Communities have identity, and grow by integrating new ideas, which can change that identity of that community, or even cause it to split.

This page first describes the idea of a wiki’s “identity,” then the idea of a wiki’s “integrating” new ideas, and how attempting to integrate too much at once is impossible, and results in rejection of foreign ideas.

It is my personal belief that most world conflict comes out of this problem: Differences in understandings that cannot be resolved quickly enough by immediate communication, thus requiring separation.


Your favorite wiki has what we can call an “identity.” It is likely the identity of the wiki that attracted you to it, rather than some other wiki.

The identity includes things such as:

But the identity also includes things such as:

See also: Ferment:CommunityVariables.


Now, wiki grow by integrating ideas that are presently not accounted for.

In most cases, it’s something that everyone already agrees to, and they just haven’t gotten around to writing it down yet.

Somebody writes it down, and there it is. Everyone agrees to it. There was a fulfillment of present understanding.

But there are some cases, where people who more or less agree with each other on other things, disagree over this one thing.

Then there is a discussion, based on what was already known and agreed to, and there is some sort of resolution. After the resolution is made, the rest of the site is updated to reflect the new resolution. You could say that the identity of the wiki has changed.

Too Much to Integrate at Once

But there are some cases, where people who more or less disagree with each other on everything, where there can be no timely resolution. Now, obviously, they don’t disagree with each other on everything. They most likely agree that breathing is a good idea. But, in the things that matter, relevant to the discussion, they probably disagree, and those disagreements run deep.

In that case, there can be no integration, except on a macroscopic scale.

Macroscopic Integration

It is possible that, one day, Emacs and Vi will come to understand each other in “the larger scheme of things.”

It is unlikely that “Emacs is entirely wrong,” or that “Vi is entirely wrong,” but it is likely that the understanding of the two, in terms of broader software understanding, can be understood.

We may then find that they occupy unique roles, and be able to say exactly what they are. We may be able to build (or at least, conceive of) new editors, that more precicely match the synthesized understanding. We may have new editors to fill niches that, previously, we did not understand.

However, it is extremely unlikely that if a VI person went all over the Emacs wiki, and told exactly how it thought every page was wrong, that anything productive would come of it. It is an attempt at performing to much integration at once.

What this Means

If you go to a wiki that has dramatically different values or topic than your own, than you are likely to have difficulty.

There are some situations where, there is only one wiki on a particular subject. Your values may not match. There are some situations, even, where deep value differences aren’t even apparent until much, much, later. Techniques for dealing with such situations are probably best left for other pages. But, needless to say, it can be hard when there’s only one space to cram a lot of differing values into.

Perhaps the most difficult to say- A consequence of this is that a wiki can eject both contents or people that do not match values significantly. I feel personally capable to say this, since I was ejected from a wiki that had very different assumptions and values than my own. It seems the better for all involved, and I support the ability to make such decisions.

This results in wiki of varying perspectives, and possibly DebateWiki in the future, where people go to debate perspectives, calling upon the wiki of their home perspective. As points are identified and people convinced of ideas in the debate wiki, they can “come home” to their home wiki, and convert the remainder of their people into the new synthesis. (Or, there may be yet further debate, carried on in the debate wiki.) If it is a true synthesis, (rather than a subversion attempt,) then the people of the perspective wiki will change their views, (if perhaps only to soften them,) and the change ripples out through the perspective wikis’ intelligence database.

Here, the “perspective wiki” is used as a WikiDebateBase in an AugmentedArgument.

See Also

WikiPedia:Dialectic (Hegelian), RadicalInclusiveness, AugmentedArgument


This is a particular case, I think, of a more general situation having to do with intelligence databases. It is said that every war is the expression of different points of view. (I’d quote from Final Fantasy 8, which goes deeper into this theme.) I’d like to eventually ship parts of this to a general knowledge management wiki of some sort. – LionKimbro

It occurs to me that this is only a major concern for Communal Wiki, as described in DegreesOfEditorialControl.

  • In Scratch Wiki, integrity of the PageDatabase isn’t a major issue. You can write whatever you want, delete whatever you want. The identity is in flux, integration isn’t a big issue, so: Few IntegrationAndIdentity problems.
  • In Hard Wiki, integrity is strictly enforced by a very limited number of editors. No problems: What doesn’t fit is just deleted.

Only in a Communal wiki is IntegrationAndIdentity a major issue: The identity of the PageDatabase requires protection, but also growth. The community is in tension- it does not want perfect homogeneity (like in a Hard Wiki), but it doesn’t want more grand debates to resolve than it can handle.


Define external redirect: CommunitiesAndCliques

EditNearLinks: PageDatabase WikiEngine