Meat Ball Commentary

This is a page on SocialDynamics at MeatballWiki (and WikiWikiWeb). The general category of "discussions about MeatBall" are best done on MeatBall, but MeatBall is not OffTopic for c2, and the other way around as well. It's perfectly legitimate to discuss things about MeatBall if that discussion brings some kind of value to this wiki. Anyway, there seems to be a natural interest and intellectual curiosity on both sides. This is the original wiki, and it should be of interest to MeatBall.

MeatballWiki was originally created to move away from WikiWikiWeb and has always had its own life. Its crew departed for reasons. Now, unsurprisingly, years later Meatball and WikiWikiWeb are so divergent we don't even understand each other.

A serious difference between MeatBall and c2 is that Sunir is a hands-on leader, while Ward is a mostly hands-off, very reluctant and discreet leader. It's good that founders explore different ways (we would learn nothing when all wikis would adopt the WikiPedia-NPOV-admin structure and start building encyclopedias - it wouldn't work anyway). Ward is minimalistic, and known to interfere only when it is absolutely necessary, and predictable (possibly in his inaction, rather than in his actions). His tastes are very different from those of MeatBall, WikiPedia and so on - he likes open access and DoTheSimplestThingThatCouldPossiblyWork so much that he has been (and is still) loath to adopt the solutions that some others regard as "obvious". Such differences in tastes shouldn't be confused with lack of expertise.

MeatBall doesn't feel obliged to offer freedom and openness in an abstract sense but it tries to be as free and open as possible in a practical sense. Compared to WardsWiki, pages and content are rarely deleted. As a rough estimate, some 80% of what is written stays that way, 15% is ReFactored sooner or later and perhaps only 5% is deleted. None of this happens without peer review and some consent. The number of people that have ever been banned is small, maybe 3-5, most of whom are also barred from WikiWikiWeb. MeatBall has a systematic body of descriptive theory about what happens with online communities, but we can still be surprised along the way of how little we know. The only community that has proved to have built the organizational knowledge needed to run things smoothly on a huge scale is WikiPedia, and WikiPedia is of a very different nature.

WardsWiki and WikiPedia are not good examples or good places to learn because they have so special situations. MeatBall isn't better informed because it has a better community, but because it looks at many communities and gathers experiences from them - like a market to trade experiences and views.

Does a wiki need the kind of complex socio-political patterns discussed in extenso at MeatBall in order to prosper? MeatBall doesn't only have these, but, it also gathers them and actively develops and explores them. To think that all that is necessary or useful would be a misunderstanding. It might be seen like a GUI toolbox where you select what you need and find plausible.

On the other hand, any community should know about its goals and should be able to communicate about its goals, so that people can cooperate efficiently and know what adds value. Part of WikiPedia's success is that it's so easy to understand what its goal is.

MeatBall seems to know what it wants and it seems to be able to make decisions as a community. WardsWiki seems far from that. (Ever heard of the expression HerdingCats?) It is also not at all clear that we'd want to go there. Some people think that no-one really knows what the goal of WardsWiki really is - but, contrary to this, WelcomeVisitors hasn't changed in a long time, and therein the goals are communicated and pretty easy to understand. A major goal was declared by Ward himself: PeopleProjectsAndPatterns. There is also a subtle spin on this - serve the WikiReader.

There were, relatively recently within the existence of this site, a bunch of people who felt entitled to decide what the goal is, regardless of community opinion. Because SoftSecurity was unable to defend against them quite a lot of damage was done; however they are no longer with us since the advent of the stewards, who were equipped with technical means to address the issue.

But, technical means can only solve certain superficial problems. You can block spam or ban extreme people. But whatever technical or social borders you create, you will still have basically the same problems inside of the system. There will still people who disagree or compete for social status. You will still face the problem to produce value and consensus. No silver bullet will save us from that.

We have to accept that our chances to influence the behaviour of certain people by arguments is limited. We can ignore it, laugh at it, take legal actions or put in some HardSecurity. They are autonomous and they are responsible for what they do.

On the other hand, we can synchronize our behaviour. We can create understanding where it is lacking. We can create consensus about how we think about some of these issues. Whatever consensus we reach, it would have credibility and strength far beyond that troublemakers could ever reach. And it would attract people - at some later point - saying "yes, that makes sense".

If we act as a group, the problems become small. If we act as individuals, the problems are large and the burden is on each single individual and each interaction. If we adapt to any aggressive behaviour, the problems become paramount. To solve the problems, we have to understand that not they are the real solvable problem, but maybe we are an important part of the problem. Our WikiConsensus is the problem that we can solve and therefore have to solve. At present, there isn't even a clear picture about how one could know that a consensus has been reached.

On the topic of behavior, it's advisable not to transport your emotional baggage between wikis, or between any other part of the net and here. In general, try to avoid emotional baggage altogether, not only by not bringing it here from other places, but also by refusing to accumulate it there as well. Before writing something here, you shouldn't worry "does this make me look good or bad?", instead considering "What value does this bring to the WikiReader?". When emotional baggage accumulates, TheSimplestThing is to just delete it.

Emotions and egos are part of human nature, and sometimes they cannot be denied out of existence. So, when the above rules does not apply, more subtle approaches are needed. But, just like in programming, TheSimplestThing should cover a wide range of territory. And although amotions and egos have a bad reputation, they're like most poisons: in the right (minimal) dosage, they have a surprising positive effect. The problem is just that they're so slippery that it's very easy to have an overdose.

More ego can be seen on MeatBall, where people sign most of their contributions and usernames all over RecentChanges, different to c2. The desire of MeatBall regulars, though, is to feel like interacting like normal people who know and respect each other.

An online community is (like) a real world community: It makes local choices (rules, guidelines, standards, visions) and expects that these choices are respected. It makes sense to think that an online community has the right to do so. Choices at community A do mean nothing for community B, except perhaps to serve as an example; and in this case MeatballWiki has a set of WikiSocialNorms that are divergent from what it has historically been the case on WardsWiki. This works for MeatBall's community: they are satisfied with the results they get out of the choices they make.
Contributors: CostinCozianu, HelmutLeitner, DougMerritt, SunirShah, AnonymousDonors. Refactored from ThreadMode by EarleMartin.
See also CtwoCommentary.

View edit of March 10, 2006 or FindPage with title or text search