Over on MeatballWiki, LindseyHart asked several questions on the page meatball-wiki: Lindsey Hart wiki interview.

Lion's Responses

I’ve collected my responses, and list them here:

What impact do wikis have on the world today?

How do they affect the way we use the Internet?

According to Jupiter Research, only a quarter of Internet users are contributors.

Of those, probably a much smaller number regularly write on wiki. So for most people today, if they are affected by wiki, they’re probably affected as readers.

Wiki (especially Wikipedia) are pretty good attractors of good links. Some people use Wikipedia as their first source, instead of Google.

Several newspapers are linking directly into Wikipedia.

This said: People are likely to become more accustomed to interacting online with time, and wiki are an attractor for online interaction.

See also: OnTheInternet

What impact will wikis have in the future?

The definition of wiki is regularly debated, and it’s near impossible to guess what people will call “wiki” in the future.

If wiki means “paper” in the future, then the answer is comparable to: “What is the impact of paper, today?”

It may be more worthwhile to consider, instead, the impact of SocialSoftware in general, rather than just wiki. For instance, it might be better to consider the impact of desks, filing cabinets, pencils, pens, paper, all together, rather than just just thinking about (say) staplers, alone. The results are offices, commerce, office workers, big logistics handling, and so on.

If we look at wiki in the context of wiki, blogs, voice-over-IP, instant messaging, and so on, and ask: “What’s the future of that..?” …then we get much more interesting results.

I believe the impact is to further our progress through the “soft singularity,” described by Vernor Vinge. That is, people and their computers working together to further improve themselves and their computer networks. I believe that the result is a more Democratic society, and people who are better able to take care of themselves and each other.

See also: HiveMind (and it’s children: GlobalBrain, OrganizedCulture, HyperSocial, CyberneticEconomy, CollectiveIntelligence,) and ProjectSpaceNetwork

How will wikis be used in the future?

Wiki will change. Several things I anticipate:

Wiki are diversifying. The basic concepts of visibility, ease of editing, and protection from spammers will persist, and spread into all things.

Wiki may well dissolve, it’s ideas absorbed into the regular featureset of most every media.

Will wiki need to become more attractive for mainstream America to adopt them?

Frankly, it wil require more than attractiveness; Ease of use is more important. Most commercial wiki developers are plowing into WYSIWYG right now.

See also: WysiwygWiki

Will the name “wiki” continue to be used in reference to the wiki technology or once wikis become more mainstream, will the name “wiki” be dropped?

I believe I’ve already answered most of this:

We talk about the web now, not gopher. But you can see a precursor to the web when you look at gopher.

It is likely that wiki is the precursor to something else, something much greater.

How much credibility should we give content on wikis?

It depends on the process used to put information there, and the people who are placing it there.

If the American Doctor’s Association keeps a wiki, and protects it, then it should be considered “very credible.”

If there is a fact checking and error vetting process in place, then that needs to be taken into account.

Science is always correcting itself: Does that mean it’s not creditable? Do determine the creditability of a particular report from someone who claims to be a scientist, you need to consider the system that goes into the production of that report, and ask yourself: “Is this system credible? What are the strengths of this information gathering system? What are it’s weaknesses? What is it’s underlying model?”

If you are talking about Wikipedia, because that’s so popular and so important right now, the answer is: “It depends.” You need to look at the history of a page, you need to get a sense of who is working on it, and you need to ask yourself: “Is there a fair process at work here?” Some wikipedia pages are notorious battlezones, and the page contents are hard to credit. Some pages are surprisingly good- even though the participants disagree strongly, they have managed to work together. An example of the battle zone is the “La Rouche” page, which has seen vicious battles. An example of the surprising good article is (or was, for a time at least,) the page on “Capitalism,” which had an attendence of just about every perspective (Communist, Anarchist, Libertarian, Capitalist of various stripes, and so on) who managed to work out a great article. That said, I don’t know if that peace has held: This is very time dependent.

Credibility is always very hard to determine. We have lived with dillusions of universal credibility: “Brittanica said X, therefor it is so.” But it is not so. Or if it is so, it may be misleading. It’s not to say that there is no truth, no reality. It is to say that it is very hard to communicate truth and reality. Telling one thing obscures another thing. There is subtlety and complexity in all things, and it is your job to discern what is and is not.

Are there any other questions about wikis I have not asked yet?

The answer to the second, then, is that wiki plays the role of the document arm of that larger context.

See also: WikiIsDocumentBased, DocumentsVsMessages.

See Also



I don’t feel comfortable answering in this much depth on MeatballWiki, so I asked TedErnst if it would be okay for me to answer them here. He said yes.

I better answer would’ve been, “It’s wiki. Do what you want.” That’s what I meant. :-)

Great answers, Lion!

Lion, Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thorough input. Your answers are much appreciated! --Lindsey

EditNearLinks: WysiwygWiki LindseyHart MeatballWiki


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