Wiki Ohana was a site we used to pull the wiki family closer together. It was supposed to be our “outreach” program, but it never really caught on.

At WikiSym 2006, we identified the welcoming ritual as the most useful action we know at the moment. We’re looking for other things to do, but currently “welcoming” is the only thing we know.

To pull the wiki family closer together, we decided to do the following:

  1. If new wikis appear on our radar, we would like to welcome the founder to the wiki world.
  2. We would like to suggest “best practice” for welcoming users to new founders.

In order to do this, we felt our best bet woud be to write two kinds of welcoming message templates, which we would then use to go out and actually do it.


See Also


Welcoming Founders

This is what we want to say:

  1. Welcome to the wiki world! You decided to create a wiki, and we congratulate you. It’s a great idea! We hope you will find the wiki way as exhilerating (or mind bending or thrilling) as we found it to be.
  2. We encourage you to welcome your users to your wiki site just as we have welcomed you to the wiki world.
  3. All wikis started out small. Should things not work out for you as expected, we’re here to help. Add a link to the Wiki Ohana website, where we’ll have some basic pages from Meatball and Community Wiki and pointers to the various sites that related information.

You’ll find more about all these issues on our Wiki Ohana site.

Suggested Wiki Principles

All session participants were allowed one nomination, in order to create a starting point. This is (and probably will always be) work in progress. ;)

  1. Be open to outsiders, but don’t suffer fools. The line is hard to draw, but draw it you must. Make sure you’re not suffering a burnout. It is supposed to be fun.
  2. People are the most important part about it. Care for them and they will care for you.
  3. You can grow incrementally, one page at a time. There’s no rush.
  4. Wikis are a great way to encourage sharing instead of owning. Make a free license the default for your site.
  5. SoftSecurity can make wikis both safe and free. There’s no trade-off required. Locking strangers out will stop spam, but it will also have most dramatic effects on your community. Passwords and logins are a pain, try to minimize them.

Addition candidates:

  1. Link as you think (LinkLanguage) is a powerful concept as it allows you to work on a common vocabulary as you’re talking.

Welcoming Users

When welcoming new users, leave:

  1. a greeting,
  2. a name so they have somebody to talk to,
  3. a comment on something they did on the wiki, or on something the wrote on their blog to show you cared

A pointer to some help pages would be nice, if they are not already obvious. (They should be obvious!) Avoid lengthy lists of policies that nobody can ever read. Angela said that some people at WikiPedia felt that the list of policies was growing too long.


Ohana = Family in Hawaian, I later read somewhere. The wiki-family, I like that. A family is a social organism, kinda. Works a lot with respect. Family is a good term, just my Hawaian was too bad to understand it rightaway.

A while ago I made the hive-wiki, thinking it would be nice for people when making a new wiki if they could be offered and demonstrated diversity on one common place with a free choice between different engines. A late evening I even thought, make a new wiki on several engines and let the founder (amd users) work on the one they prefer. This is a step ahead, first the family founding, true. But later the family might think about the multi-engine hive.

family, wiki-net. I made some wiki-centers for wiki-hives (there are many now!) recently, see oddwiki-center: wiki-node.

Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.” At least, so it is writ in ye olde book of Lilo & Stitch.

I worry that Wiki is too big to support this kind of thing. By the EcosystemOfNetworks, I see WikiOhana as surviving at the SocialNetwork level, of 150 people, but not at the political level, of 1000s. And I think Wiki is something in the 1000’s.

That said: We can take care of our “locale.”

I love InterCommunityCooperation. (oh: see also: What Sam Rose wrote about a month ago. Similar vibe.)

One obvious way to manage complexity is to abstract. In terms of managing your “neighbour” wikis, you could abstract by treating whole communities as “persons” (but I don’t recommend it), or maybe by just picking a few people from those communities to keep in touch with. I think it’s important that every “link” between community uses different people from them – the WikiAmbassador? role looks too centralized. Families often connect with each other – by marriages or just by living next door – there is usually one or several persons that “connect” them.

Another thing about family is that you don’t keep close all the time. Everyone have an aunt that he/she haven’t seen for years. But she’s still a part of the family – if something important happens, she’ll come, or the family will come to her. It’s a fact that families mostly gather at funerals, but I know some families that have one event in year when all of the family meets.

