Tag Archives: styleguide

fedwiki as notebook and a style guide for the coterie

When I first started using a traditional wiki (c. 2002, I think), I mistakingly saw it as a form of wide-ranging publication – a hypertextual companion to the blog. I was looking for a universal notebook-cum-database; a one-stop shop for drafting, revising, and publishing; a elegant – because it was the smallest database that would work – hypertexual support system; the realization of Vannevar Bush’s memex and Ted Nelson’s literary machine. I thought of the wiki as a magic workshop: a place where I could collect and store and organize hypertexually my notes, commonplaces, links, and drafts; with a workbench space to assemble these things into more formal hypertexts; and the capability of publising those hypertexts in progress. A universal reading and writing and learning and broadcasting space.

Wikipedia not withstanding, the wiki isn’t a publishing medium so much as a medium for coterie circulation, something closer to manuscript circulation than world wide circulation of a National Literary Review. The wiki is a medium for neighborhood circulation of notebook-like works in progress, notebooks being closer to manuscripts than blog posts or PDFs or Word docs watermarked DRAFT.

I’m borrowing the idea of coterie culture from Laura Mandell’s recent monograph Breaking the Book. She sets coterie culture next to more contemporary print culture in order to highlight the meeting of scribal and print cultures in 17th and early 18th century England. Coterie publishing of small print runs circulated among a small group of readers “with the same expectation as manuscripts: educated, elite readers would write in them, correct them, modify them” (121). Sound a little like fedwiki? Breaking the Book is worth a read. (I could not find any good reviews of the book yet, so here’s a link to the publisher, Wiley Blackwell.)

I made the early mistake of identifying wikis wiith blogs. Blogs are a publication medium. They are written for and seek wide and anonymous distribution. A blog post is published and may be commented on, but it is more or less finished. But wikis are notebooks, continuously revised and adapted, and in fedwiki revised and re-distributed. As notebooks, they become sources for further work and distribution by other means, such as blogs.

Reconsider the memex. As Bush conceived it, the memex was designed for personal scholarly use and coterie distibution. The trails through memex libraries, as they were conceived, were not meant to be distributed as a set of bound texts distributed to anonymous readers. The idea was that the scholar would reproduce the microfich and hand around to other like scholars – mostly who knew each other. The small group would not need a detailed textual context because it would be a small group, a neigborhood. The NLS seems to have been concepualized in a similar scholarly group context rather than as a worldwide, anonymous mass.

So: a fedwiki as notebook.

Thoughts along this line are circulating in the fedwiki neighborhood as Fedwiki as Memex-Journal. The memex was designed to address the problems of wide dispersal of information and the index. As it’s being discussed on Fedwiki, the problem of integrating sources is being addressed with links to collections and notes on Pinboard, and the problem of indexing is address with RSS feeds and tags.

Along with Ward I imagine a Pinboard-ish community around the product. Sites would have a setting to say where they publish to — RSS feeds, Pinboard, etc. But there also might be a fedwiki specific community that provided better integration.

Wikis would also have certain tags associated with them, and by default would publish new material to feeds and community sites under those tags. Tags would help alert you to new wiki content from anywhere, consistently good wiki content would prompt you to subscribe to all updates of that wiki.

The distribution is not wide but takes place within a specific community surrounding a topic, discipline, problem, interest. Distribution of link trails is more rapid than snail mail but still takes place within a small group, a coterie. I think of these coteries not as pre-conceived audiences that are being passively addressed but as active publics that organize themselves around the content and interests of the group.

I like the name “Steno”. It conveys the notebook idea, but technically stenography is “narrow writing” (steno=narrow) which fits the idea of a collection of small thoughts connected. It doesn’t capture the networked wiki element, but I think that’s OK — it’s easy to say “Steno is your networked notebook”.

Once I have the notebook and coterie distribution in mind, the advice behind a style guide, like this one Mike Caulfield designed for Fedwiki, becomes clear. The guide lists the usually unstated practices of the coterie: the Fedwiki neighborhood.

