Abstract: Wiki technology (199x-2005) seems to afford (SocialAffordance) sectarianism. People meet in real life, and share ideas freely, with comfortable room for disagreement. But then they meet in wiki, and things get sectarian. Why is this, and what possible solutions are there?
We seem to have several wiki which are controlled by cliques. When people mix well with the clique, they can go (or skip) through the VisitorRole, the GuestRole, and CommunityMember, as described in the SuggestedWikiRoleModel. When they don't, they can become an UnwantedVisitor?, and have to leave.
What is surprising is that when people in the greater wiki community meet and gather, many of these exclusions are not present; They're simply not there. People who have difficulty getting along together in wiki regularly have an easy time getting along in person.
Why is this?
Perhaps it goes like so:
WikiIsDocumentBased. Documents are things that are made for frequent rereading (DocumentsVsMessages.) In a CommunalWiki, where a community or clique (CliquesAndCommunity?) maintains what is written there, much more care goes into what the document says. Thus there is a SocialAffordance towards sectarianism.
We may be looking at recent visitors, and see that EmileKroeger and MattisManzel are in the same space, at the same time. But there's no practical easy way for us to flag down to have a conversation together; The technology is highly anti-social in this respect.
This is to show that the problem of having communications almost entirely document-based
(AKA: "Der ain't room fer Two Sherrifs in dis town!")
There are a number of "strong personalities" (not sure what term to use) in wiki.
It seems that these strong personalities have difficulty cohabiting the same PageDatabase. Perhaps the ArgumentPyramids conflict with one another: The strong personalities function as MindGuards, and do not want ThoughtChunks that they consider unacceptable to take root in the wiki; In particular, if they feel that the arguments are UnderCut.
Finally: Many problems are very quickly averted when you have the rich communication granted by RealTime? interaction. You have ParaLanguage, you have social cues, you have all these things that delineate boundaries and permissions. An argument that would take 2 weeks in text can be peacably resolved in 30 seconds, in the material world.
It's much easier to guage what is going on, what is needed, etc., etc.,.
There are a few proposed solutions to the problem.
CostinCozianu brought forward the observation that conflicts don't happen in the material world that do happen in the wiki world, and pointed out the significant collaborations that are lost.
While WikiVanning, MarkDilley noted a similarity in the interactions around myself (LionKimbro) and BrandonCsSanders. I had noted it to myself before, and considered this an independent corroboration of what I'd perceived.
That said, I don't think that's the problem behind WikiSectarianism.
Why do I think it's the technology, and not the personality? Because all three personalities listed, and Costin as well, were present at WikiSym, and had no problem interacting with one another fruitfully.
Pretty interesting point, it ties a lot of issues together.
I'd say the main factor is the DocumentMode, the fact that things that are said tend to stay said until deleted or refactored. That makes disagreements and conflicts (even petty stuff) stick out like a sore thumb. In real life, or on Irc or even forums, those things tend to slip away and out of people's memories.
So, maybe a rule for designing the ultimate OneBigSoup-ish DevelopersVirtualWorld communication and interaction system of the future is to have disagreements occur only in "live" interaction ? They could be spelled out in the static part, but only after everybody is sure to understand each other's position.
So anyway, I'd say, yes, it's the technology. It may have to do with the AttentionEconomy? too - disagreements on wiki will be seen by more people. So, we may not be as welcoming of criticism when it's branded on our face for all to see. We may prefer to have our position stand alone, without the DevilsAdvocate following it everywhere.
According to Lion: "The problem isn't the technology; The problem is that his ideas are incompatible with mine. I want to live in a place with people who don't think like he does."
If you follow this credo you'll end up living in some kind of cave. The problem is not so much that you sacrifice a few topics that you may develop in common, the problem is when you sacrifice a few friends that you may have in common with people who think like Nicholas Carr. By the way, does he have some kind of lepper or something ? It doesn't look like he's neo-nazi, much less that he's some kind of commie activist. The fact you get so pumped up about him is quite shocking – did you read something else by him other than that URL ( http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2005/10/the_amorality_o.php ) ?
The measure by which you shall judge if WCP will be successful will be if it will force people like you to coexist in the same conceptual space with people whose thoughts you do not quite like.
