(This is about the economy of reworking, not about reworking the economy)
Reworking costs time, and text might be worse, not better, after refactoring.
Laziness is the art of doing hard work later and, overall, faster.
In the case of lazy reworking:
This takes advantage of the beginner’s interest in the subject.
The justification is:
BeginnersReworking, at least on CommunityWiki, is a great way for a Visitor to become a Guest to become a CommunityMember. By reworking fundamental ideas, a visitor or guest clearly demonstrates mastery of basic ideas.
see also: WikiAsYouLearn
Well-reworked text helps the reader comprehend and integrate points. Readers understand the text better. Responders can use the structure of the post to focus comments better. Those reworking can better assemble the arguments in their mind, to condense them. Finally, good structuring can help one understand ones own ideas better at the time of writing.
Eager reworking yields these benefits more rapidly, and ideally improves the experience of all involved in discussing a topic. It also gives more opportunity for one to develop the skills of reworking.
Wiki pages, unlike books, are simple and cheap to gradually improve after they have been “published”.
Imagine a wiki page that is horribly structured, so it takes 30 minutes to read. Imagine that you’re pretty sure it would only take 10 minutes to read – if only someone were to spend a couple of hours re-organizing and re-writing it.
Is it worth re-organizing and re-writing? (We’re not talking about factual errors here – of course you should fix and/or point them out. We’re talking about poor grammar, typos, insufficient section headers, things explained out-of-order, things repeated over and over, etc. – things that merely slow down a reader).
Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is yes and no.
So how do you know how many people are going to read it?
Here is where wiki gives us a third choice between “don’t touch it” and “spend hours re-writing it”: We recommend that you spend a minute or so improving the page. If every reader does this, then you don’t need to know ahead of time how many people will read the page – this strategy works no matter how many people read the page.
If every reader does this, then automatically
Typical edits that take only a couple of minutes:
(We’re calling the last 2 items a “MicroContribution”, but the others are just as useful).
While you are spending your 10 minutes or so reading a page, make a note of the worst error you see, and spend another minute making one of the above edits to fix it. If this page is in the early stages, you may see dozens of other things that could be improved – let the next person fix that. If this page is in the late stages, after you fix one little thing, you may not see any other way to improve it – let the next person make the improvements you don’t see.
DavidCary hopes to apply this idea to software at the SoftwareBazaar. When applied to software, this model of lots of people, each one making small “improvements”, is sometimes called the "Cascade of Attention-Deficit Teenagers" model. Nevertheless, David hopes that “This time, it will work.”
Must our writing be good? I feel spending twice as long honing (reworking) my responses before I post helps both me and whoever chooses to read my text. I use the skills I develop on Wiki to write academic papers. These are useful life skills!
Reworking may not be essential, but neither is good spelling, decent grammar, or short prose. People will take time to read your text. Help them out.
I’ve found that the more I try to improve my writing, the less understandable it becomes, and the more convoluted.
I’m sharp in personal dialog with people. But this “you write, and then you get a response a few days later” thing just doesn’t work very well for me..
Writing for people who aren’t there just gives me the creeps.
I admire people who have the skill to write perfect prose, whether they do it immediately, or over time. But I feel that the economics of the situation are such that it’s best for me to say what I have to say, and then get out. Time spent rewording has only helped (rather than hindered) a tiny fraction of the time.
People communicate every day, and they don’t reword themselves. It’s powerfully effective. If you told everyone to reword everything they said until it was really good, and then they could speak, nobody would speak.
I agree that there’s value to “good writing.” I like it. But I don’t think it’s the majority of writing, and I don’t believe it should be the majority of writing.
I see a PublicRefineryProcess. I think people should just (basically) fly at the mouth, and as they reach conclusions, ConsolidateInformation, and write something nice. Refine the good and important. Let the rest fall to the side.
But I couldn’t have done it without the huge mass of loose talk that had come before.
Do you think the page looks good now? (I do.) If so, know then that that came from a huuuuuge page full of ThreadMode. It wasn’t well written. It wasn’t organized.
I took the page, listed the basic ideas of everything, and thought about it for a long time. I found an organization that I liked, and put people’s notes into it. (I did this on paper, in the physical world.) Then I checked to make sure I had accounted for more or less every opinion there. I liked it, wrote it up, and then pasted it over the old comments, along with notes saying, “Please let me know if I’ve missed something important.”
People liked it! Some people made it even better. That was a while ago- I’m happy that the page is still there. People seem to like it.
