Mill and Kitchen

I just returned from a long car trip into the wilds of the Ozarks, close to the Arkansas border. I have some photos of an old mill and the North Fork river, and I feel there are some nice pictures in the batch. If I make space on my computer to develop them for publishing, I’ll try and get some online later. And tell you more about the trip.

In the meantime, I’ve had several people say they don’t fully understand what’s happening with the IT Kitchen (Weblog and Wiki). Sorry, folks – my bad. Sometimes you get an idea, and it becomes so developed in your own mind, when you try and tell other people, you end up spitting out only about 1/3 of the total information about it.

The purpose behind the IT Kitchen was to provide an overview of weblogging, the nuances and the ins and outs and that sort of thing. Sort of like many of the handbooks about weblogging that have been published online by various people (see Rebecca Blood’s). However, instead of just providing static content, there’s an interactive element to it, a community participation, which allows people to ask questions as the material is published, or even provide their own material in support of a topic.

Comments work okay, but they really aren’t a good medium for heavy duty interaction. I feel, and from what we have seen when used with the Atom effort, that a wiki is better for this type of effort.

So the static book portion of the weblogging how-to is being done as essays on specific topics in the Kitchen weblog. The dynamic aspect to it is being managed in the wiki. It’s at this point where I got the first of my two brainstorms.

Rather than just my own writing for this weblogging how-to, I thought about opening this up to the community – whoever was interested in any of the topics. Not only would this give people a chance to introduce their writing to a new audience, having many different viewpoints of each topic would, I feel, provide a more rounded look at the topic.

(I will still be providing several essays on the various topics.)

We’ve had the discussions in the past–what is weblogging. Well, it’s link and comment. No, it’s long essays. No, it’s cat pictures. You ask a room full of webloggers about any aspect of weblogging, and you’ll get as many opinions as there are people. And this is a goodness, which we hope to capture.

Indirectly, I also wanted to stage an event where there was no limitations on participation. No one was going to be specifically invited, and no one was going to be excluded if they wanted to join in. There wasn’t going to be any stars, no A-list headlining, no Big Names. Heavily linked folks are welcome to participate, but as part of the group, not as the opening act to a three ring circus.

So we have, hopefully, many different people writing essays or blurbs on many different topics (constrained by daily topic focus) and at the end of two-weeks we have an online handbook about weblogging. Except this one won’t be sold, or packaged into paper, or put on a disk. I might try putting it into PDF format, but chances are, I’ll just leave the weblog, as is. And it won’t be just one person’s opinion.

And now, to my second brainstorm – the wiki. When I first started chatting with some folk about this, almost from the beginning I thought about morphing the dynamic aspect of the Kitchen into a Wikipedia for Weblogging.

One of the problems we have with weblogging is whatever was an “event” within weblogging in the past gets lost into the archives, never to appear again. You know, even the ancient people used to paint pictographs on caves to record their history. There is a lot of good writing, fun and silly times, and significant events that have happened in weblogging that have basically vanished into that big roll of paper known as the archives.

I remember, I think it was David Weinberger or AKMA, I can’t remember which, talking about wanting to persist specific threads where many people have responded to an event or a post. We thought that trackback would be good for this, but trackbacks, like the posts, live in the moment. Historically, they don’t provide anything of substance to hold on to.

(The issue of “Where are the women webloggers” is a perfect example of the same event happening again and again, because the discussions that have happened in the past get lost each time.)

With the Wikipedia for Weblogging, we could persist not only significant threads, but also pointers to helpful information for newbies, such as reviews of weblogging tools, comment spam how-tos, issues of accessibility and design, discussions about weblogging ethics, even some of the memes that were so big in the past, and so forgotten now. It becomes, in essence, our pictographs.

The great thing about a wiki for this type of activity is that wikis are self-healing. If someone comes along and plasters links to their weblog all over the place, just to generate buzz, someone else will be there in ten minutes wiping the links out. And most likely banning them from editing again. But you know, I don’t see this happening. As with the main Wikipedia, there’s something about the nameless quality to the edits in a wiki that makes one leave one’s ego at the door. It’s not foolproof, but in cases like this, I think it can be successful.

And just think –now when journalists or schools want to know more about weblogging, we can just point them at the wiki, and say, have at it.

Anyway, I hope that this has clarified what’s happening with the IT Kitchen. The weblog portion is time constrained to a specific period of time and anyone is welcome to get an account and add their opinions and philosophy during the clinic. The wiki, however, is being updated now, and will continue to be, as long as there’s at least one person interested in making additions to it.

Now, back to my trip photos. If I’m still not clear, again, please holler.

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