Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

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 wikis as adding sufficient value to any process I’m involved with to justify the installation, configuration, and learning curve for users necessary to add another tool to my social software arsenal. Like Phil, I continue to be troubled by the inherent ahistoricism built into the wiki environment; like Shelley I find the lack of social cues to tell me if I’m treading on someone’s toes by changing content to be inhibiting; like Dare, I find that large-scale active wikis are often too chaotic and disorganized, making it difficult for me to find what I’m looking for.

I had concerns about the wiki in the beginning because I wanted to get non-techs involved. Yes, the techs will have to build the tools, but tools are only as good as the people who use them, and I wanted others to have a voice. And face it – Wiki has a real geek feel to it that’s not necessarily inviting to the non-geeks.

Still, I participated originally, focusing in my area of expertise – the data model. It seems as if I had just started and then turned around and realized the work had zoomed right past while I wasn’t looking.

Okay, so I tried again, taking a snapshot and writing about the effort in a nutshell, and I figured I’d help contribute to the effort by doing this once a week or so – until the next week when I realized that there had been so much work, so much activity, that a snapshot wasn’t feasible. Of if it was, I wasn’t the person to provide it. The parade had passed by.

Wikis are a fascinating device, and I admire Sam wanting to get input from the world at large by using a wiki. He actually didn’t have much choice: he’d been warned what would happen if the Big Blog Tools met behind closed doors and just threw specs over a tall, tall wall.

But there’s got to be a happy medium between total control, personal ownership, and closed doors on the one hand; and a digital foodfight and freeforall that is the Wiki on the other.

Wikis favor the aggressive, the obsessive, and the compulsive: aggressive to edit or delete others work; obsessive to keep up with the changes; and compulsive to keep pick, pick, picking at the pages, until there’s dozens of dinky little edits everyday, and thousands of dinky little offshoot pages. And name choices like “BarbWire”.

(BarbWire. Good God. Let’s get pipes and hose and find the original Echo trademark holders and give them an offer they can’t refuse to let the trademark go.)

But Wikis also favor enormous amounts of collaboration among a pretty disparate crew, which is why there’s also all sorts of feeds being tested, and APIs being explored, and a data model that everyone feels pretty darn good about. So one can also say that Wikis favor the motivated, the dedicated, and the determined.

What we need now is a hold moment. We need to put this effort into Pause, and to look around at the devastation and figure what to keep and what to move aside; and to document the effort, and its history, for the folks who have pulled away from the Wiki because of the atmosphere. We need to do this for the techs and non-techs alike, because I’m pretty sure some technical decisions were made that are not going to make a lot of current webloggers happy if I’ve read some of the copy at the wiki correctly.

We need to record what’s been accomplished in a non-perishable (i.e. not editable), human manner. No Internet standard specification format. Words. Real ones. We then need to give people a chance to comment on this work, but not in the Wiki. Or not only in the wiki. Document the material in one spot – a weblog. After all, this is about weblogging – doesn’t it make sense that we start moving this into the weblogging world again? Not bunches of weblogs, with bits and pieces.

One weblog. Limited author access.

We need to get more people involved then a small core group and if this means using different mediums of communication and even – perish the thought – slowing down a bit, then slow down. Mediums that have history so those late to the party aren’t left out in the cold. This means not wiki, not IRC.

We also need another stated commitment from the stakeholders in all of this, the aforementioned Big Blog Tool makers, that they are still supporting this effort’s output. A lot’s happened between then and now.

Most of all, we need to ungeek Pie/Echo/Atom – start channeling this effort into a more controlled environment, with open communication, yes, but less movement, and more deliberation. I’m not saying give one person control, but we need to start identifying those with the most to gain and lose by this effort, those who are most impacted, and we need to start pulling them into a consortium. A weblogging consortium.

(Now, where have I heard that before?)

But here’s the kicker – include the non-tech webloggers, too. You know, the people that don’t get excited because Python 2.3 released?

Sam mentioned in a new post that I hadn’t contributed much in the last month because I was too busy. Because of this, he said the medium wouldn’t have mattered in my overall contribution. But that’s not the story, Sam.

My lack of recent contribution wasn’t that I was too busy for the Wiki effort; it was because the Wiki effort was too busy for me.

P.S. A new name suggestion for Pie/Echo/Atom – let’s just call it Pie/Echo/Atom.

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