The locus of discussion is ostensibly about “reporting for outsiders” – groups, and how they report (or fail to report) things to the outside world.


Major ideas:

Groups mentioned:

See Also


This is a bit of out loud thinking, so, please; Excuse the mess…

The problems of reporting for outsiders is driving me nuts, and I need to do a little conversation about this.

I belong to a few big groups:

I observe a few others groups, as well.

Recently, TheClearwaterSchool was host to a conference on the Sudbury school.

What came out of it, was this:

I googled for "clearwater sudbury school conference 2007," and I found:

Not to pick on Clearwater and the Sudbury school; This is actually the norm for a great many conferences and gatherings and such.

And, it’s the norm, here, at CommunityWiki.

I remember BrianTempleton?, giving me a “tut, tut,” when I saw him after 6 months or something online, saying, “Hey! Why aren’t there any updates on the FrontPage? I clearly see you all are active on RecentChanges, but– why haven’t you all written anything for us?”

I wonder, “Why don’t we?”

I talked about the difficulty in coming up with posts on the CommunityWiki FrontPage blog.

I described how…

  • I was hesitant to write something for everybody, because “too much Lion, not enough CommunityWiki.”
  • And then I hesitate, because, “Perhaps this is just my interpretation of what’s going on. Not everybody shares my SuperNarrative?.”
  • And then I hesitate, just because it takes so long to go through process – I don’t want to abuse CollectiveSpeech.

He pointed out that, “Well, perhaps what you should do, is blog about what happens in CommunityWiki, on your blog, and just do it in your own voice, from your own soap box?”

And I thought, “Yeah! That’d work great! Except, who’d be reading it? I think people interested in CommunityWiki will be thinking to go to the CommunityWiki website. How would they know to look at my blog? And further, what if other people at CW want to report on happenings on CW, for outsiders?”

So, I am wondering: “How can we write, on the CW blog, but in our respective individual voices?”

I often have no problem coming up with the motivation to write about what’s happening in CW. I have no problem saying, “Oh Oh Oh! This is happening in CW, and it’s really interesting! So, you should all hear this!”

But those hesitations I noted above tend to mush it down.

Further, when I do post, and write summaries in the voice of the CollectiveSpeech of CW, I think I tend to strip out my own personal story framing of things. But, I find that that is often the most important part to many people who hear me talk about what’s happening at CW.

So the issue is, “What is the CW story?” And we have different ideas; Alex’s and I’s ideas are radically different, re:, for example, the nature of OpenSource labors and how it fits into the world, and so on. (And I wouldn’t change that! It takes a group, to embody a paradox.)

At TheClearwaterSchool, there’s a whole committee, called “the publicity committee,” that takes care of interactions with the public. Most companies have some form of PR branch, detailing, “Here’s how we interact with the public, here’s what we say to the press, here are the policies behind the CollectiveSpeech of the company,” and so on. We have our general “24 hours” policy for the BlogControlledByWiki, the FrontPage postings, and so on.

Is there some lighter-weight set of expectations and procedures that we can employ?

Perhaps we could say:

  • CommunityWiki members may write “status” write-ups to the front page, in their own voice, using their name icon (making it clear that it’s individual.)
  • The CommunityWiki may make use of CollectiveSpeech, following the 24 hour rule, using an icon that represents the whole CommunityWiki to do so, should that be something we want to do, for whatever reason.
  • Should disagreement over “what is happening” in CommunityWiki become significant, we should refrain from posting to the FrontPage as individuals, and instead only do so following the procedures of CollectiveSpeech – rough consensus, 24 hours before post, and so on, should we even decide to post about whatever is happening, at all.

That way, we’d have a smoother flow of updates for the public.

The assumption is that the public will be able to recognize the difference between an editorial or opinion, (which has someone’s face next to it,) and the CollectiveSpeech, (which has a CW logo next to it, or something.)

There is a question: “What if I post something that I thought was innocuous, but then, oh, 3/4 of the community thinks it is just off the wall?”

Can we redact the story? Should we talk, and then post in the voice of CollectiveSpeech? Is this too much clutter to show to a public?

Understand that this is not just a question of CommunityWiki here, for me– this is a question that touches every single group I work with.

At Saturday House, we’re wondering about this. In the Evo Salon and Story Field Conferences, we’re wondering about this.

Most of us have some concept of the GlobalBrain, and so on. Figuring out how the reporting and communication systems work out is actually really important, I think. Most of us do want to have our voice and thoughts represented.

I go to OpenSpaceTechnology conferences, and the question recurs, “How do we report? How do we report? We do not want the amazing ideas here, lost, only for our heads to know. And people wonder and ask. And it’s good for everybody for ideas to get out.”

OK. Rant ends.

