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Document last modified: Fri, 24 Nov 2006, 04:00 UTC
Parents: WikiHelp/

Wiki Help/Wiki Spirit

1 Wiki is about sharing
2 Why do wikis work?
3 Enter the bad people
4 Forgive and forget
4.1 Non-violence (Ahimsa)
4.2 The beauty of forgetting (wabi-sabi)
5 So, what is the wiki spirit?

1) Wiki is about sharing

A wiki is a means to freely collect information about a certain topic from anybody, even passers by. In our case, the topic would be Blackbox.

In order to make the information as easy to modify as possible, there must be very few restrictions stopping people from accessing it. This means that the ideal wiki allows absolutely everyone to simply step in and modify any page.

Yes, that's right, you included. If you notice something wrong on a page, such as a spelling error or incomplete or erroneous information, you can edit that page right now and fix it. It doesn't matter if you only fix a minor spelling error or write five new pages. Actually, the small touches are just as important as the big modifications (see Wiki:FixBrokenWindows).

A wiki is about sharing as little or as much as you wish. No bounds, no obligation, just good will, common sense and a common topic to discuss.

2) Why do wikis work?

This is an ongoing discussion and you can read various opinions here: Wiki:WhyWikiWorks.

What keeps a wiki on track and prevents it from going off-topic? It's definitely the community behind it. By community we mean the people who care about the topic being discussed in all or parts of the wiki. If you care about Blackbox, you're already a part of this wiki's community.

If you're concerned about specific issues that may lower the quality of the content on this wiki, please read more AboutTheWebsite.

3) Enter the bad people

Unfortunately, there are bad people out there. This is a fact of life. How can a site which allows anyone to modify it defend against evil people?

In the first place, there are less occurances of vandalism on wikis than you'd think. Most of them are not personal, but simply automated robots entering links to random sites. This is what we call "spamming the wiki".

Of course, there are also simple-minded or spiteful persons out there. They might attempt to mess with the information in a wiki for all kind of negative reasons, or simply for the kind of urge that leads people to write nasty things on walls.

Some bad people are deterred from trying by the sheer lack of challenge. Some are put off by what looks like a live, well kept and rich wiki (the same way you tend to take off your shoes when entering a nice, clean house.) Some lose interest after they try once or twice.

Bottom line: yes, you can edit this very page and delete everything on it right now, or write nasty words, or give false information. The only thing stopping you is yourself.

You can read a lot more points of view on wikis vs bad people in the Wiki:WikiWipeout.

4) Forgive and forget

The main defence a wiki has is in its community really believing in the "forgive and forget" principle. Let bad people do what they want. Undo their evil doings as they come and get on with your life. Don't hold grudges, keep it against them forever or attempt to retaliate. Fix what's wrong and move on.

4.1) Non-violence (Ahimsa)

From "forget" arises one of the important elements of the wiki spirit: Ahimsa*, or non-violence*.

Ahimsa is a Hindu set of ethics which means more than just non-violence. Among other things, it holds the belief that no matter what happens to you, you should never resort to violence. The strength and determination required to always maintain compassion and peace loving are much greater than those involved with revenge or retaliation. It takes a really strong person to not strike back when challenged.

Of course, writing a few words in a wiki doesn't mean you should become an Ahimsa adept. But the basic and most simple principle of it, non-violence, is an important guideline.

Increasing protective measures on the wiki may lead to more determination from the part of the bad people, now that a challenge has arisen. At the same time it may keep well-behaved people from contributing. Eventually it may very well escalate to an arms race between administrators and bad people, while peaceful individuals will shrink back and avoid getting involved. The wiki as we know it would be gone.

So when the wiki is tampered with we just use the tools available to us to restore the proper information. That's all. Should everything be lost we'll just recreate it again. It's MeatBall:SoftSecurity.

4.2) The beauty of forgetting (wabi-sabi)

The other main principle in the wiki spirit is the joy of being able to forget.

A wiki is a flame fluttering in the wind, not a carving in stone. Leave behind worries about losing it and appreciate what IS and what we have here right now as well as what we can add to it.

A wiki is not meant to be perfect, nor to last forever. The information found here is non-permanent, always changing, probably lacking in various ways. It represents an ephemeral snapshot of the community's knowledge at a particular point in time.

That's why the wiki engine has the ability to forget. Pages that remain empty for extended periods of time, as well as old versions of pages, are simply removed. They no longer represent the information accurately and it is assumed that the community doesn't need them anymore. So we establish a certain safety interval and then they're gone.

This is close to what some people call the Asian ideal of beauty, or "wabi-sabi". Wiki:WabiSabi is the beauty of the imperfect, the ephemeral, the incomplete, and at the same time something that shows tradition, maturity, the touch of time. A true wiki is alive, always different, changing and evolving as the thoughts of the community change.

5) So, what is the wiki spirit?

Let me put it this way:

"Oh wiki wiki wiki...... Oh wiki wiki wiki...... Oh wiki wiki wiki...... Oh wiki wiki wiki......"

If that put a smile on your face and made you a bit more inclined to forgive and forget, you're on your way to the wiki spirit.

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Document last modified: Fri, 24 Nov 2006, 04:00 UTC
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