So- so what. So, I think that we don’t have to write good. That it costs a lot of time money to make something good. That we should be strategic and surgical in determining what to improve. That we should talk and talk and talk, and then sift through and find what we like. I think it’s an enormous expense to improve writing that is not wisdom. Wait until it reaches wisdom first, and then rework it. PublicRefineryProcess. Avoid ChangeFailure.
(on the new ReworkingEconomy page) This is strictly a first draft, but I like the terms eager and lazy to describe the forces in tension here.
Talk and talk and talk and then sift is okay – it’s when we not only delay, but then actually omit the “sift” phase that I think it’s suboptimal.
I think that wisdom can be created by continued reworking of a mediocre idea. Thought experiment: imagine that a society devoted 1000 years to focusing effort on the production of a book. The book would only be allowed to contain mundane “common sense” knowlege, but would express that knowledge in the most simultaineously elegant, useful/practical, concise, and thought-inspiring way imaginable. Would this book be valuable? I think it would.
Depending on how you look at it, the archetype of the WiseOldMan? doesn’t have to be creative. He could be thinking thoughts with the same content as you or I, except that he relates those thoughts to each other, to his emotions, and to his life in a more elegant and balanced way.
However, although I think almost all documents can be made wiser through reworking, I agree that some thoughts have more “inherent potential” than others, so I don’t dispute the notion that some documents aren’t worth reworking.
But we should place readers’ convenience above writers’, since there will probably be more aggregate reader-hours spent on a document than there will be aggregate writer-hours.
Therefore, if documents aren’t being improved because they are considered worthless, then they need to be deleted so that they don’t waste readers’ time.
If documents aren’t worthless but don’t have much “inherent potential”, then they should still be reworked to be very concise, so that as little reader time is spent on them as possible.
It is contradictory to say that documents aren’t being improved because they’re not worth the time to improve, but not so worthless that they should be deleted. If they aren’t being deleted, they will consume more of readers’ time than the time that it would have taken writers to make them concise.
Thought experiment: imagine that a society devoted 1000 years to focusing effort on the production of a book. The book would only be allowed to contain mundane “common sense” knowlege, but would express that knowledge in the most simultaineously elegant, useful/practical, concise, and thought-inspiring way imaginable. Would this book be valuable?
You know, I think someone actually got up and actually did that, once!
The argument is: there are more readers than writers, and you add up all the reader hours, and it’s more than the writer hours.
I question that:
So, I question that the reader-hours spent on the document, in aggregate, will necessarily be less than the writers.
That said- there’s an interesting argument there: The comparison of times. If you are making a KnowledgeDistribution (or whatever to call it,) and it is intended for a ton of people, we should be spending a lot of time on it. We should be comparing estimated number of readers and their time, vs. the writer’s time.
I also question the assumption that writers are writers and readers are readers. It may be that we expect that readers are also writers. I think that if WikiAsYouLearn is true, then there may even be implied obligation on the reader to extend the favor of the writer: To rework, to improve, to refactor.
I know that part of the reason I felt inclined (initially) to work on FreeSoftware, was in reciprocation for the software that had been written for me. (Nowadays, I just know what a grand party Free Software is. )
Worthless documents. Worthless documents should be deleted. It’s just rare that we have them. (More likely, we have messages, by DocumentsVsMessages, and those are usually safely deletable. I think it would be a good feature to make comments fade away; see also: AttackTheDocumentMode.)
I think many pages are, better, just simply 1-3 lines. But our wiki doesn’t afford that. It’d be terribly free-ing to be able to do such a thing.
So, in short: Documents aren’t worth the writers time to improve. It is worth it (in many cases) for the reader to improve an article because it strengthens their learning (constructivism & constructionism) and because it helps return the favor of writing it in the first place. It is also more economic, because the learner is closer to the state of just learning, and can write the idea better for the next learner to come down the line.
I don’t have responses to all of that right now, but as to the part about “maybe reworking will make it worse”: that’s where the wiki community oversight comes in. The community is supposed to catch it and revert if the document is worse after a reworking (I guess this depends on the WikiEditorialModel? part of the community WikiProcess, but it seems like it should usually work that way to me, assuming the community is large enough/active enough).
If the community can’t tell that the page quality has gotten worse even after looking over the changes, then I assert that in most cases it isn’t that big of a deal.
Therefore I assert that for all practical purposes, reworking will never make a page worse in a sufficiently active wiki community (caveat: however, it’s possible to make the page better for one audience and worse for another audience).