Subject: Re: Open Source shareware?
From: "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2002 01:49:01 -0700
Thu, 19 Sep 2002 01:49:01 -0700
on Mon, Sep 16, 2002, Stephen J. Turnbull (stephen@xemacs.org) wrote:

>     Rich> I do think, however, that better infrastructure might elicit
>     Rich> more help from the user community.  Why, for example, should
>     Rich> I have to run a separate program just to send in a comment
>     Rich> on a man page?  But I digress....
> 
> Well, I don't think it's entirely a digression.  My Giant Global
> GoogleFAQ example is intended to get at exactly that point---OSS
> developers need to find ways to leverage their users to improve these
> "config database" and "FAQ database" aspects.  I don't think wikis, as
> useful as they are, are it---needs to be more focused.

Interestingly enough...

I've been thinking of wikis as just such a tool.  There's a bit of work
needed -- Wiki is definitely more formulated and formalized than raw
Usenet and mailing lists, but even structured Wikis (I'm fond of TWiki)
lack the organizational aspects of a book, or electronic equivalents
such as DocBook or the LinuxDoc DTD.

That said, as of earlier this year, I've launched, and am now building a
technically oriented, documentation-focused TWiki at
http://twiki.iwethey.org/.  Whether it takes off, or merely encourages
similar activities at LDP or iBiblio ultimately doesn't matter.  What
I'm trying to promote here is the process (though good content to feed
to whatever successor emerges won't hurt).

One of the fundamental motivators is that I've found that my own
postings to Usenet, lists, and websites, are often useful sources of
information for me.  I'm trying to make it easier for me to access,
modify, and search these nuggets, as well as to gain the benefits of
many eyes, and shared editing.  To this extent, it's a largely selfish
endeavor.   But there's more to it than that.

Note too that TWiki, unlike some Wikis, does have the concept of access
control, tunable by both topic (page) and "web" (a higher level
organizational structure).  So it's possible to both have a wide-open
section of the site, and a more restricted, "editorial" node, in which
more polished works can be presented.  Balancing dynamic and structural
components is of course the trick.

As you imply, Google wins on its universal nature.  And Google (and
syndication, and word of mouth, and use...) are going to be major
success factors.  What Wiki provides that Google can't is the ability
for a fairly significant class of people to modify content  in situ .
Preferably in a useful way, and ultimately controls to ensure this will
likely have to be in place.  But as the GPL and other free software
licenses are legal means to reducing the costs of cooperative software
development; Wiki and its many clones are technical solutions, with
groundings in social factors, to lowering the cost of collaborative
documentation.

Don't write Wiki off yet, Stephen.

Peace.

-- 
Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
 TWikIWeThey: An experiment in collective intelligence.  Stupidity.  Whatever.
   http://twiki.iwethey.org/


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