First, abide by the general conventions of federated wiki:

  • Avoid overlinking
  • Minimize in-paragraph formatting
  • Where possible, write short paragraphs, with one idea per paragraph (to facilitate reuse and rearrangement).

Second, write primarily in a descriptive style. Wikity is less an editorial page, and more a sort of Hitchiker’s guide to the galaxy. Short articles based around a single idea, formula, concept, fact, or dataset are best.

As a notebook, fedwiki is not a reading but a writing platform. Material in a notebook is mined for use in other contexts, and smart practice (both for the notebook and the note taker) is to develop note-making habits that reduce the friction for collecting and mining. Links inside the notebook and outside the notebook take on a functional rather than an aethetic or rhetorical value. Prose chunked into short paragraphs make it easier to move around and circulate within the notebook – easier to assemble into constellations, easier mine, easier to add to. Bullet lists are less valuable than they might be in static publication; the idea of a notebook is to expand ideas, not reduce them to a set of bullets.

bookmarks for January 5th, 2013 through January 7th, 2013

  • Beta Reader and Review Policy : Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology – An option to peer review, as implemented at Ada. Yet another new literacy practice. "Beta readers are writers who work with authors to provide critical and constructive feedback, including help with organization, development and progression of an argument, and mechanical recommendations before the work is submitted for peer review (or in some cases, for articles submitted for peer review that are not quite ready for the light of day)." what we have to p're – (peerreview DH review newliteracy Styleguide )
  • Why write by hand? – – (DH )
  • [toread] Design Futures Archaeology – – (coursedesign )
  • n+1: The Intellectual Situation – ah, finally long form that doesn't take the New Yorker high road, oh so popular retro diem. " But like the guy who just won’t take no for an answer, the Atlantic will never stop asking. Guilt is a gold mine. “Marry Him!” They might as well say, “Subscribe!” The Atlantic takes one reactionary impulse and sublimates it with another, hoping it can persuade us to make the same error in reverse, substituting our freshly provoked anxiety about finding a fuckable husband with an intense desire to commit to a reliable magazine. So far, this strategy seems to be working." – (fyc )

bookmarks for April 25th, 2010

bookmarks for March 5th, 2010 through March 6th, 2010

bookmarks for September 7th, 2009 through September 10th, 2009

  • Prune That Prose – The Chronicle Review – Another self-castigation about academic prose. Yes, good advice. Yes, a good position to take. But, as usual, the sense of academic prose is over-generalized and stereotyped. As here – "Revision requires making choices, something that academic writing allows you to avoid at all costs. Much of what makes that kind of prose so complicated is that nothing gets left out. Writing for a popular audience, in contrast, forces you to figure out what the hell you're trying to say and come right out with it."

    So does writing for an academic audience when you respect that audience enough to bring your argument forward – which Hornstein finally nails when she looks at Graff and gets to writing for freshman.

    Read Lanham's theory. – (academic styleguide prosestyle writing publishing )

  • theunbook.com » Dear publishers: It’s not too late to get a clue! – A few anecdotes about publishers malingering in the pre-digital age. Inky hubris. Makes the alternative of print on demand look good. "Publisher friends, I tell you this because I am your friend; I value your contribution and I like you. I want to work with you. But this is an intervention. You need to look at writers and illustrators as partners and collaborators and treat them as such. It’s time to step up in a spirit of partnership, " – (publishing publishing2.0 freelancing books book_culture )

a decorum of twitter on the way

Twitter is already writing its history in a collective 140 Characters. Also on the horizon is a style guide to for the short form, to be published as an iPhone app and a pdf.

Style guides seem to follow a couple of years after the new mode is introduced, and are a good sign that the mode is maturing. Of course, a strong background in rhetoric makes style guides less valuable, but they do spell out the decorum of the context – again, a sign that the mode has matured. They invite others to play along.

I’m watching for the guide.