It’s just data

Wiki backlash?

Elizabeth Lane Lawley: I see a backlash building on wikis, mostly in a good way. The choice of a tool for online group-forming or process facilitation is an important one, and the pros and cons of specific tools need to be carefully considered by anyone wanting to implement them.

In defense of the wiki - had this merely been a weblog post or a mailing list, I am confident that we wouldn't be having a naming discussion right now.  Or any discussion.  Quite simply, it was the wiki that made this project possible.

Phil's concern never materialized.  I am confident that if it had, it would have been quickly fixed.  Wiki's are like that.

Dare and Shelley have not had as much time as they would have liked to devote to this in the past month.  This would have been just as true had another means of communication been chosen.

This being said, it must be noted that Dare and Shelley are far from unique in this case; few are able to keep up with the breakneck pace of developments.

People like Danny Ayers, Joe Gregorio, and myself have tried to pull things off wiki in more digestible chunks onto our weblogs.  In fact, Shelley originally was doing likewise.  Despite this - we need to do better.  I continue to explore more ways to make this project accessible to everybody who wishes to participate.  Mailing lists.  IRC.  Face to face.  Got a suggestion?  Let me know!

In short, I truly believe that the wiki was necessary for this project.  Necessary, but not sufficient.

Sam, I'm confused by your statement that "Phil's concern never materialized." Isn't his voicing of the concern material evidence of it?

The inherent ahistoricism of wikis is something that troubles me on a lot of levels, too. While overwriting past discussions may be efficient, it's also bound to leave participants--and external readers--with questions about whose ideas were "disappeared" in the editing process, and why. Wikis intentionally de-emphasize individual voice, and I understand that. But it's still troubling to me.

Wikis also require far more "here and now" real-time following of a discussion than other media. With the wiki, you must devote a significant amount of time to following what's going on, because the evolution of the content isn't permanent. This is where the ahistoricism is most problematic. In this particular case, it seems that people had to devote "all or nothing at all" to the project in order to be part of the conversation. In a mailing list or weblog environment, I think it's easier for people to participate at a variety of levels. And I strongly suspect that the use of the wiki was a factor in the near-total absence of women's voices in this process, though there's no way for me to prove that.

I'm not arguing that wikis aren't useful tools, nor am I saying that they shouldn't have been used in this project. Just that we need to be aware of the drawbacks of wikis as collaborative tools, especially since we're at a point where that feedback can materially influence the development of the tools.

Posted by Liz at

RE: Wiki backlash?

  I don't want to disagree with you needlessly but if the primary avenue of discourse on Atom was on a mailing list I probably would have been able to keep track of it.  I may not have been able to respond to every mail I'd have liked to but given that I read every mail sent to XML-DEV, XMLSCHEMA-DEV and WWW-TAG (plus every newsgroup post made to microsoft.public.dotnet.xml) which can run to over a hundred items a day I'm sure I'd have been able to follow the Echo list.

The main problem I have with the Wiki is that just finding what path to follow to find out the current state of affairs is hard. I was curious about the progress that had been made with the conceptual model and came across three different pages that told three different stories.

As for whether the wiki made the naming discussion possible I'm confused about what that means. Even though I haven't been that active in the Open Source community I have participated in at least two discussions via mailing lists where a project was named (Xindice and JDEE).

I think you are being overly defensive about the wiki.

Message from Dare Obasanjo at


Liz wrote a great note on the recent and growing pushback against the use of the Wiki for Pie/Echo/Atom, based in part on a discussion at Phil's and a posting over at Sam's. Liz's summary hits all the points: I'm not yet at the point where I see... [more]

Trackback from Burningbird


Wiki backlash

More along the '[insert trend here] backlash' theme? Actually, the first comment is rather convincing......

Excerpt from MovableBLOG: Asides at

Will an echo by an other name sound the same.

With out a Benevaloent Dictator, or some other Alpha, the herd will not stand still.... [more]

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I'd just like to note that I find myself in the group who are sitting by the sidelines till something concrete comes out.

I personally find a mailing list offers everything that a Wiki does with the benefit of no history 'disappearing' in an instant that seems to happen on Wiki's - this more than most due to the number of changes. The archives that a mailing list are invaluable in time to come when someone needs to refer back to why decisions were made.

I think the draft specs that Joe Gregorio is producing look very interesting, just that it seems to me the Wiki model, through its mechanics, is putting off a whole bunch people that would otherwise offer input.

Interesting experiment that appears to have suited some but failed for others.

