Wiki Emigration

The emigration of parts from wiki pages and discussions, which are not tightly related to software, to the new world of SisterSites.

It's not so much that they're not tightly related to software, than that they're more tightly related to other things. The cuttings model suggested on WikiZen is a good one. -- KeithBraithwaite

It would be more correct to term this process fragmentation. By emigrating pages to independent Wikis, topics that were peripherally related to software have the peripheral relationship severed completely. I don't like deleted pages either, but WikiEmigration is far worse. Preferable would be a user-customizable filter to RecentChanges so that people who would rather not be spammed with "off-topic" discussions wouldn't feel that their convenience was worth the crippling of a global Wiki environment. -- AndyPierce

Andy, sorry that you feel what we've done was not for the best. Bear in mind that the pages in question still exist on Wiki with pointers to their content on WhyClublet, and the pages on Why employ Clublet's external directory mechanism to link fairly seamlessly back to Wiki. We agree that customizable integration and filtering of RecentChanges would be cool in the future, if mutually acceptable arrangements can be set up between wiki hosts, owners, editors and lurkers. -- RichardDrake, KeithBraithwaite

The first and most successful emigration was of the tax lawyers and accountants in 1996. (I wonder why no-one seems to miss them? We all pay taxes.) The leader of that emigration, JohnDeBruyn, still contributes here, as will Richard and Keith we can only hope. -- WardCunningham

We will contribute (albeit rarely in my case). I was struck by the spin MeatballWiki put on these words at one time. "According to Ward, there was a WikiEmigration of accountants in the distant past.". For those in the fast lane, 1996 was by 2000 the "distant past". Why yes, I suppose back then I was 39 programming in Java and now I'm 43 programming in Java. Hasn't the world moved on? I suggest that the brave new generation of metawiki and interwiki experts needs to learn lessons from this significant success of five years ago. Perhaps it's a little tough to be reminded just how little experience we have of things on which some have already publicly pontificated with such confidence.

I am keen to learn why the JohnDeBruyn emigration worked so well. The WhyClublet emigration I didn't expect to be easy but with generous help and advice from the experts, who at no charge and without even being asked made themselves available, quite suddenly, at all the most difficult moments, it exceeded my expectations! -- RichardDrake


We're still learning about this stuff. MeatballWiki (which attempts to hive off the WikiOnWiki discussions) didn't delete pages from this Wiki. WhyClublet did, and so in a way was a more vigorous (can I use the word "violent"?) split. Is this better? Is it more likely to help WhyClublet succeed? -- DaveHarris

[Later...] People below and elsewhere seem to think I have accused Meatball of stealing material. My intent was exactly the reverse. I wanted to contrast the Meatball "no stealing" startup with the WhyClublet "copy and delete" startup.

Meatball is full of meta-wiki discussion, which is on-topic there. If Meatball hadn't been set up, much of that discussion would have happened here, where many people feel it is off-topic. In that sense the discussion has moved, but the existing content remained. -- DaveHarris

In this case, I assumed that you weren't implying that (having noticed you had written the anonymous text). Other people (including myself a long time ago) have made comments otherwise, however, so I wanted to be clear. Especially because if you consider WikiOnWiki to be WikiWiki on WikiWiki not "Wiki on wikis in general," then it would not be on-topic on MeatballWiki, just like kuro5hin on kuro5hin is not on-topic there (like their constitution debate), although discussion of kuro5hin is. -- SunirShah


The main problem (though in this case not major) I found with WhyClublet was that it was a unilateral decision/action made by actors behind the scenes. On the other hand, with MeatballWiki, I made the unilateral decision not to import the WikiOnWiki flamewars (can you really blame me?). Actually, on MeatballWiki I try to never make unilateral decisions without at least explaining my reasons; I even have a public diary there so people can understand what's going on "behind the scenes" so to speak.

And MeatballWiki has never moved (others) material from Wiki. I have copied material I have written here there, but that's a different issue as I own what I write. I even put pointers back here, as that seems fair. e.g. http://usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?CollectiveIntelligence.

If you consider the pages on a wiki to be the community's resources, then bolstering a (new) community with the resources of another feels like theft to me. Well, theft is a strong word. But it doesn't seem right. A lot of people put effort in the first community, Wiki, in order to build a set of resources that you feel are really good. So, may you appropriate them unilaterally for your own benefit? I don't think so. That wouldn't be respectful of the contributors.

