Wcp Criticism

Major criticism of WikiChangeProposal

Now that Wcp software will be released in the wild any time soon, all of a sudden two members of MeatBall found their sudden passion to defend the orthodox view of "wiki" vis-a-vis ViewPoint in a discussion loaded with useless politics (or at least as it looks to me; maybe it is useful to them). The very point of WikiChangeProposal is to get rid of politics altogether. Since CliffordAdams has not added anything publicly to long forgotten plans of pursuing ViewPoint, it can only be inferred that they react to the (however still remote) possibility of ViewPoint coming to fruition as WikiChangeProposal. You can read their criticism at ViewPoint.

Of course, my being banned from C2 over an incident that had more to do with the politics of Sunir than with anything meta wiki as Meatball was supposed to be about, I am in no position to defend my ViewPoint (pun intended) over there, so the whole discussion unavoidably creates the appearance of impropriety. Especially because the major spin put on it reads as "let's make sure ViewPoint / WikiChangeProposal will not be viewed as wiki". I thank HelmutLeitner for defending the commonsense point of view that wiki implementors should be able to innovate, but I think he shouldn't do it anyway, because it gives an appearance of legitimate debate, rather than one way agenda pushing, which is what it really looks like in the absence of the people with a commitment to represent the other side of the story.

But anyway, the criticism is easily refuted as invalid.

If Wcp engine runs and absolutely nobody creates an editorial team, the wiki is functionally identical with old style wiki, just like C2 or MeatBall or anything else. So the claim that "ViewPoint starts from there being no collaboration, and optionally adds it on top, piecemeal." is false as a matter of fact. As no editorial teams are created to bootstrap the wiki, it starts with the default form of collaboration, including CommunitySolutions, SoftSecurity and all that jazz - in the first release there are no passwords for users, just for the fun of it. This will test if the triviality of adding passwords on top of it, and the downside of being exposed for fraud is enough of a deterrent for potential evildoers.

Presumably, the charge is being made that the option of creating editorial branches is a form of denying open collaboration, in traditional wiki style. What the critics miss is that the software does not force it upon the users to create editorial branches and those should be created only when and if necessary. As a matter of fact, I even expect that creating branches (or different views) would happen as a normal expression of a form of collaboration (unavailable so far on current wikis) between people holding very strongly and with conviction to different points of view while respecting each other's convictions. Creating editorial branches is not envisioned as a form of denying collaboration but enhancing it; of course, some people or some team may use the tool as a form of denying collaboration, but at that point it's for WikiReaders to vote with their feet.

Unfortunately, the edit branches are locked, so random users cannot edit them. Suppose an expert in a domain actually comes to wiki, selects a good editorial branch to avoid the noise, detects a factual error and wants to correct it, or simply wants to add more meat to a topic. He's out of luck; the edited branch is locked for him. Thus he will simply leave the wiki unchanged; going to the mess that the unedited wiki has become is not an option, otherwise he would have simply read that one and ignored the edited branch in the first place. -- cristipp

What WikiChangeProposal is trying to do is offer people the added freedom of a ComfortableSpaceForDisagreement - something wiki users never quite had with the traditional crop of wiki engines. The current prevailing wiki ideology represented by Sunir, forces people into PrematureConsensus? or CommunalThinking? or uncomfortable disagreement, and we know that these patterns simply do not work. Read TheTroubleWithConsensus, WikiConsensus, TragedyOfTheCommons, BigWikiFireOfDoubleOught, WikiReductionists and countless other pages on the history of wiki. Read the reason why ScottMoonen distanced himself from MeatBall, if nothing else. And yes, editorial branches can be used alternatively as a form of security to defend against the abuse of people spoiling for an argument, and possibly to protect against the phenomena of driving towards mediocrity and amateurism that are amongst the most common criticisms levelled (and not unjustifiably) against the wiki world - (see the classic LarrySangerAndLessonsInCollaboration, TheCultOfTheAmateur and the never ending web of blogs that debate the issue).

In the end in a wiki running WikiChangeProposal, people inclined to support the CommunalWiki? ideology are perfectly free to do so, but without imposing their ideology on everybody else, which enlarges the space rather than restricts it. It is puzzling to see how Sunir and friends can deny the wiki-ness of a proposal that enlarges the space of interaction available on current wikis, offering more freedom and not less to wiki users, and including support for all the current ways and means of collaboration.

Another charge is being made that WikiChangeProposal does not possess "the workflow of wiki". That's also false as a matter of fact: it possesses all the workflows of traditional wiki (indeed there are no standard reference workflows, people have always had different opinions on what is the best workflow for Wiki collaboration) and then some.

The essence of wikis is facilitating collaboration and empowering users by offering more freedom than what they had before does. Any ideology that tries to confine real people to narrow views of how collaboration should happen is doomed to fail. -- CostinCozianu


I'm not sure what the point of the whole debate is about. If you think you have a better mousetrap, Costin, go ahead and build it. Don't let SunirShah or RichardKulisz or anyone else stop you from doing so.

