Category Archives: Wikis


Have you had your office remodeled lately?

Here’s The on recent trends in academic spaces:

October 2, 2007
The Late, Lamented Personal Web PageThere was a time, not too long ago, when it seemed as if everyone in academe was building a personal Web page. A typical site might not have been much to look at, but it contained a wealth of professionally useful information — a CV, a catalog of published research, maybe some syllabi or course notes.

Now, in the era of blogs and Facebook profiles, the personal Web page appears to be a dying breed. But scholars shouldn’t rush to declare static Web sites obsolete, writes Steven Bell at ACRLog. Library and information-science students, he says, should seriously consider building their own Web pages — so they can hone their Web-design skills and post their academic resumes.

Mr. Bell concedes, however, that blogs seem to give academic librarians “more bang for the buck” than simple Web sites, and Steve Lawson of the blog See Also … agrees. “Build up a blog by writing interesting stuff with some frequency and you find yourself making new friends and professional contacts and carrying on provocative conversations with people from all over the world,” Mr. Lawson comments. “Build up a personal site, and I don’t quite know what you get.”

Mr. Lawson calls his personal Web page “a barren wasteland,” and many other scholars could probably say the same thing about their sites. Should professors and librarians delete seldom-used personal pages, or keep them around for posterity? —Brock Read

When I was a grad student, the trend in academic office design was four walls of floor to ceiling books, multiple desks spilling over with papers, articles, and journals, and a dusty Remington in a corner.

In the pasts five years, local faculty have been having their offices re-modeled, reducing the books to a select few, getting rid of the old desks for gray and black workspaces, having the walls repainted to simulate space, clearing out the papers, articles, and journals for pdfs on flash drives and delicious links, and toting a laptop.

… Something tells me there’s a connection here, but I can’t figure out what is.  Anyone?

comment: waiting for sophie

(via Social Networking Libraries) The Institute for the Future of the Book (if:book is their well-read blog) has released a plugin for WordPress that transforms blog-space into an online text publishing environment: CommentPress. It’s a step on the way to Sophie, which is still in development.
Premise –

Publishers expect us to purchase, own and consume e-books (or articles, papers, journals) in basically the same way we do paper books, failing to reckon with the fact that texts take on different values and assume different properties when placed in the digital environment—especially when that environment is part of a network.

– and so the networked book, as realized in CommentPress, which uses marginal comments to create and organize a social community of commentators. The blog form becomes useful for longer works in development, and the text and author borrow authority from the blog form (cf wikis).

We can imagine a number of possibilities:

— scholarly contexts: working papers, conferences, annotation projects, journals, collaborative glosses
— educational: virtual classroom discussion around readings, study groups
— journalism/public advocacy/networked democracy: social assessment and public dissection of government or corporate documents, cutting through opaque language and spin (like the Iraq Study Group Report, a presidential speech, the federal budget, a Walmart or Google press release)
— creative writing: workshopping story drafts, collaborative storytelling
— recreational: social reading, book clubs

A final comment from the designers that opens up consideration –

Placing the comments next to rather than below the text turned out to be a powerful subversion of the discussion hierarchy of blogs, transforming the page into a visual representation of dialog, and re-imagining the book itself as a conversation. Several readers remarked that it was no longer solely the author speaking, but the book as a whole (author and reader, in concert).

Discuss. Be brief. Use examples.

gimmefive meatballs

I banged into some really sharp thinking on Meatball wiki this am, courtesy of HelmutLeitner: the rule of optimal growth.

When is there enough substance? When does something become interesting? When does it look right? Of course it has to do with the amount or rightness of information. What is the right number of items, of sentences, of ideas that looks right? Better, what is the minimum number of such items or sentences ideas – for example in a FAQ – so that one can lean back relaxed and say “this is a start”, something that can grow. Is it one? two? three? four? five? six? seven? For some reason I felt that only three, five or seven might qualify.

Now the answer is obvious. The answer is five. Three is too small a number. Seven is nicer but puts the work-load too high (if you can do it, the better). So:

* if you start a page, GimmeFive things to read and think about
* if you create a FAQ, GimmeFive questions and answers as a start
* if you build your homepage, GimmeFive pieces of information about your person or interests, so we can make contact
* if you create a category, make sure that you have at least five pages that it contains and justify it
* if you start an article publishing system, create at least five articles as examples
* if you start a wiki, GimmeFive starting points for it to grow into something living
* if you write an article (real, not wiki page), GimmeFive sections with substance
* if you create a PatternLanguage, GimmeFive patterns as a start

GimmeFive means “give me five”. This is the wiki rule of optimum growth. Best advice I can give. Another one: get the five in a symmetry to make them beautiful and extensible. Another one: instantly forget that the number is important, entirely forget about this advice, follow your intuition, your feeling.