I think video and other real time features are just distractions. What is sorely lacking on wikis is commitment to substance, intellectual effort and critical spirit. And giving up the egos for real, not just declaratively. Those conditions are not facilitated in any way by real time features, on the contrary, real time encourages more superficiality and shoddy work. And speaking to the observation that some "strong" personality interacted quite well at WikiSym, that is explained quite easily because all the interactions at WikiSym were to some extent superficial. A Roman proverb goes like this: Verba volant, scripta manent. All the words at wikisym flew.
A real change could be fostered if the marketplace of ideas and content in the wikidom (a form of AttentionEconomy? ), will be truly a free market – it is a far cry from that now. I see a strong indication of this problem in the fact that while the blogging world and the wiki world have roughly the same quality of content on average, the peek quality content in the blogging world is so much better than in the wiki world. Ward himself has not contributed much technical content lately on C2, but he contributed to the blogging media and other form of restricted environments. In my opinion this is because the marketplace of blogs is so much freer. A detailed discussion of this problem is at Wiki:WcpMotivation.
The problem is partly technical but essentially it is cultural. The world of wiki has to grow up and foster a better culture including a true commitment to pluralism (and away from sectarianism).
Damn, you aren't this rude in real life.
It's not essentially cultural. We didn't have these kinds of problems in real life.
Polite conversation is a warmer up to bigger things, Costin. The way it works is this:
That's how it works.
I think you have some sort of problem, where you think that everything should consist of logical argument, and you think that niceties and comfort zones are these horrible things that only get in the way of progress.
It seems like you are trying to construct some technology to somehow force people into interactions that you want to have. I don't think it will work; I don't think people will choose to play ball with you.
You're pretty close to UnwelcomeVisitor, in my book, because they way you are talking is offensive.
You think what you want and you can get offended by whatever suits you. What I meant to say is that when those comfy zones you are talking about grow up to the extent that you can say "I want to live in a place with people who don't think like he does.", this is no longer a "comfy zone" but a Berlin Wall. That's an insult to your friends who are now forewarned that certain kinds of thought are verbotten, and by transitive closure making friends and living in the same virtual place (wiki) with other people who may hold impure thoughts on topics that are itchy to Lion.
My idea is not to force anybody to wcp, but to empower people to colaborate in a better wiki space, such that creating your little islands where some group applies pretty much "I don't suffer fools like you" will no longer look as justifiable as it looks now.
Currently the "strong personalities" – as you say – can invoke the following pretext: "If we allow people like Costin Cozianu to express their impure way of thinking on our wikis, or their impure pesky style, the collaboration will be ruined and nothing will get done. So with much regret we'll have to give up our commitment to pluralism in order to hype our vision and raise our barns. It's a small price we have to pay for the greater good of society."
So my project is to create a wiki space (possibly global just like Usenet) that will feature Wiki:ComfortableRoomForDisagreement, pluralism for real, and a real marketplace of content and ideas. That would empower contributors who are more comitted to a better kind of culture, and that cultural space will foster much better content and allow much better collaboration than what happens now. And quality contributors will naturally move away from islands that hold them prisoners to various petty mishaps. Quality contributors already voted with their feet vis-a-vis C2, WikiPedia, MeatBall. I don't know your history here but I would be surprised if it did not happen here as well.
In this sense, if a project like wcp is successful, you may end up being forced to live in a wiki space together with people who commit the terrible sin of thinking in a way that you disapprove of. Because if you won't do it, you'll end up at the bottom of the AttentionEconomy?. If wcp is not successful you may end up at the bottom anyways, because there are blogs, there's the formal publishing culture, the paid for content, and countless other things – including the ones we have yet to find out – that compete with wikis. If wikis don't fix what's broken they'll end up being irrelevant.
And this ends my brief excursion on your little island. It's true that at WikiSym I didn't look this "rude" to you, but I couldn't imagine at WikiSym if anybody at all would have landed at our table you could have uttered something along the lines: "I don't want to sit at a table with people who think like X".
On the other hand I bid you good luck pursuing video, chat, and other "real time" features if that's what you think will make you happy. Have fun !
We've learned some valuable ideas while you were here, thank you.
I look forward to talking with you in person or by voice at some point, perhaps we can get clear on some of these ideas, and figure things out.
If not, after a few months, I think we'll all be cool, and perhaps we can start again.
