No Fancy Name
Monday, May 03, 2004
play nice with others
I am currently writing a book on a pretty cool little software application called Plone. Plone is an add-on to the Zope application server, that basically provides the framework for the creation of a content-based portal. That's a terrible summation of Plone, but this blog entry isn't about Plone, it's about wikis. One of the chapters in this book is about other add-ons to enhance your Plone site, the wiki being one of them.

Basically (not exaggerating - it's basic!), a wiki is a collection of pages in a Web site that can be modified by anyone. The Web sites that come out of Wiki-dom are primarily text-based, as wikis are designed as ways to communicate and not ways to impress people with graphical ingenuity and style. A wiki is somewhat like a discussion board, except there is no forum/topic/post hierarchy. A wiki is somewhat like a blog, except one that anyone can use, edit or add pages to. So really, it's not at all like a discussion board or a blog.

You can see where this gets's sort of like a couple of different things, but yet nothing like either of them, and if you've been around the Internet for any amount of time the first question that comes to mind should be something like "couldn't anyone just deface it, or even erase it completely?" There's a simple list of Wiki Social Norms that includes such concepts as "don't misrepresent others' work as your own" and "don't delete things that don't belong to you" and "make the world a better place" and so forth. In other words, act like a good member of a community. I also like the Welcome to Wiki, Please Be Polite page.

So again, how does this work? In what magical part of the Internet do wikis live, where people do follow rules and they're polite and it's a nice place to be? Maybe wikis are caught in some temporal anomaly where it's 1993 all over again and the generation of skript kiddies hadn't been born, or the release of software with 80,000 documented bugs and security holes hadn't been dreamed up yet. Either which way, I'm fascinated by wikis. I have nothing of interest to say in any of them that I've found, but there's an entry in the WikiWikiWebFaq that is still my number one question: "What stops any old idiot from wandering by and erasing or defacing all of your entries?"

I think it's wonderful, heartening and all those other good adjectives, that the answer is really "they just don't". Actually, it's longer....see WhyWikiWorks...but still, if one little part of the internet contains nice, respecful people, can't that grow just a little? Please?


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