If you look at the current practice of the other major wikis, they almost universally support some sort of http://usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?InterWiki linking scheme. Thus, instead of copying or (worse) moving pages, they just link to them. That follows the principle of unobtrusiveness.

Considering also that if someone decided to even copy pages off of MeatballWiki without permission from the authors I would be severely ticked off. If you tried to move a page without community consent, I would probably consider that an attack. -- SunirShah

Sunir, one point that you fail to mention is that it was Ward's idea to migrate the pages from Wiki to WhyClublet. My understanding is that Ward and RichardDrake discussed this at length. It certainly seems wrong to call what has happened theft.

Theft is certainly the wrong word. It's way too negative. Maybe re-appropriation? -- ss

I agree there are potential problems with the approach, specifically problems with Copyright. One possible solution could be to make sure that permission be sought for any signed material that is to be moved. Of course, what if the person is not reachable, or if permission not granted? The best action to take may be to move the page, minus their contributions. This Wiki would be made more focused, and the new Wiki community would have the potential to be realized. I agree with your right to request that your content not be moved if you do not desire it. (I was glad to see your offer to allow your material to be left on WhyClublet, provided attributions were removed.) I certainly see pitfalls, and am not sure what a good answer is.

At the same time, I am encouraged by what is happening. The religious discussions were considered off-topic to many, and were harshly criticized by a few. By moving the pages, they can become on-topic, and form a nucleus for discussion for those wishing to take the discussion further. Part of the problem of Meatball, in my opinion, is that it has too much influence from one person (you), and this (at least in my case) reduces its attractiveness. Perusing MeatballWiki's RecentChanges, it looks like that on most days, only 3 people contribute to Meatball. WhyClublet has already seen decent volume, due in part to the content that it started with.

If we can come up with a good way to break stuff out and form other communities, everyone would be the winner. I think Wiki is stronger for losing the "off-topic" pages, and WhyClublet may develop into something meaningful for some set of people.

I would be interested in hearing any opinions about a good way to foster WikiEmigration, as it seems better to have smaller focused Wiki communities, rather than one massive, unfocused Wiki community. -- RichardBash

Well, I don't see why Meatball being influenced by myself is much of a hindrance, especially now that I have been very hands off as others are actively involved. Certainly WhyClublet is influenced by RichardDrake and KeithBraithwaite, as that is only natural. As ZWiki is influenced by Simon, kuro5hin by Rusty, and WikiWiki by Ward (cf. ItsWardsWiki). As an aside, both MeatballWiki and kuro5hin, are trying to find ways to devolve power from the administrators to the community. k5 was even considering chartering a constitution recently.

But, I agree. Because MeatballWiki started with its FrontPage, it has had a growth disadvantage from WhyClublet which started with all the WikiWiki content. I think that's fair, and is what I meant about acquiring the resources of another community to start your own. So, really, WhyClublet is a true fork from WikiWiki, whereas MeatballWiki is not. Nor did it ever try to be despite implications that it was trying to acquire the WikiOnWiki stuff.

The best way to fork a community is if the community forks itself. As is happening right now. Even if Ward is behind the move, if the community disagreed, it wouldn't happen. I too am greatly enthused by the community effort in fixing itself. This is far and away a better solution than anything like CategorizedRecentChanges?. People are good. -- SunirShah

I agree, things only happen if the community permits it. I am looking forward to more examples of WikiEmigration. Hopefully, each one will become a smoother process. Thanks for your thoughtful words on this page. -- rb

On WhyClublet, we might want to look critically at the statement "people are good" in isolation. But in the context of CategorizedRecentChanges? it's gospel. Well put.

P.S. MeatballWiki has way more traffic than that, certainly reminiscent of WikiWiki not too long ago, which is pretty cool. (Doubling in value every month!) http://usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?action=rc&all=1&showedit=1&days=7; http://sunir.org/apps/visits.pl; http://sunir.org/apps/visits.pl?unique=1; http://sunir.org/apps/refers.pl?targets=1&orphans=1. Things have changed quite a bit after you left. Why don't you give it another look? Your comments were very appreciated.


A final thought on stealing content. The less pejorative situation when an actor is said to steal a scene came to mind as I re-skimmed the above. I guess when we take stuff from Wiki, with permission, that has to be our joint aim, so to improve it with new scenery and a new, maybe reduced, set of actors as to transform it. Otherwise there's no point. -- RichardDrake

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