Here's somet thinking out loud.
Things I'm inspired to talk about:
I think it's important to figure out what our goals are.
One thing is that we want KnowledgeFromDebate. On the other hand, we want to be able to collaborate with like-minded people: to build machines, to further develop ideas, to enjoy company.
In the IslandsOfPerspective? model, the island has both Eastern & Western coasts (for interacting with others,) and a center (for interacting with the sympathetic.)
That said: We are deeply constrained by technology.
We are actually strongly in favor of having the ability to collaborate with others who think differently than us. Actually, I think this is a mis-statement: It's not the type of people we want to collaborate with, so much, as it is the types of conversations we want to have.
We've been talking about this in terms of "type of person," but it's actually different than that:
That's important because there are times where there's someone who isn't our type of person, but who we are willing to collaborate with, just as long as the subject is right.
For example, I would be willing to share a room with Costin to talk about building a ReputationSystem? together. That's an idea that I believe in, and I think it rocks. I would not be willing to share a room with Costin to talk about whether the Enlightenment was a good idea or not. Costin is against it, I'm for it, and I have no interest in discussing the question. This is a DeepDisagreement, this is a fundamental question, and I simply have no interest in perusing the discussion. It can only serve to distract me from my (Enlightenment-based) efforts.
It is interesting that the relative ease of getting along in real life and the relative difficulty of avoiding conflicts in wikis is seen as a negative aspect of wiki. It seems that communication in wikis is much more intense, has much more meaning and relevance than communication in real life. So we take it more seriously.
Writing here means to communicate in the public. Real life is rarely in such a public. If there is actually a stage in front of a public the actions are ritualized as a performance or lecture or panel discussion and people know that the public is limited and how not to hurt each other. In the wiki, the public is actually very limited, but people perceive this differently, so some people perceive it as unlimited. And actually, even if only 1-3 lurkers follow this discussion here (this assumption could be verified by looking into the server logs) this text can probably be read weeks or years from now, so it has much more weight than a action in real life that is forgotten very quickly. So this is a bit about "attention" and "ego" and there must be dozens of wiki pages about this here, at mb and c2, but I think there is something more substancial than that. Anyway wiki communication gets more weight by the medium, so it is taken more seriously. Is the weight something bad? I don't think so, we should be happy that we have a strong medium.
On the other hand, wiki communication goes much deeper than real world discussions. Currently I'm sitting 20 feet from my mother, 86 years old, lying in her bed, waiting for death. I'm caring a bit for her during the weekend. Yesterday evening I sat with my brother and we talked about religion, philosophy, death and violence. Although we know each other very well, think a lot about these things, the real world talk was superficial, jumping from topic to topic, rephrasing well-known arguments, nowhere going deep. Being used to wiki, reflecting on this evening is painful for me. Wiki communication is able to dig deep, and in doing so, we get much nearer to each other than in real life. We share our thoughts, our visions, sometimes our intuition and our hopes, maybe our fears and believes. Some people even prefer to stay anonymous, because they don't want other people to read so deep in their - real life - existence. It is quite clear that this range of intimacy needs some care because otherwise we feel hurt and will defend. If people grow together, can rely upon each other, to be respected and listened to, does it fit to see this as a clique or soemthing sectarian? I don't think so.
Gut thoughts… Wiki is a slow communication tool. Sometimes people need to DisuadeInteraction? with each other, let others be without over-reacting. (this includes me) - SunirShah has something with his thoughts on the passion stuff, which I have reacted against for a while, but it seems to me that when people are not as close to face to face as possible, it is fairly easy for communication to go awry. Hopefully additional technologies will help us get to a different space. Until then, in my opinion, wiki is for exploring deeper thoughts, and less on reacting to others thoughts. – MarkDilley
Perhaps it's not so much that wiki are sectarian as they are cliquish.
Granted: There is overlap– We tend to be cliquish with people who think like we do. But that's not totally it.
Thus it is not the thoughts / ideas that are the problem, it's that we need to trust that emotional health will be preserved in the conversation. The way things are presented, who is presenting, has a lot to do with things.
Do just mean mean WikiRudeness?? Or WikiDisagreeability?? Because I don't see "sectarian" as having a lot of applicability here… unless disagreements come from pigeonholing people - "oh he's just one of those airy-fairy SoftSecurity chucklheads"
Well, I think you're right. (Then again, being a participant in this particular conflict, I'm not to judge.)
