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Re: Emacs Wiki Revision History

From: Xah
Subject: Re: Emacs Wiki Revision History
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2008 13:43:04 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0


Xah Lee wrote:
«(2) The content, is kinda haphazard. It is somewhat in-between of a
encyclopedia-style treatment like Wikipedia and a chaotic online
forum. Specifically, when you visit a article, half of article will be
dialogues between different users on tips or issues or preferences.»

Alex Schroeder wrote:

«Indeed, I agree with this statement as well. But that is as it should
be: The wiki is broken as specified in this respect. What follows is a
short rant on what the Emacs Wiki is and is not. :)»

Alex Schroeder wrote:
«For Emacs, I don't care about a perfect wiki that can replace the
manual. Emacs is and remains the self-documenting editor. As such, the
good stuff, the well explained stuff, the carefully thought out stuff,
the edited and checked stuff should go into the manual -- either the
Emacs manual, or the Emacs Lisp Manual, or the Emacs Lisp
Introduction. I don't care. When I set up the wiki I was frustrated
with how slow the FAQ was changing and the endless repetitions on the
newsgroups and mailing lists. That's where the wiki fits in: It
changes faster than the FAQ, it has less repetitions than the
newsgroups and mailing lists, but it is not as structured and honed as
the manual is.»

Now the emacswiki has been there for a while, we can think how to make
it better and work toward that goal, as opposed to what the original
intention was.

Alex wrote:
«Comparing it to the Wikipedia, where the wiki is the real thing, or
to the Emacs manual, is a no brainer. Of course it doesn't compare.
But it doesn't have to.  The wiki is in a separate category.»

«And of course the Emacs Wiki has the benefit of letting other people
put their text where their mouth is: If people like Xah feel that the
text of the wiki is lacking in quality, feel free to step up and work
on it. Just like Free Software, complaining is far less effective than

Criticism is not complaining, and even complaining is a significant
form of contribution when done naturally. A significant contribution
of major philosophers to society throughout history, is to criticize
or complain. “Complaining” is not necessarily inferior to “doing”. A
healthy, prosperous community, needs both.

in the tech geeker's open source community, there's a major problem of
the mindset of “contribution”, where almost anything less than code
contribution is deem by tech geekers as wanton bitching, especially
when it arose in a online discussion turned quarrel. This
“contribution” mindset does lots of harm to the growth and progress of
open source community. To various degrees, it lessens the power of
discussion, spur forking of projects, duplication of coding effort,
proliferation of less quality code.

(See also:
• Responsible Software Licensing

• Criticism versus Constructive Criticism

For example, why do you fork UseModWiki (
) in the first place? In some tech geeker's sense, you are reinventing
the wheel.

if i quietly grabbed your emacswiki content (which is perfectly legal
and guaranteed a right under FSF associated licenses) and shape it in
the way i think is proper (i.e. using MediaWiki), effective a fork,
such deed is often controversial as you must know, and often it spur
animosity among groups and create factions.

whether forking in general does good or bad to society, is a complex
issue and there's no simple answer. When philosophies and vision or
methods between developers differ significantly, forking is probably
the only recourse. And such forked project contribute diversity (as
linux distros), and sometimes ultimately determines which is better
one, or may spur huge competition and change (as Xemacs did to emacs).
But on the other hand, sometimes forking is merely a result of
political animosity. (e.g. “somebody else's” project vs “My” project.)

I can, and i might, take your blessing and create a alternative
emacswiki, or even consume with your help. That takes a
lot dedication, time, and some money to do it. As i mentioned,
MediaWiki interface is familiar to some one hundred of thousand time
more users than OddMuse, and there are perhaps hundreds times more
tools to work with MediaWiki than OddMuse. With MediaWiki, you also
automatically have a lot features, such as images, math formula
formatting, display of audio, citation, category, syntax highlighting,
language support, each of these far more robust and diverse than
OddMuse if it support it. These features, seemingly not much useful
for a wiki for emacs, but you'd be surprised what people do and how
things grow. (for one example, emacs wiki could use lots of
screenshots, and with that, you'll eventually need MediaWiki's image
annotation and citation features)

one reason you cited against MediaWiki is that it's rather difficult
or complex to install. I agree OddMuse is far more easier to install.
(just one perl file) However, you are a expert in the Web App field,
and so am i. For a web app professional, to install MediaWiki, with
its associated database etc, isn't that hard. Even i haven't done so,
i think you'll agree, that it takes within 1 week man hour to install
it with all content transferred from emacswiki.

As you detailed, OddMuse is pretty much just your pet project. That
and its simplicity is pretty much the reasons you use it for
emacswiki. As project gets large, this cannot be remain so without
hampering the growth of emacswiki.

Alex wrote:
«The only thing I will oppose very strongly is the setting up of
guidelines and requirements and all sorts of foolish rules, because
that doesn't improve the text. It just prevents other people from
posting. Way to go, social skills.»

I think some guideline is sufficient. The gist is that, someone needs
to provide that guideline, or give a indication that coherent article
is the goal as opposed to maintaining a conversation of wiki editors.
In this case, that someone should be you, because you are the original
creator and thus most suitable and authoritative.

This guideline or indication is important. For example, sometimes i
thought about cleaning out the discussion-oriented texts... which
usually means simply delete them. However, if done, it'll raise a lot
problems. People will revert it, ask why you delete them, considering
it removal of record, resulting quarrel or unease, or even consider it
absolute vandal.

I being already a controversial figure. As you know, i've been ban'd
in freenodes's emacs irc, while you were intimately familiar with the
deal, which is also associated with the emacswiki. (see ) If i start to, as you
say, “contribute” by editing of the article of removing conversations,
that's not gonna go well. Note the fact that the quality of many pages
there are in very bad quality as considered as a article. The editing
effort will pretty much mean lots of brainless deletions if it is to
be meaningful ... some of these conversation contains valuable info,
but the discussion style makes it hard to extract info or a huge
amount of editing effort.

In short, there needs to be some authoritative guideline. Then, the
conversation styled dialogues of the wiki would wane. Without such a
guideline, and letting tech geekers go freely on what each think is
best, is not likely to make emacswiki coherent anytime soon. Large
projects requires a leadership. Richard Stallman, is a good example

In summary, there are 2 things i'm saying, and have tried to say to
you 2 or 3 years ago, albeit perhaps in a terse manner. One is to
adopt WikiMedia, instead feeling attached to your personal code. (2)
It needs a authoritative guideline for emacswiki to grow.

For (2), please dont think it is some Big Brother heavy hand on
control. The guidelines needs not be harsh, strict, or even enforced.
However, it is necessary, that there is such a guideline, and it be
required reading for emacswiki editors. (think of Richard Stallman's
GNU Manifesto, who actually goes to the trouble of going into
legalities with its GPL and FSF corporation.)

«Alex, have you considered using a third party wiki engine for emacs
wiki before?»

Alex wrote:
«No, never. I use my own software because I know exactly what it does,
I have full control over the code, and I feel very comfortable
extending it.  Switching to something else would mean more work for
me. That's why I suggested that anybody interested in it set up their
own site, start mirroring Emacs Wiki page content, look at all the
background jobs, redirects, URL rewrite rules, text formatting rules,
etc. And when they're finished, handing over the domain name will be a
trivial thing by comparison.  But I'm not willing to do the work for
somebody else. They need to do it themselves.»

Ok. Thanks for the explanation.


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