Recently I read - actually I’m still reading - books about PermaCulture by BillMollison and found quite long and interesting ideas about community organisation. This may be worth considering, because there seem to be working Permaculture communities around the world.

Ok, basically he saying: there are tasks people like to do and tasks people don’t like to do. Both have to be organised, the first are ALLOTED, the second are ROSTERED.

So maybe, as FrontPage maintenance and updating is not a favourite task, that still has to be done, a roster should be created and service intervalls assigned to people that are part of the community. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Ideally, the things I like to do may be things that other’s don’t like to do (and vice versa). When this wonderful coincidence happens, I usually find it worth creating enduring relationships. Even more (in economical terms) value can be derived when this develops into a form of specialization that allows one to contribute their “best of type” skills to a set of “enterprises” and share appropriately in the results of all.

I agree with Hans; At the same time, I think that CommunityWiki, while having something like a corporate body, also has something like a group of egalitarian minded friends.

I have been struggling with differentiating corporation, community, religion, ideology, movement, personal agreements, and so far.

Regardless of abstractions;

I’d be happy to post blog entries to the FrontPage about things happening here, as seen through Lion-tinted glasses. And I’d be excited to share that process with others. I’d like to make sure that the experience of our readers is “smooth,” though, because, otherwise, they will stop reading. If we have an argument over interpretation, I’d rather resolve it back stage, rather than on-stage. Something will probably go on stage, but it would be something that was representative of the whole group of people, and not something that was just Lion-colored glasses. That’s my concern.

I’d also be happy if, even though I ended up doing most of the blog posting, that there was some pressure on other people to, at least now and then, contribute something to the “news” pool. Occasional turn taking may even be appropriate. “Alex, I’ve written up 20 posts. Bayle put one in, Helmut put one in. Hans never has the time of course, but we know that you do, and, well, … It’s your turn.” (“Okay, but you guys aren’t going to like it.”) “Oh, I relish this. This’ll be funny. I can’t wait to see what you put out there.”

Hans, I probably oversimplyfied. If a few people like to do a task, while others don’t, everythings fine, nothing needs to be organized, until the situation changes (either (1) more people want to participate or (2) enough persons turn away to create a shortage).

I do not say that it must or should be done this way. But it’s interesting. Permaculture suggests to forget about decision groups or consensus building. People should act autonomously, e. g. those who are convinced invest in some machine, then rent it to those who want to use it. (instead of making an investment decision as a community)

That’s very interesting, Helmut!

I have a question, though– how do the PermaCulture people recommend handling loose canons, or discontent over activities?

On an “as arising” basis?

Maybe they are relying on the tendancy of humans to follow TitForTat? Also, although PermaCulture culture may not employ decision groups or consensus buliding, if their culture is cohesive and sustainable, then they have created a group decision or cultural consensus to adhere to autonomous action, and ad hoc CollectiveIntelligence decision making about whether to culturally and/or socially adopt new changes.

I think the big issue is that in oral cultures, people retell tales because there is joy in the act: People listen and are grateful. There’s no reward in reporting for outsiders, however. There’s a tiny reward for putting something on the FrontPage that includes a lot of your own efforts. That’s why I think we should run with it. If Lion is enthusiastic about his pages, he should not feel bad about putting them on the front page. Rather, we should be glad to have found somebody that enthusiastic.

If we wanted to engineer a process that encourages us to maintain the front page, we should look for ways of rewarding people: More brain-share, a bigger audience. What else would result in a rewarding experience? Personally I never look at the front page, so it’s hard to find it motivating.

As far as I’m concerned, we should just use the Blog as our front page. There, we know pages are ephemeral, and usually personal – they have everything that makes an interesting blog post without overhead. Another supporting idea: People thrive on gossip. Maybe it’s hard-wired into our brains. Having personal messages on the blog, with pictures and all, make for much more interesting posts than the summaries aggregated on the front page.

Let’s declare the FrontPage a failed experiment and try something else.

I still haven’t explored the FrontPage function, actually. I wouldn’t say it “failed”. You need a pretty lively wiki to make it work, I suppose.

People write something about what happens in their community when

  • others read what they write
  • they see that others write about their communities and they can read it (locally).

Blog? Many people don’t know what a blog is. I always look for the edit button on blogs and then surf on.

Face. Everybody knows what that is. It is located underneath the front and tells how someone is. So I renamed blog to face. Yes - hardcore, admit - dividing the front and the face by eyebrows.

wiki-Woodstock: front / face.

To see into the faces of other neighboring wikis

wiki-Woodstock / wiki-net faces

So far my recent bricolage.

