Wiki Is No Sand Castle

Quote from SandCastles:
Sand castles are properly built just ahead of the incoming tide. Very impermanent, very WabiSabi. Much like the text we leave here on the wiki (after all, we even have a page called WikiWikiSandbox).

Wiki is not a sand castle. A sand castle is built for its temporal beauty, and is not expected to last long. Once words are put on Wiki, it goes against the prevailing culture to ever remove them. But wiki does have a sandbox.

Does anyone have a metaphor that would fit? Something that can only grow, never shrink? I thought about the DeadSea?, as there is no drain, and so it always grows in mineral content, but didn't like the dead conotations, as Wiki is definitely not dead.

My waistline!

Indeed, the connotations of the parallel with the DeadSea? are disturbing. Think fast everyone of a more apt analogy that will not encourage ... the bad people, the children who treat Wiki like they were just playing with SandCastles.

Or perhaps relax in the knowledge that it took some time for the Dead Sea to become dead. Over a hundred or even a thousand years, say, Wiki may indeed die in this sense. Or perhaps live as a succession of wonderful SandCastles?


Wiki is the beach. On human timescales, it's always there and never seems to change, but it's actually constantly renewed and resculpted. Some grains of sand, shells, flotsam and jetsam get washed away with the change of tide and winds, while the same or another change will deposit new things. The beach here this year is not the beach that was here last year, and the beach next summer will be a different one yet again.

After many long lives of Wikizens, perhaps it will be eroded away entirely, or perhaps it will build up to a solid layer of limestone. Whichever happens, it will certainly be a very different ecosystem. -- StevenNewton


There's the library analogy, with its BackStacks?.

You can't write in the books, though. Well, you can. But then you get your crayons taken away and get put in the corner.

There's CollectiveIntelligence and CollectiveNotepad. ThingsOnWikisMind. Perhaps a jungle.


Does anyone have a metaphor that would fit? Something that can only grow, never shrink?

How about a software deliverables requirements list.

Or an impoverished man's debt.

Or (more applicable) the brain's gray matter.

...or MicrosoftWindows.

To keep the sand/sea analogy, I'd suggest coral reefs - growing by building on what came . Alas, today I'm told, that reefs are fast dying from too great an impact from humans. Perhaps that part of the analogy holds too...

So the people that started the ancient Wiki civilization weren't fully human? It's an attractive theory that could explain a lot. From the boring details of TheWikiWay to the exciting revelations of ChariotsOfTheWikiMasters?, there will always be value in competing viewpoints.


I don't know about y'all, but any system which is to be considered useful must be pruned from time to time (exactly why software deliverables requirements lists are seldom useful !!) What is the community's viewpoint on pruning ?? Granted, I wouldn't want my stuff erased, but if free expression is to be encouraged then we must trust each other to mold content into ways that we might not agree with

The community's viewpoint on pruning is probably that it's someone else's job, pretty much like the wine consumer's viewpoint on the pruning of grapes. The tide (switching back to original metaphor now) erases the castle but not the castle's architecture or the knowledge applied in building it or the knowledge reaped from that activity. Setting fire to the meadow poses little threat to the mature trees, and helps their little seeds to germinate. Hint hint.


Perhaps pruning can be made to be automatic. Say, a page which has had no contributions to it, or was not read, for more than a year, might be then removed?

Wiki could maintain a list of pages which are to be removed, to give people one last chance to keep them alive by just clicking on the links to them.

Just a thought,

your friendly neighbourhood AnonymousCoward

Pruning is decision-making; if someone else is doing then thinking, then what are we doing?

A better idea would be to LetTheHumanPullTheTrigger. The automated process just adds moribund pages to a list, and removes them from the list if they become active. The WikiGnomes can check the list every now and again and prune the deadwood. In other words, the automated process just becomes a tool like QuickChanges to make the WikiGnomes' lives easier.


If a year's worth of viewers can look at a page and see nothing to change then surely this is a sign that the page is perfect. [Uh, oh -- problem. See DeathByPerfection.]


The idea that data should be discarded if no one has prodded or poked it for some time is consistent with a quaint (Western?) concept that KnowledgeGetsOld?. Our society seems to be have a fondness for only keeping the newest (and thus the kewl-est) stuff, and burying whatever has become "OldAndBoring?" in the eyes of GenerationNow?.

I, on the other hand, have a real "thing" personally for PreservationOfTechnology? and the prevention of DataLoss? (KnowledgeDecay?) through chronic social fad thinking. I may not want to know how to bake a loaf of sourdough bread for more than a year, but I don't want to lose that know-how.

I would not suggest that Wiki should become the repository-of-all-data-ever, but I would not encourage discarding data just because someone hasn't seen it or touched it lately. If a piece of data has not been seen in a long time and if, on examination, it's a non-trivial piece of data, I would ask why has it not been seen? I might look into a system of indexing that tends to encourage access to otherwise little-used information. But the idea that a snakebite cure becomes useless just because no one has been bitten in a year is surely not good sense. -- GarryHamilton


Call me 23, but I think knowledge does age--for the individual. After a certain point, the familiar ceases to inspire... To wade around in the DeadSea? (to twist the analogy further) can do you no good. The problem then becomes keeping oneself surrounded by knowledge new enough (to the individual) to inspire. Otherwise stagnation leads to out-and-out nihilism. And what then?

For wikis, which are a community of individuals, too much unchanging content can cause too many to stagnate. And just like the old TootsieRollDilemma?, or "How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?", the community runs the risk of isolating so many individuals that the community collapses under it's own weight.

That said, I DO support wiki as a collection of all knowledge ever. OneWikiToRuleThemAll. I believe that the challenge of such an undertaking, the polar opposite of the TootsieRollDilemma? (approaching infinity in other words), would be enough to sustain every member of the human race into the future indefinitely.


The FalseDichotomy on this page (especially near the top) is that Wiki is either a SandCastle? which will certainly be eroded, or the DeadSea? which can only accumulate salt forever. It is both and neither, somewhere in between. Wiki is like a city. It started as a log cabin, founded by one person. It attracted others to settle, to build their own domiciles, and to put in roads, markets, wells, and parks. It grew still more and erected a town hall, maybe even a church or two, some city walls to protect against wild animals, some works of art, statues, buildings, museums. It tore down some of the old shacks to make way for bigger and better buildings. Instead of wells, it has a water treatment plant and sewers. Etc. etc. etc. A city may live for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. In some ways things remain the same, in some ways the old makes way for the new. All the while, people live in it and work to make the city a better place. They are called citizens. We are called WikiZens.
CategoryMetaphor

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