If, on the other hand, the point of the debate is to convince the wiki "community" (whatever and whoever the hell that is) to abandon current notions of wiki-ness, and switch over to your proposal, then you have a difficult task ahead of you. For one thing, there is no one individual or group which controls what wikis are - most wiki engines are OpenSource, and most wiki sites are independently run. Many wiki admins don't care one whit what WikiOnWiki discussions happen on MeatballWiki or elsewhere - they want something that suits their needs. For many wiki sites, you may be proposing a solution to a problem which they simply don't have. It should be pointed out that many wiki sites take a harder line against users perceived to be pests or trolls than Ward/c2 does. Only one individual is currently banned from this site, and we all know how hard RA had to work to earn that distinction. :)

Myself, I see little need for this site to have a RichardKulisz filter or a TopMind filter (or, for that matter, a CostinCozianu filter): I'm perfectly capable of ignoring anybody who I think is a twit (or who I think is uninformed on a particular topic). Were the capability to be added, I probably wouldn't take advantage of it. But that's just my opinion; don't let it stop you.

-- ScottJohnson

The proposal is being built as we speak; see WcpStatus. If you feel up to the task, or have nothing better to kill your time, you can practice your LanguageWeenie? skills to influence the future of wikis. :) The area still open for the next few days is WcpTemplates?: an S-Expression describing in a declarative fashion and making use of PatternMatching a tree transformation from the abstract content of the wiki page (the S-Expression input) to the final HTML in the browser. This would be refactoring the current PatternMatchingInJava solution. My intention was not to conquer the wiki world, but to (a) prove that it's trivial to implement, and (b) build enough competitive pressure so that other WikiEngines will adopt the good parts of it. But if (b) doesn't work, I'm condemn to render them obsolete. :) I'll take your remark about using the filter feature to WcpUseCases.

Now, on the political side of the story there was this WikiSym recently, where a particular meeting amongst wiki geeks was held on the subject of WikiStandards. HelmutLeitner promoted the idea of a WikiQualityStandards?, which I found more valuable, and easier to agree upon as a standard - though I doubt it will have much impact, practically. The quasi-consensus was that most of the interesting standards would be premature and "let's wait and see". A mailing list was created with minimal traffic, and my spin on it would be that it is quite ironic and it proves the point that wiki technology is in serious need of revamping. The opposite spin was that we shouldn't have any prejudices over the traditional forms of communication as long as they do the job. Actually, I was not trying to convince them to move such discussions to a wiki, but I was trying to make anybody at all spell out what's the problem that they find with wikis - but, predictably nobody took this bait, so mailing list it is.

Sunir took it personally (see his blog entry at http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?WikiStandards) that the consensus of wiki developers present at that discussion rejected his offer to use MeatBall on the ground of it being "territorial" (funny, if anybody should have complaint about the "territoriality" of MB, it should have been me). Presumably, he tries to reinforce the image that MeatBall is the place where all things meta wiki are discussed and where wiki expertise is being built. So he'd like to have a go at it alone, and I wish him good luck, but it'll go nowhere, MB will continue to have a limited influence and be referred from some places, but it looks like WikiMedia (the big player) and other wiki developers could not care less about what's happening at MB. WikiMedia looks like a world unto its own and whoever wants to influence it must be inside or find an insider to advocate.

As far as I am concerned, I'm only interested in debunking the baseless claim that WikiChangeProposal / ViewPoint are not wiki - I think it can be trivially disproven. And I also am concerned that Sunir wants to establish a "wiki orthodoxy" along very stark ideological lines.

-- CostinCozianu


WikiChangeProposal is a recipe for total wiki disaster. What is proposed will result in all-out war between teams as one team tries its best to discredit another team's work and view. It also will mean the end of innovative ideas as it's designed to discredit anything that is not yet in the mainstream or as of yet published. It will kill on-the-spur-of-the-moment creativity. It will result in an even more dead wiki with little-to-zero participation.

That's certainly one possibility that cannot be ruled out that teams will go for all out war between them. Is this any worse than to force the different points of view to be subjected to an endless cycle of arguments and sometimes flame fests? But there's nothing to suggest that such wars are a likelihood. In addition, people who don't believe in this form of collaboration will have the old WikiWay available. So why not let people have the freedom to choose the form of collaboration that best suits them?

One thing that the mechanism will enforce is that more popular team cannot pretend alternative views do not exist, as the software will automatically display links to alternative views on any topic. So there's nothing to prevent novel and innovative ideas gaining visibility - but only if they deserve to. The current setting allows for any troll who thinks he has something to say to force his stubbornness unto the public space, regardless of the merits of his ideas. So the public space becomes unusable, the contributors of valuable things have typically less time than the trolls and certainly not time for futile arguments, so TheTragedyofTheCommonsHappenedHere?. In addition as the feedback of WikiReader is incorporated, teams who like to argue dishonestly (as if the opposite point of view didn't exist) may end up penalized by the readers.

I didn't understand what in WCP is suppose to kill the spur-of-the-moment creativity.

[Obviously, the reduction in the size of the audience for the artiste's extravagant flights of fancy. :D]
Last edit 6 years ago in 2008. Oh well. Isn't Google's Knol the last implementation of WikiChangeProposal / ViewPoint? (I think so, more or less.) If yes, does its failure disprove WCP or was it just created in the wrong era? --FedericoLeva
CategoryWikiChangeProposal

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