“Ouch.” Having just read Lion’s comment, I think I’ll have to find the time to do something other than what I’ve been doing. (Or at least let people know more about what I am doing). Maybe the reason my portrait isn’t showing on that comment is embarrassment! I don’t think the FrontPage experiment failed. Negative results may also contribute to progress by making the point that something may be Necessary, But Not Sufficient (NbNs?, in the spirit of YagNi).

Audience. I see the audience of the FrontPage is not just for random readers in the blogosphere who don’t ever post here, but also for people like me. During time periods when I don’t have time to actively keep up with CommunityWiki, I still check for FrontPage updates every now and then.

Vetting. If we were a political organization, we would want some committee to vet everything that could be construed to be CollectiveSpeech before it is posted. But given the kinds of things we talk about, I think the chance is low that Lion or anyone else will post something on the FrontPage that is so bad for my reputation that after-the-fact redaction won’t solve the problem. So I say, don’t worry about speaking “in your own voice” on the FrontPage, if there’s a problem, we can deal with it later.

Quality vs. quantity of content. Right now, we probably don’t have many FrontPage readers because of a lack of quantity. So, I think anyone who wants to should feel free to post on the FrontPage directly, without worrying if something silly goes “on-stage”. Once we start having too much FrontPage content rather than too little, then we start focusing on winnowing out the lower quality posts. Also: I don’t see anything wrong with having a first draft of a post go “on-stage” onto the FrontPage and then editing it (a lot) while it’s there. It’s a wiki blog after all.

FrontPage vs. blog. The “blog” is like a high-traffic mailing list. There are lots of people who won’t sign up for a high-traffic list but who will sign up for a low-traffic digest of that list. So, I don’t think the blog can substitute for the (hoped-for) function of the FrontPage.

FrontPage as failed experiment. If we each spent 40 hours a week posting here then I’d say, yeah, this thing obviously isn’t working, kill it. But since this is a part-time endeavor I’m inclined to give it a few more years.

Style. Don’t get me wrong, for process considerations I love the idea of the weblog being completely a part of the wiki, but for stylistic considerations I think it might scare readers away. There’s something about the style of the FrontPage that says to me, “Hi, you’re on a wiki now! Don’t expect an easy-to-read linear sequence of posts, expect a dense net of hypertext. This isn’t a newspaper, this is an interactive web site, so there are interactive controls mixed in with the text, and you are expected to use them and contribute.”. Compare to the feeling you get when you go to There you feel more like a guest and less like a participant; more like someone casually reading a newspaper and less like someone using a powerful interactive website management system. is easier; you just sit there and read something; there’s a big margin; there’s not all these links inviting you to navigate to the SiteMap, to RecentChanges, to edit this page, to view other revisions. Even experienced wikizens from other wikis probably get the feeling that, “woah, I’m looking at a slice of internal discussion within a foreign community now, I can’t expect to understand what they’re saying to each other unless I allocate time to go and follow a bunch of links and read the rest of the conversation”. This could be alleviated by creating making the default CSS of the FrontPage one that looks more like a typical blog. Here’s an attempt: CommunityMaintainedFrontPageCss. Use this link to try it out (although there seems to be a bug right now with using community maintained CSS; I reported it on the bottom of CommunityWikiSoftware). By the way, that CSS will hide “Edit this page”, so after you’ve tried it, you can use this link to go back to the default CSS.

Other organizations. I think other small organizations are probably also being held back by individuals’ fear of saying something that doesn’t represent the group, and could also be well served by setting up a weblog and encouraging their members to post on it without prior group approval.

Mattis, Hans – of course you both know what I’m talking about. When I say “blog” I am not thinking of Wordpress and friends. I’m thinking of the page Blog, where every entry is a wiki page and has an edit link. And when I say “failed experiment” I’m not saying “useless experiment”. Of course there is value in negative results. What I’m saying, however, is that we need to acknowledge negative results. What’s the point of doing an experiment, if all we ever do is “try harder”? I say we should try something different unless we have a good reason not to.

I certainly agree that we should try other things. In fact, I’ve been putting a lot of time into testing how hypertext “blocks” can be shared among WikiHive(s). Perhaps this is just a distracting line of thought that stems from by my current preoccupation with building a very large WikiHive, but I find that having this ability is literally affecting my own writing style. As I resume work on CommunityWikiBank, I’ll try to illustrate what I am talking about by using TransClusion in this manner a bit more than is usual.

Hans, check out CommunityRepository for some ideas I have about your content blocks and transclusion style. Your ideas seem to me to be a reflection the natural direction that the web is flowing towards, in my opinion. You are turning your text into “obecjts” that can be folded into other objects. I just recently started learning to program in Perl, Python, Ruby, and PHP.

While learning Python, I learned about modules as “objects” and importing. This started me thinking about how I’ve been storing content in different places online, and thinking about your ideas for MicroBlocks? of content.