But there's still a general perception that wiki are sectarian. And CC was very nice and agreeable at WikiSym: What is it about wiki (or our society) such that we aren't all interacting. There's "the way the Meatball people think," and "the way the CW people think," and (insert wiki community here.) All these little islands of perspective. Further, most of Meatball likes most of CW, and most of CW likes most of Meatball.
CC was responding (most immediately) to my treatment of Nicholas Carr's ideas- I wrote: "I just don't think Nicholas Carr has a place at the CommunityWiki. We're pumped about this technology. He's not." (And again, later, more emphatically: "No, Nicholas Carr wouldn't have a place here. (paragraph.) If Nicholas Carr were here, I would not: I would go somewhere else to write.")
So, is this sectarian or not?
What makes me not want to be on the wiki, if Carr is publishing here? I suppose if there were no IntegrationAndIdentity conflict- if Carr & I were able to rework our views into a single DocumentMode that worked well, then it would be fine.
But just reading a few of the things he's written, I think I see enough DeepDisagreement in worldview, that it would take way too long for us to integrate our separate views.
If Carr were long time friend with us, then we would have two sections: One on his version, and one on our version. (Demonstration: Alex & I differ on several issues, such as when big bang development works, and on whether or not groups are real. But this is not a DeepDisagreement.) But he's not our close friend, and so we don't have a seperate section for him.
So, I think that there is some sectaranism, based on whether there is DeepDisagreement between people, and social connection.
That said: Let's suppose Carr were to post a link to his page, and place it in a section called: "Dissenting opinions." Then that would probably be okay. (Provided he was polite about it, and all.)
So by this way of thinking:
If Richard Carr follows community rules, becomes part of our clique over time, then his view will likely be included, either by tempering the main text, or by MinorityReport?.
If you're trying to follow OneWikiPerSubject?, then excluding membership becomes a big problem.
I read this page in terms of trying to figure out how to be in the same wiki space with others. It was fairly easy to be in the same physical space as others from our various wiki communities, but even I, (me of all people! , responded on another wiki in an inappropriate way. It is just hard to work with each other in text. (I am feeling like I need to express my ideas on this in a WikiIsSlow? page or something.) WikiCommunicationIsHard?, just like all communication is hard. ForgiveAndForget is an excellent WikiPractice, which will hopefully over-ride the difficulties of this communication format. I am not sure if the idea is to exclude folks, but to rather be clearer about the WikiCommunityStandards? that newcomers and oldtimers alike, are expected to abide by. I do wiki because it is engaging, fun and important to me. If work on a wiki ceases to be that, I will leave, but not after a good try to DisuadeInteraction? with the persons causing conflict. (p.s. all this might be crap if I am off base on this…) Best, MarkDilley
I like what BillSeitz said on RiotsInFrance: "While one can welcome critics, etc. it can be tiresome to keep debating first-principles, etc. It becomes more productive (perhaps) for each party to move their own visions forward independently."
Maybe we should have a sign that says "Sorry, we won't put into question all of our PointsOfUnity, we're SelectivelyOpenMinded about some things. If you want to challenge the whole of A, please go to the wiki XXX. If you are not sure of what you think of A, or just want to offer a few comments, you're welcome ! "
Or, well, something like that. Sectarianism as a mechanism for channelling collective information processing at the local level, in a system designed so that this doesn't result in major faults at the global level. OrganizedCulture.
I feel much more comfortable in closing my ears to a worlview or an idea when I know that the question is being discussed in a system I trust.
Emile, the idea of debating a wikis FirstPrinciples? is interesting. This is a direct question about how we deal with newcomers and disagreement. (I am thinking that one way to try to manage the monotonous questions of newbies is to have newbies help create the FAQ - and we can try to manage questions or challanges this way. Think of the diff of the points or arguements and ask a question regarding that… CommunityWikiFaq FrequentlyAskedQuestions.
A. Because it's about communities?
Oh, excuse me. Sorry.
Didn't mean to raise my voice.
I don't know; I thought the MissionStatement was pretty good: This is a jam session.
And, yes, jam sessions are cliques. And, yes, they are open, and that's not a contradiction.