We can take care of our locale. Every termite does. None of them knows the plan for their entire heap. None of them even knows a tiny bit of it, they all just follow their “nose”, take care of their locale. It must be written in their genes, somehow. Their information system are pheromones, chemicals evaporating to the air and travelling with it. A colony of termites maybe reaches an effective information exchange within a couple of hundred meters, dunno, a termite of the tribe being moved away 400 km pretty surely doesn’t send to and can’t receive sufficient information from it anymore. Homo hasn’t really started on building “what’s somehow written in its genes” yet. Not really. Many local experiments, agree, a heap here, a heap there, yes, but for us the air hasn’t been ready yet. It wasn’t fast enough. The bandwidth was too low. Too many “smell-filters”, tv for example. But that changed pretty dramatically during the recent time. The technology is there, kinda. What lags are just people’s heads and the software.
The apples I can buy in a supermarket in Germany come from New Zealand. Just an example. Imagine the infrastructure you need globally to make such possible. Not that I think its a good idea, just a stupid example for how interwoven global human population is. It can’t be but one common architecture for us to build. Our range is global and our information travels with the speed of light, that’s the difference.

What about welcoming the existing wiki communities that don’t know about WikiOhana yet?

Excellent. It’s rather like paying a visit to neighbors to say hello and make them see you’re friendly when you moved in a new flat. A chat in the door, maybe a cup of coffee when they ask you to come in, pretty likely you’re out in 20 minutes. It’s not welcoming. SayingHello? rather. Doing it in bigger style it could easily be mistaken as spam. I shivered a bit when I saw the welcoming template, don’t misunderstand me, please. It’s good to think about what and how to say it. But templates make me feel like automated letters valid without signature. Every welcome can contain essential parts that come from a template but should have a personal written part in it. Taking a look at the wiki, pointing two three things out that are good, maybe adding a recommendation, no critisizm, just a hint on what could be improved. Taking ten minutes to not be suspected to spam, for politeness reasons, I think can be expected. We actualy do not spam, so people can expect us to not behave like spammers.
Where to say hello? Making a page WelcomeFounder? is pretty bold. It’s probably ok for propperly new wikis having few pages when offering help. Existing wikis often have topically less centered pages like “talk”, “watercooler”, “village pump”, “coffee machine” and such like. That seems to me the approriate place for such a say-hello-visit. Maybe make a “task-force”, a couple of people and agree on who visits which wiki and says hello? I’d be with it.
If a wiki has no wiki-node yet gently pointing to a template for their engine to create a wiki-node would be good. Templates do not exist yet. Not give too many links. Proposing few obvious neighbors by linking to their wiki-nodes if possible on the say-hello is ok.

Think WikiOhanaFr could be really helpful in France. I’d be interested to study a localization for french speaking people. Alex, would you be ready to stand a workshop on WikiOhana during BarCampZurich ? I’d be ready to travel or try to organize a french WikiVan? just for that ;-)

Hehe. Well, I think it would be a lot of effort spent for so small a thing that we could resolve via chat or email. But I’m sure there will be other good reasons to come over here in person. :) As you can see, I already intended to talk about multilingual wikis.

We will come in Zurich Alex with some french representative of SiliconValois? and hopefully ArnaudFontaine. Could we have a gtalk-chat or WikiTing on sunday morning to talk about a multilingual WikiOhana ?

So, one of the things that I’ve liked about the Ohana is that there’s a light endorsement of the WikiCreole project. I wonder if there is an opportunity to expand that kind of endorsement to other areas. For example, I think the most impressive effort for making WysiWyg wikis is the Wikiwyg tool, and I think that OpenID is the emerging standard for inter-site login. I wonder if the Ohana could provide some gentle pushes to developers and site owners to use these excellent tools?

I think that having the discussion about the Ohana separate from the Ohana site is indirect and confusing. I’m going to be discussing the effort to get the Ohana off the ground on, and I invite anyone else who’s interested to join me.


Define external redirect: WikiVan WikiAmbassador SayingHello WelcomeFounder SiliconValois

EditNearLinks: WysiWyg WikiNet


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