stick to using the same pseudonym everywhere. It’s their other identity, and not in the sense of hiding behind the mask of anonymity but in the sense of, if you say “Alicorn”, a lot more people will know who you mean than if you say “Hannah Blume”, despite it being googleable both ways (pseud → birth name, birth name → pseud), if I recall correctly.

There’s also an element of, pseudonyms are chosen while your birth name/name you put on your résumé isn’t, and some people don’t like their birth names, or they know the vast majority of English speakers will mess it up, or they have some people they know in real life who might google their names and object to something like this (true story!)

Maybe you could insist that people keep using the same pseudonym consistently or something, or maybe you want to do things your way and not my way and I’m kind of intruding here and talking about how I see things but nobody actually cares, but yeah that’s my 2 euros and 15 cents.

new: 2020-12-26 05:50 UTCLionKimbro:

I’m fine with revoking UseRealNames, but I feel like we need something in its place. I’m not sure what exactly.

I think it’d be worth doing “a review of the literature,” perhaps via [[NamesDiscussion2021?]], and then we’d know what to do from there.

The-person-soon-to-be-formerly-named-Kate, if you want to use a pseudonym, – it’s easy enough for us to search and scrub the wiki for the recent references to you. There are only a handful. But the sooner the better. I don’t think anybody is going to have a problem with you using a pseudonym.

Timepoof: I’m okay being Kate here in history or I wouldn’t have edited the page at all in the first place, but from now on I’ll go by Timepoof here, as I do almost everywhere else on the internet. Added: but do change Kate to Timepoof in places other than this conversation, if possible.

SunirShah: I wouldn’t say wikis are dead. StackOverflow, MemoryAlpha, SCPWiki, Wikipedia, Notion, Confluence are all fine. Our wikis may have ran out of things to talk about that were fun; doesn’t mean you can’t find new fun things to talk about and invite your friends again. Life is for the living; don’t be sad about what was great. It was great. Continue doing great things.

new: 2020-12-26 17:57 UTCTimurIsmagilov: Oh hey Sunir, nice to see you. Yeah, wikis aren’t dead, we just say for a dramatic effect.


Define external redirect: WikiText ArgumentAgainstWysiwygForWikis VisualEditors OperantPhilosophy UniversityOfBayes NamesDiscussion2021 CriticalMass GeminiSphere

EditNearLinks: WikiWiki WikiEngine StackOverflow WikiWikiWeb MoinMoin MemoryAlpha MeatballWiki DocumentMode EmacsWiki