But, seriously, I think there's something here: The word "Community" attracts people who are sympathetic to RadicalInclusiveness (and it's related brethren,) and I think that we need a statement that says that we have CommunityExpectations, that we the SuggestedWikiRoleModel, that we are not a "we will strive to include your idea, no matter what" community. That we are closer to a clique than a community or a society. That we accept visitors. That, that, that, … (etc., etc., etc.,.)
I think there's a ritual liberal-stereotype-notion-skewering page that we link to prominantly.
Oy vey; It's 1:41 AM here; I should be asleep.
We should wait for Alex to get back, though, before having that sort of conversation.
Emile, I like what you are saying. Yes, I see the OrganizedCulture there. And we've written somewhere about how we should point people to a place where what they want to talk about is on-topic. This requires some degree of organization. I think it'd be difficult with our current technology, though: we need some way of finding out where a given conversation is "active" within a given "society." We need to formalize SocietyCommunityClique? in the sphere of InterCommunityCooperation. (Which I'm now recognizing is InterCliqueCooperation?.) We need a notion of "teams," like we have a notion of "working groups" in the IETF.
I can just feel it. It's so right in front of me, but hazy, foggy, fuzzy.
There are cliques of people that are person-aligned, not subject-aligned. And then there are those groups that gather because they are subject-aligned. And then we have an external framework that we need to discover. (In MindCamp, this is easy: The "external framework" is a physical space, who's there, and some expectations about how the convening board works, and how meals are consumed.)
We need degrees and some formalities. We need "flags" of some sort, that resemble the identifying character of the website.
Perhaps we should produce CommunityWiki badges, pins. Perhaps we could produce them for a few communities at once: C2, Meatball, CW, and others that we don't know about yet. And then recommend their use during physical gatherings, and for use on personal websites / blogs.
Argh; I can just feel it. It's like I can reach out and touch it.
But we're diverging. Mark: I don't know if you disagree, or if I've just mis-interpreted. But I feel very much that the questions of WikiSectarianism are like: "Are CommunalWiki naturally sectarian, or are there some that are not; Is it right that sectarian CommunalWiki are sectarian? Is S23 (to choose an example) sectarian, or is the word "sectarian" only reserved for wiki that have some sort of intentionally excluding nature? Do wiki lose their virginity at first conflict, and then become irreversibly sectarian? Is DocumentMode something that pushes us towards sectarianism?"
That is, I don't think that the question of WikiSectarianism is, really, underneath the covers, just a question of how do we treat newcommers to a clique. It's a related question, but I don't think that the questions of WikiSectarianism are a conceptual mistake, a looking at one question when we should have been looking at another.
(That said: They're both interesting questions, and I may have just mis-interpreted what you said.)
(aside - bolding means raising voice? -oops ) One of the thnings we all talked about at WikiSym and on WikiVanning is that there is a tension between working on things that a person wants to, has and gets energy for/from. -and- the "handholding" of newbies and "negotiation" of non-newbies who see the community and think they would fit, thus they post (my arguement for RadicalInclusion? is for this fact). Because WikiIsHard? - it may be easier to just fork or DrawUpTheGate? when dealing with folks. I think this is one of the essential questions of wiki, for me. How does a wiki handle newbies and other conflicts? To me the relavance is - that I just fundamentally don't believe that WikiSectarianism is the root question. Best, Mark
I think we do need another page for what you're talking about.
Maybe call it HandHolding?? Do you want to write it?
More on redirecting discussion to somewhere else ("this is not the best place to put our principles into question, please go over there for the discussion, we're keeping an eye on what's going on over there, don't worry"):
Academia seems to do it pretty well. The scientific community is split by topic, not just by "groups of mostly like-minded people". You have journals and conferences, and people all over the world know what's going on in their specific field. And the subject field is pretty fractal - you can always find sub-specialties, there seems to be a nearly infinite number of domains - at least, even a small corner has enough to fill a busy scholar's life. And different fields are aware of each other, and can defer questions to each other, and have (varying degrees of) trust in each other. Looks like OrganizedCulture to me.
And when you think about it, online discussion used to be organized roughly along those lines : UseNet was (ok, and still is), a neat hierarchy. Can TheSeptemberThatNeverEnded be blamed for breaking up that neat, functional OrganizedCulture ? Maybe, I don't know. UseNet was certainly lacking some of the successful features of academia.
