Put a Fork in it…before it’s done?

In the class I am taking, we are learning about Wikis.  I am going to let you know right now, Wikis are new territory.  I have never participated on a Wiki before this class, and I still have not used a Wiki collaboratively.  We have been assigned to keep some of our own personal notes on a Wiki page, so I’m learning some of the formatting rules, but that’s been the extent of it so far.

As I read about Wikis, I find them really fascinating.  I’m drawn to the democratic values of the Wiki – the sharing and collaboration and mutual respect.  The concept of “Soft Security.”  The emphasis on collaboration not competition.  It sounds rather utopian.

The original Wiki is still in operation, but its inventor, Ward Cunningham, created a new wiki called The Federated Wiki that operates on an even more democratic level by dismantling the hierarchical mode.  The move takes the wiki from one owner to shared ownership.  This new version of the wiki includes “putting a fork in” a document when a contributor wants to take the project in a new direction. It’s more like a fork in a road than an eating utensil, but people seem to like the idea of putting a fork in something.

Something Wiki users appreciate about the platform is the flexibility and lack of constraints that are in place in other social media.  They feel the wiki allows contributors to think and write outside of the box in ways these other media do not.  When other online platforms seem to push the contributor to perform the way the designer expects them to, Wikis have no expectations – other than an attitude.  One must share the values of the wiki or risk being ousted by the community.  While they are welcoming to everyone, they are protective of their communities.  Their neighborhood watch programs work pretty well.

With The Federated Wiki, participants have even more freedom and flexibility by putting a fork in it.  Like I said before, these are like forks in a road for when you want to travel in a new direction.  The project is not over, and other folks may continue on the main road, but others may follow you down this new path, or forge a separate forked path of their own.

Frances Bell blogs about his experiences with “forking” and provides some insight on how it can go. His description is meant to help newbies understand the process a bit better.

I am a newbie.  I don’t understand what the wiki is or how it works, but I’m intrigued by the promises I have heard it can deliver to the creative community – and our world at large.  I’m looking forward to seeing a wiki in action – maybe even participating in one.  Alan Levine (aka CogDog) references the Federated Wiki in his post, and brings up a question about Wiki projects.  In his reflection, he seems to be asking whether the purpose of the Wiki is to arrive at a final polished product or if there is more that could be done in the collaboration stage?    And he asks how collaborating on a Wiki is different from other forms of collaboration.

Maybe I’ll get to dive in a little deeper to the Wiki Web.  If I do, maybe I’ll write about my own experiences in a later post.  Right now I really don’t know what’s on the Wiki menu, but I sure do have an appetite!





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