Posted by Peter Wilkinson at

Wikis Suck.

Well at least large scale active ones do. I will add my lessor known name to the list of people who were put off by the use of a wiki and have disengaged from participating in the "!(echo/atom/pie)" project discussion.... [more]

Trackback from tima thinking outloud.


I think the trick is to have a mailing list for discussion, with the wiki providing a constantly updated version of the status quo and any information that is relevant.

Discussion: mailing list
Information: wiki

Posted by Iain at

Wiki highs and lows

Here are some wiki related posts from today's version of the blogosphere.

Bill de Hora describes how to do
faceted classification with a Wiki. 

Nick Lothian invents the
Fiki: a Wiki that... [more]

Trackback from Ted Leung on the air


Wiki highs and lows

Here are some wiki related posts from today's version of the blogosphere. Bill de Hora describes how to do faceted classification with a Wiki. Nick Lothian invents the Fiki: a Wiki that automatically figures out where links should be created Sam...

Excerpt from Ted Leung on the air at

Ahistoricism?  Wiki: RecentChanges, RSS, and even page level info tracked by login/ip address with diffs.

Every single edit is retained.  Not just the recent history.  I can show you some rather interesting graffiti, left anonymously but quickly tracked down, identified, and removed; but lets just leave it at that.

However, this conversation is serving a higher purpose for me.  Wikis favor a certain audience.  Mailing lists favor a different audience.  Blogs favor a still yet different audience.  F2F's favor yet another audience.

And I will continue to try to reach out to them all.  And to the audiences that are not yet reached.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

I agree the wiki has been difficult to follow over the last few weeks. I've largely kept up-to-date with topics following Sam's, Danny's, Mark's and Joe's blogs. When a particular page is up for discussion, then I read that particular wiki page. I think Sam's ideas and practice of blogging identifiable sections as needing discussions/solutions as an excellent step. The wiki itself isn't going to be a complete solution - but its good at capturing the info. Other ways are needed to resolve and decide issues, and it sounds like Sam is ready and willing to do what's needed.

Iain mentioned the combination of wiki and mailing list, and that's exactly how Mitch Kapor's and OSAF's Chandler project is working at the moment (along with an IRC get-together once a week).

The Chandler Wiki at
operates in two "modes". The official this is what we are doing, and the unofficial anything goes section. The Jungle section is where ideas and inspiration get fleshed out and discussed. When its mature and agreeable it is then "promoted" to the official part of the wiki.

For the Pie Wiki, it may be an idea to create a page to manage decisions that have already been made and consensus has been largely reached - that will probably give a good indication as to how far along we are.

I'm impressed by Joe's Atom API work, although it is a little above my current range of skills, so there's not much I can constructively add in.

I guess I'm waiting for the next thing for me to implement, so I'm slowly getting together books and resources on REST, and following Mark's entries on well behaved HTTP Clients and servers. (As for books on REST - "Webservices in Perl" contains one chapter on REST and some examples of GET requests as both a client and a server).

Posted by Isofarro at

Mailing list

Posted by Sam Ruby at

I already responded with most of my discussion in my weblog entry, but Sam when you say that we wouldn't be where we are today without the Wiki -- how do you know?

I can see that the words we're all saying aren't being heard when I did go out to the Wiki today and managed to find in recent changes that the discussion Liz had, Phil had, and your post on the pushback ended up being classified as 'concerns about the final name vote'.

Posted by Shelley at

Community backlash, wikis are fine

Sam Ruby: Wiki backlash? No. Wrong mindset approach backlash. A wiki is a collection of living documents that make a space. It's not a version control system, it's not an... [more]

Trackback from Bill de hÓra


Shelley: don't be afraid to be blunt with me.  Or to repeat things if I appear not to be getting it the first time.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

RE: Wiki backlash?

  It seems that for whatever reason you are downplaying the numerous critcisms of the Atom/Pie/Echo wiki process by a wide range of people including myself, Shelley, Elizabeth, Bill de Hora, Ted Leung, Peter Wilkinson and Tim Appnell.

That is unfortunate.

I've said what I have to about the current situation and will go back to lurking until my workload eases up enough to actively track the wiki.

Message from Dare Obasanjo at

Wiki talk

Lots of talk about the problems with Wikis. Amongst Liz's many good points, I think a few miss the mark....... [more]

Trackback from Raw Blog


Dare: based on the feedback, I have said that I plan to continue to explore ways in using non-wiki resources to communicate.  In the process I got offers from Dorothea and Liz to help.... offers that I plan to take them up on.

