Contribution to the future of the wiki

This is the fourth text in the series Wikimedian age. Previous articles are:

  1. Wikimedian age is coming
  2. Obsoleting past ages
  3. Changes which Wikimedian age will bring


When I am talking that wiki will bring a new age, it may looks like too radically. However, there are a number of small steps which may make our lives very different.

I want to be able to synchronize my local wiki with, for example, some Wikipedia articles, some Anarchopedia articles, as well as with, for example, Google Docs so I would be able to use my data while I am off line as well as I am out of my home. I also want to write my blog on my wiki and to upload it automatically on WordPress.

All of such concepts are already implemented inside of different software. While I don’t know for synchronizing method between some local writing software and Wikipedia, there are a lot of methods for synchronizing the files and the most important software with such possibilities are CVS and Subversion. You may even browse through the file history and generate a particular historical version of the complex document/software.

What MediaWiki (and other wiki software) doesn’t have is a client side tool. Otherwise, they have the same functionality as CVS and SVN have. But, I’ll talk about the implementation in some other post. This one is dedicated for some more general thoughts.

And how to do that? Using only contemporary technology (pywikipediabot) it is possible to make such software. (And I’ll start with making such software.)

The bigger picture of such implementation is more interesting.

Even wiki synchronization (with WYSIWYG editor, of course) will be a great advantage for ordinary user, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine that this is a common technology:

  • We have a complex wiki engine on our computers (probably not Apache/MySQL based, but a separate software).
  • Like feed readers work, such software would download the latest changes from different storages every morning when you turn on your computer. Or it would be downloading changes during the night if your computer is on.
  • Then, you would be able to make changes if you want and to upload it back.
  • But, you wouldn’t upload it back only on Wikipedia or to the single storage system. You would upload it into the different storage systems which the only purpose would be to provide the storage.
  • Because of that, it would be possible to read and edit pages from the web, but web sites which provide such service would be just a front-end to the network, like Usenet clients are.
  • Because of such topology of the system, the software which lays at the bottom of the net wouldn’t be todays, web based wiki software, but bot network which roots would be possible to trace up to pywikipediabot.
  • And, of course, such architecture of the system would allow users to make their own front pages, to make social networks using this architecture, to use even emails as one of the secondary ways of their communication.

But, what it would bring significantly different?

  • Internet will become the real network. You wouldn’t have to use centralized web based systems for anything, while you will use storage systems for your data.
  • The main giants of the age will not be Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, but Internet Archive, Wikimedia and ibiblio.
  • Tendency to remove commercials from sites (cf. WordPress and Blogspot) will be finished. Companies wouldn’t be able to give you commercials if you don’t want them: you will simply switch to another storage provider.
  • Internet business will go toward more useful trends: It will provide content which users like, not the content which companies think that may pass to users as a commercial.
  • As storage providers will be non-profit organizations, Internet business will move toward higher level services. Business offer wouldn’t be “I’ll give to you a hosting and make for you a site; look how much nice websites I made and how much companies are using my hosting service”, but “I’ll give to you a life on the Internet; look how much my customers are living on the net”.
  • And, of course, the most of content will be free for use, copying and modifying. Also, software will take care about licenses: If you take one article from one storage system to change and take it back, software will take licensing data, add your name in the list of the contributors and take it back to the storage system with your name added there.

To do that, we need to make some wider infrastructural changes. I recognized the next:

  • Unifying wiki syntax would make developers life easier. However, it is possible to make a cross-wiki-syntax engine.
  • With the unified syntax it is necessary to make a standard protocol for the “wikinet” communication. Like email systems are using a standard protocol, wikinet systems would have to use one, too.
  • Unified documentation license or compatible licenses. While it is possible to live without that, there will be a lot of problems because contributors would like to copy documentation from one wiki storage to another.

This is the fourth text in the series Wikimedian age. Texts from this series are:

  1. Wikimedian age is coming
  2. Obsoleting past ages
  3. Changes which Wikimedian age will bring
  4. Contribution to the future of the wiki
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~ by millosh on August 31, 2007.

3 Responses to “Contribution to the future of the wiki”

  1. […] Contribution to the future of the wiki […]

  2. The best thing about good wikipedia clients will be the history visualizations. You could get a history at an animated glance instead of a half-hour of clicks.

  3. The same problem exists when you want to compare history of some software using CVS or Subversion. I want to say that this is not even exclusively wiki problem and that we may expect big steps forward when VCS and wiki systems would be merged.

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