Wikish and the Personal Public Wiki

First, an announcement. I've started a wiki. I'm calling it, appropriately enough "wikish." You can see a brief introduction and note about my intentions there.

I've written a bunch here about the peculiarities of building communities and practices around "the wiki," as I think it represents a new paradigm for thinking about collaboration and "the text." I'm, slowly, working on building a community around the cyborg institute wiki, and that's an ongoing (and fairly specific) project. I've also, in much smaller ways, done things with wikis in a couple of other situations: for some group projects I've been involved with, a few things for work, and so forth. Perhaps more relevantly, I also used a wiki--much like this one and the others I am responsible for--as the system I used for storing everything in my brain. From these experiences I've come to the following conclusion:

  • In any given wiki, most of the "work," particular at the beginning, is accomplished by a very small number of contributors. Potentially only one contributor.

    Critical mass is a difficult thing to manage or predict, and if you start a wiki and you want it to succeed, you have to be ready to do all of the work of getting it to critical mass, which could take a long time. Fair warning.

  • Wikis are incredibly unstructured. It's easy to impose structure on a new wiki, in cases where structure will actually hinder growth and development rather than promote development. Particularly if the kind of content you hope to develop is wiki like. For personal organization tasks, wikis are often not the right answer, even if they appear to work for a long time.

  • Creating a page in a wiki is often better and more effective than writing an email of some length (say, more than 250 words), particularly when more than two people are involved in the correspondence.

  • I need another wiki like I need a hole in the head. But, I like that wikish is both public--you all can watch and contribute to what I'm working on--and focused on what I'm working on. The personal wiki, the one that was just for internal use suffered from lack of audience even an imagined audience.

  • I think putting the novella that I wrote in late 2007 into a wiki and working on revisions and tweaks in that context makes a great deal of sense, and I think wikish feels like the "right place" to put that work.

So that's the plan. I'll probably post from time to time about new things that I'm posting there, and I'm perfectly happy to have you all make pages in wikish as you want. I've also decided, that wikish will require OpenIDs as the only means of authentication. Just cause. See you there!

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