When your work responsibilities lighten up, we will still be here.  Meanwhile, your feedback on the API was excellent, and you might consider subscribing to the mailing list.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

To provide a counterpoint, I am one of those who greatly appreciate the wiki forum among others.  I like being able to direct a reply to a single comment in context.  I like being able to update examples as conversation proceeds, even as I wish there were a better way or more discipline in annotating those changes.

On the wiki, I can let an idea run around my head for a while before going back and updating the page.  Every topic will almost always be "current" until some finality occurs.  I admire the way a wiki can tie different topics together.  There are no "permathreads" (blog or email threads that repeat themselves every few weeks/months) on a wiki.

I do recognize this wiki could be much better.  I see that a significant culture clash occurred here as this was for many a first time introduction to wikis.  There are far more open-ended discussions and statements of opinion than there there are coalescing and listing of ideas, characteristics, facts, issues, alternatievs, categorizing, and clarified opinions.  Too many people don't yet realize that it's better to create a list or add a bullet item to one than to add a signed comment saying that someone else should do so.

Posted by Ken MacLeod at

  Let me second Sam's encouragement to join the mailing list. I would appreciate it if you could submit what you blogged to the list, as many of your points need to be discussed.

Posted by Joe at

You can use the recent changes rss feed to keep track too.The actual RecentChanges page has diff's on them if you can't figure out what has changed.

Posted by John Beimler at

Maybe more specific RSS feeds? (No sarcasm intended.)...

Excerpt from Archipelago at

Sam Ruby: Wiki backlash?

Wiki backlash? this site | 4 links...

Excerpt from blogdex - the weblog diffusion index at

Wiki Stress

The Atom Wiki, and Wikis in general come in for a bit of hammer and backlash in various blogs. Sam describes the tom Wiki as "necessary but not sufficient", and asks for suggestions for communication channels. See also : Peach......

Excerpt from Formerly Echo at

Unintentional Irony...

The Wiki being used to track changes to the Atom spec is using RSS to track changes.  Here's <a... [more]

Trackback from Cincom Smalltalk Blog - Smalltalk with Rants


A couple clarifications:

I don't think that the wiki is useless.  But I think the most effective use is a combination of media.

I don't think that history/traceability is a strength of Wikis -- I recognize that there are RSS feeds and RecentChanges.  But I'd challenge you to go a week withou reading the Wiki and just reading the RSS feed and see how much context you'd have after that time.

What I'd like to see is better linkage between Wiki and email archives, so that you could use an e-mail message to link back to the wiki at the moment in time that the e-mail was alive.

Posted by Ted Leung at

rss and pie/echo/atom news

CNET's Paul Festa reports on the (not)echo/pie/atom v. RSS argument. Long, long article. Little of substance, and lots of focus on the "personality issues", which is too bad. But that's how it is. (And, strange that neither Blogger or MovableType...

Excerpt from d2r at

Sam, I put together some suggestions on Wiki backlash at:

Posted by Don Park at

We can have both. Check out, eg, .
In a nutshell: email discussion appends to pages, while more permanent content can be refined at the top; and you can gateway to a mail list, in which case you also have the list's permanent archive.


Posted by simon at

Wiki backlash

Amusing discussion of whether development efforts should be centered on a Wiki, over at <A HREF="">Sam Ruby's blog</A>.  One thing that's clear is that people are increasingly self-selecting... [more]

Trackback from Mod-pubsub blog


The discussion about syndication formats and weblog APIs had been meandering inconclusively in blogspace for years.  I've also been in numerous mailing lists that discuss issues and never conclude.

The attribute of wikis that people are concerned about -- they obscure the individual voice -- is what helped drive the process within a few weeks toward rough concensus.

Agree that they work best in conjunction with other modes that allow more individual expression (blogs) and interactive conversation (email).

Posted by Adina Levin at

Wikis Are Here Folks

It's bizarre watching the WebLog community debate: WikiWiki, good or bad? It's obvious from my perspective that wikis are on the same curve that weblogs are taking to ubiquity, just more slowly (remember, wikis are older than weblogs). Weblogs (and...

Excerpt from AbbeNormal - Abbe Normal at

Designing with a Wiki

Scott Watermasysk: In part 1 of the interview, Anders mentions an internal wiki that is used for the design process. I would love to read that some day.Reading this sparked off some more thoughts......

Excerpt from Adrian Bateman (VisionTech) at

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