Lovely: Memorable, useful, parsimonious, elegant.

another bandwagon: swicki

This bandwagon is a little different. It allows users to build customized search pages (to access yahoo), and then allows visitors to those pages to further customize the results.

It looks like it would be useful for promotion and driving visitors in a particular way. But it also might have some scholarly uses.  The collaborative nature of the search may likely prevent it from become too closed, too monolithic.

Here’s a faq. Eurekster claims that the -wiki in the name alludes to the collaborative nature of the engine, but I’d be more inclined to point towards the tagging as the collaborative side of things. That is, it’s more like than Wikipedia.

And here’s my little offering: e-rhetoric swicki – powered by eurekster.

not the way to start a party

The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog is reporting a response to Wikipedia by co-founder Larry Sanger:

This week Mr. Sanger announced the creation of the Citizendium, an online, interactive encyclopedia that will be open to public contributors but guided by academic editors. The site aims to give academics more authorial control—and a less combative environment—than they find on Wikipedia, which affords all users the same editing privileges, whether they have any proven expertise or not.

Good on Mr. Sanger. The more the merrier. And we academics exert our authorial control best in a less combative environment. Any large lecture class that prohibits discussion – or academic department meeting – will tell you that.

But there are going to be a lot of notes and blog posts commenting on the name of this project (and add it to your spell-checking dictionary now): Citizendium. It would be hard to get more academically pretentious in a single word. Sanger even thinks the title needs an explanation, complete with pronunciation guide:

The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a “citizens’ compendium of everything,” will be an experimental new wiki project that combines public participation with gentle expert guidance. It will begin life as a “progressive fork” of Wikipedia. But we expect it to take on a life of its own and, perhaps, to become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects. We will avoid calling it an “encyclopedia,” because there will probably always be articles in the resource that have not been vouched for in any sense.

I wonder if that passage is a good indication of what “gentle expert guidance” means: the (clichéd) academic tone, and the innuendo that Wikipedia isn’t responsibly managed and wrongly claims a position as an “encyclopedia.” Sounds a lot like my 3rd grade teacher – or me when I let my academic persona get the best of my good sense.

But wait: There’s more!

First, there’s an essay by Sanger, “Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge,” setting out the background and rationale for the Citizendium. Not an essay to be sniffed at, either. Worth the academic nod (give it a quick read and post it to for later). But the kicker – the thing that nails the pretentious academic ethos into Citzendium’s heart – is this link at the top of the essay page:

Here’s a shorter version, which might be more readable.

Larry: Give your citizen-readers a little respect here. I like the pair-o-essays: nifty experiment. But kill the condescending “more readable.”

But that’s the problem with these wikipedia projects, isn’t it. No good editors.

And of course there’s a Wikipedia entry on Citizendium.

the panopticon meets wikilove at the blackboard

when datagogies collide

For the next week or so, this one – that Blackboard is going to sue D2L for patent infringement – is going to be debated all over the net, and sharply discussed in the MnSCU system, which is well invested in D2L.  Sit back.  Relax.  Blackboard is trying to patent nothing less than the traditional classroom interaction and power structure.  Go ahead: Patent the panopticon.  But use the dialogic spaces of a wiki to teach and learn. [via nick carbone on tech_rhet , datagogy concept via Joe Moxley.]

Listening to Jamie T So lonely was the ballad.

first drafts

A brief observation about Wikipedia’s place in context from Ben Macintyre at How wiki-wiki can get sticky

The internet had evolved a new form of information, a shallow, broad, fast, patchy and extremely useful reservoir that should be absorbed with caution and used only for specific purposes. Wikpedia has the same relationship with an encyclopaedia that yesterday’s news reporting has with tomorrow’s history book. Wikipedia is a first draft. It is not truth. But so long as it is understood and used in that way, it may prove to be one of the most spectacular inventions of the 21st century.

Shallow and broad.  A first draft of history, of knowledge.  Take those with you.

Listening to The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum) by Fun Boy Three

the clue is in the question

Seen in an interview with Ben Vershbow of if:book in Library Journal.  Vershbow pulls together wikis, blogs, new media, discussions, aggregators, and social bookmarking into a networked writing and reading space.

Soon, books will literally have discussions inside of them, both live chats and asynchronous exchanges through comments and social annotation. You will be able to see who else out there is reading that book and be able to open up a dialog with them. You already see evidence of this in Wikipedia’s “discussion” pages and revision histories where the writers and editors negotiate the collaborative development of articles. Wikipedia is a totally new kind of book in that it is never static, always growing. It has boundaries, but these boundaries are always shifting and are highly porous. We also see social interaction in the reading and interpretation of texts-on blogs, for example, discussion forums, social bookmarking sites, Amazon reader reviews, and thousands of nonpublic venues like [discussion lists] and email. Again, this sort of interaction is not inherently new, but the Internet allows it to be recorded, aggregated, and woven together in astonishing new ways that defy geography and time.