These MicroBlocks? are objects, and transcluding them “compiles” them into a larger meta-object. In the case of MicroBlock? wiki contributions, the “objects” are based around semantic context. For a while, in CommunityWiki we tried tagging/folksonomy as a way to address meaning making. I think it feel by the wayside because OddMuse was not yet optimized for doing very much with tags.

But, what if OddMuse where optimized to treat every one of our contributions as an “object”? And what if a tagging folksonomy worked as a way to affix distributed meaning to these objects? what if each object output something like hAtom automatically? and then, what if you could import those objects across many systems by importing that hAtom, RDF, RSS, XML or some other open standard?

About FrontPage: what else might we try? Maybe we need a thorough autopsy of the FrontPage experiment, to find out why we tried it, what failed, and what worked, adn what we can take away from that to move forward?

(See also: WikiAsCollage.)

I have thoughts re: FrontPage; Immediately, though, with all due respect to Alex, my thought is: “keep.”

What’s the point of doing an experiment, if all we ever do is “try harder”?AlexSchroeder

Oh! Okay, I think I see what you’re saying.

Let me take the conversation at a right angle, and suggest something fictional, and highly speculative.

How’s that?

By the way, feel free to copy and edit it! It’d be awesome, I think, if, say, SamRose copied that to a text buffer, added in groups that he was aware of, and imagined in the participation of himself and some other people he knew, substantially changed a few factors about how it worked and so on, and then posted his edited version.

I think that the Blog idea was a goood one, and having attempted to use OddMuse as a blog for about a year or so, I think Blog could work better, if it’s underlying functions were more blog-like.

However, a solution that does not require radical extension of OddMuse is that the wiki could be connected to a blogging tool like WordPress. WordPress has a function that allows you to drag a link into your browser toolbar (called “PressIt?”), that automates the blogging process a bit. If you are reading a page in CW, you could highlight the text you want to quote, click on this browser link, and within seconds, make a blog posting that contains the title of the page and link to it, and an excerpt. Wordpress then automatically pings blog search and blog tracking services, etc. It’s posible to make a WordPress blog “open”, an example is, which allows anyone to register and post to. At this time, WordPress is a better tool for blogging than OddMuse.

As far as I am concerned, using a real blog to report for outsiders must also be considered a failed experiment. CommunityWikiBlog still has a link to it.

I think that Lion’s vision has some appeal. As long as there are people working on it, that would be great.

Yes. I think these experiments will probably tend to fail so long as the community here does not engage them, for whatever reasons. I’d love to try Lion’s idea for a while. I agree it’s a good one.

I also like the solution in SocialText, which basically lets you send content straight to a script that arranges content like a blog, accepts trackbacks, creates a “permalink”, and accepts comments. OddMuse is extremely close to this in it’s built-in blogging tools. I’ve gotten some good response out of blogging on, from people interested in the subject matter. Ny biggest problem is having the time to dedicate to blogging, along with all of the other blogging commitments I have, plus everything else I do. I think I’ve mentioned that the only thing I see missing from OddMuse blogging tools are better pinging and trackback tools, to allow blog tracking services to more easily find and track blog entries. Also, I think TheSheep has some good ideas in blogging CSS, and there are some evolutions there that could make this very usable, too.

Related to this is the way that OddMuse outputs RSS feeds, using the CPAN modules, doesn’t really package blog the content into blog posts, but treats each blog entry like a DayPage?. Basically, it’d be neat to think about some new RSS processing for OddMuse, that allows you to create content bits in OddMuse, kind of like the way HansWobbe is doing it, and to assign an RSS feed to each of those content bits, then to optionally re-“package” those bits into a publication unit, and output an rss feed for that unit. It’s also be neat to create an option for TransClusion that actually writes the text content to the new page once it’s saved, instead of just having the place marker for the included content. I believe this could help encourage ReWorking?. Especially if content could be moved around in a PurpleNumbers type way. Except instead of link-backs to paragraphs, PurpleNumbers become signifiers for content that can be included in other content. So, it doesn’t matter if the parent content changes, if the primary use is for ReWorking? content. Maybe this is something I’ll try to accomplish over the next year or so. Anyway, I’ll “ReWork?” this all into it’s appropriate place on here sometime soon.

Back ontopic, I agree we could try Lion’s idea, and would gladly pitch in to help.


Define external redirect: BrianDorsey ReWork MicroBlock BrianTempleton PressIt NbNs ReWorking SuperNarrative MicroBlocks DayPage

EditNearLinks: OpenSpaceTechnology OpenSource OddMuse YagNi TitForTat YouTube WordPress SocialText BillMollison PermaCulture