Maybe it's just that it's easier to segment science than to segment discussions about topics everybody feels entitled to have an opinion about; which means online communities often end up talking about everything. Or at least, prefer to have their own vision on a topic than to defer to somewhere else.
I feel I'm gliding off track. Anyway. Lion seems excited about instant, rich communication; and I agree, going through a keyboard and a piece of plastic is painful. Ting-like stuff is the way to go for better communication, better and quicker cooperation. But I'm not convinced it's itself the solution to OrganizedCulture or "finding the truth" or "attaining consensus".
Lion's interested in redirecting people to somewhere where there's an active conversation on a topic. But I don't know how much a conversation can stay active - if it's a good place to redirect people on an issue, there must be some topics that keep coming up over and over again, fossilized in a FAQ (And I believe FAQs are important ! There's a lot of noise about Wikipedia, but I think the FAQ is also something new and exciting that appeared with online culture). And that's the stuff newcomers would be interested in, not what the community would be currently discussing, which would be mostly details and edge cases.
And that's why I'm interested in alternative debate methods, MappingArguments, WikiDramaForDebate and DoubleWiki. Ways to represent the current state of the debate, of the disagreement, maybe allowing it to fracture, subdivide and specialize in the same way that academia does.
Hmh. Again, I feel I'm being too abstract and speculative. But, that's roughly what I think of the subject, it's interesting. Maybe this would fit better in OrganizedCulture. Maybe I should try to clean up the various debate-centered pages I had spawned, and make what's salvageable fit a bit better with the topics discussed lately.
Scanning OrganizedCulture again, I realize I may not be taliking about exactly the same thing. I'm more interested in having some organized online debate that can help us look for truth, or at least, allow different points of view to be visible, have their key differences explained better, and get rid of hatred, paranoia and sectarianism. That's close to OrganizedCulture, but not identical to what's being talked about over there. Or, maybe it's a special case of what you can do with OrganizedCulture.
But then, I don't want to go spill over there, keeping the conversation narrow seems better.
We're going all over the map in this discussion now; I guess WikiSectarianism is dead.
Emile: With instant, rich communication, you get a qualitative change in discussion. We saw that while WikiVanning. To have the conversations that we had while WikiVanning… - It would literally take us at least a couple years talking here on CommunityWiki. With that rich communication, I think, comes a certain ordering of conversations.
Further, you can do things like we did at MindCamp, which, again, is rich real-time interaction. At MindCamp, we had an OpenSpace style wall, and you find a place, find a time, and then convene at that time and space. A limited number of convening spaces is a physical limitation, because there's only so much space, but it's also a positive feature, in that it focuses the energy of the people present, more or less. There was still plenty of time, it's just that you might have to defer talking about something for 5 hours. The gain is that you get a lot of people at your talk, because people are choosing amongst just 6 sessions at that time slot. All these sorts of different dynamics come in to play when you have rich communication.
No, I don't think rich communication is, by itself, the "solution" to OrganizedCulture, or finding truth, or attaining consensus. OrganizedCulture is a huge thing, much larger than a communication system. It gets into personal identification, the effectiveness of groups, yadda yadda yadda. I think rich communication will make OrganizedCulture much easier, but not that it itself is the only thing there.
AutomaticCalendaring?, for example, isn't what we're calling "rich communication," but is also another major piece.
Redirecting: When you redirect people somewhere were a conversation is active, I'm talking about those real-time boards again, where people say, "We're going to talk about X at Y place, at Z time." If there isn't a discussion right now, active in a community, it may be latent within a community. That is, the community is still SelectivelyOpenMinded about it, or resolving some issue within it, and you refer the person to the community where people talk about it, even if it's just latent right now. There's two senses of "active": "Are people talking about it right now?" and another sense: "Are people willing or interested in it, right now?" The conversation is not active in places where no one is willing to talk about it, where it's considered uninteresting.
We need to seriously split this page out into a bunch of different pieces. We've got MarkDilley's stuff on welcoming newcomers, we've got the OrganizedCulture discussion, we've got the OpenSpace-type stuff, we've got the old WikiSectarianism stuff; We need to break these things out.
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