Is blogging a good example of this?

In many respects, the blogosphere is a society of readers, all publishing their notes and reflections in real time and linking to fellow readers. In addition to what we write and say, in addition to the links we chisel into our text by hand, we bloggers have a few basic mechanical tools to help foster connections and build semantic bridges. Trackbacks, for instance, little signals that automatically tell one blog that it is being referenced by another, or tagging, where your site sends notifications to Technorati, the leading blog search engine, saying that something has been published on a particular spread of topics and enabling readers who are searching those topics to potentially find their way to your post. All of these things are just the primitive beginnings of a much richer architecture of discourse that could eventually be built into books.

The writer’s range and expertise will change – has changed.  Writers will need to become deft at process, deft at discussion, at being social, at writing in multiple spaces, multiple media, multiple forms.

But I’m wondering how the new book will take the writer out of the center of attention and out of the center of meaning, how the new book will re-postion the author, the act of authorship, and the physical entity of the writer, and how it will change our understanding of the relation between language and self.

I was also wondering what people would write that  would merit such attention, such discussion and aggregation.  And then I realized that this blog post is an answer to that question.

One last comment from on the networked book, with a focus on structure:

At the institute, we talk about “the networked book.” This involves many of the things we’ve talked about already-the book as a place, as social software-but basically we’re talking about the book at its most essential, a structured, sustained intellectual experience, a mover of ideas-reinvented in a peer-to-peer ecology. The structure part is crucial, though. Whereas the web is a massive, diffuse array, more like a library than an individual book, a book provides some sort of shape, even if that shape is malleable and the boundaries porous, even if the edges of books overlap. A good future of the book is one that combines the best qualities of physical books with the best qualities of the network.

Time for a re-read of Writing Space.

See also: defining the networked book.

Listening to the birds in the garden.

the world’s knowledge at your fingertips

Jimmy Wales hits it on the head when he places use of Wikipedia in the same realm as other generalist encyclopedias:

Speaking at a conference at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday called “The Hyperlinked Society,” Mr. Wales said that he gets about 10 e-mail messages a week from students who complain that Wikipedia has gotten them into academic hot water. “They say, ‘Please help me. I got an F on my paper because I cited Wikipedia’” and the information turned out to be wrong, he says. But he said he has no sympathy for their plight, noting that he thinks to himself: “For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia.”


Good for a quick look up, a starting point to substantive research, a fast reference: full stop.  We might want Wikipedia to be more, to fulfill the never-promised promise of The World’s Knowledge at Your Fingertips – but it won’t. And we might want research and understanding to be easier to take on, but it isn’t.

Maybe the frame adds cred to the source.  When accessed on a desktop or laptop, Wikipedia gains the authority of the computer screen.  But on another platform, in a different frame, it becomes more of a Pocket Encyclopedia.  Try viewing Wikipedia  using Quickpedia on a Palm.  Seen through this lens, much of the discussion about the reliability drops away – Wikipedia entries are simply sketches to the subject – and the value of collective authoring – a 1,000 sources – comes to the foreground.

Listening to Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead

v bush meets christo by way of sophie

Roger Sperberg is doing some interesting speculation on the capabilities of the well-designed e-book over at if:book: on collaborating with the reader. His vision is similar to that of Vannevar Bush’s memex: the author constructing paths through material, then distributing the paths for others to work and re-work.

Imagine a story, with multiple tracks. (I’m actually envisioning a short book, so let’s say 16 or 24 pages and 5 tracks.) On any page, you can go to the next or previous page. Or you can change tracks and see the next or previous page from some other track. It seems just like a 24-page book, except that the 5 tracks provide variations on what is on each page.

This kind of collaboration runs deep, and shifts the role of the author and the author’s relation with readers:

Collaboration with the reader must inevitably involve everything an author touches: the text, the development of the ideas, the sequence in which they are conveyed, how they are illustrated, the conclusions drawn. In a true collaboration, the author becomes something more like a director, operating perhaps at a remove (how active will the author be in reshaping the book after its publication?). Or maybe the director analogy is too strong; perhaps it’s more like an organizer — the Merry Pranksters, Christo, Lev Waleska — who launches his/her book like a vehicle (like Voyager) and then simply rides its momentum.

Some of this vision is already available – if awkward – on wikis as threads and reading paths, and we might be seeing some of it enacted in the evolving draft of GAM3R 7H30RY. But Sperberg is looking towards Sophie to develop the idea of tracking in an e-book.