I had a wonderful conversation today with Dave Bovill and Ward Cunningham about Federated Wiki today. For over an hour we hacked around with a tool designed to support the open Web.
Federated Wiki works as a space between wikis and blogs. Wikis seek a collective voice. Blogs represent individual thinking. Fedwiki is about forkable thoughts. I was turned on to #fedwiki by Mike Caulfield and I have been playing since.
Basically users create pages that can be forked and added to their site. There are a series of pages within each "site." Groups of users can gather in neighborhoods. This allows you to fork any page and bring it back to your wiki.
Technically I was at a total loss when Dave and Ward talked about how easy plug-ins are to create since the system is built in json (I have no idea what json means). Yet it was great to talk to them about the possibilities of federated wikis.
Some of the use cases we covered:
- Curriculum writing- I am in teacher education. We write many lessons plans. This usually involved students copyong and pasting ideas from the web into a lesson plan template. Why not celebrate this textual poaching (Jenkins, 1999)? Using federated wiki we could create a database of lessons.
- Conferences-This was Dave's idea. He has created a #fedwiki for the Chaos Communication Conference. I was intriguied by this idea as my first use of #fedwiki was to present my #mozfest session using the tool. Remote attendance of conferences is a matter of equity and access. Seeing what Dave built made me realize that #fedwiki maybe the best way to organize a conference program and materials.
- Narrative Writing- Dave brought up that someone used #fedwiki to create a forkable storytelling experience. My guess it was probably Terry Elliot. I am totally going to do this in my children's literature class this fall.
There are a few issues:
- Metaphors- Federated wikis use some metaphors that are not too accessible to norms. Forks that look like flags and flags that look like squares. The idea of "neighborhoods" or adding a "factory" to add content just don't seem like a concurrent fit. There seems to be a dissonance among the target and vehicle of the metaphor.
- Documentation- The documentation supporting users is written by technical folks for the coding crowd. Norms would struggle to follow along. I will add that Mike Caufield has some great step by step videos on his YouTube channel. I know I will have to make some for my classes.
- Difficulty- The two previous issues compound a difficult tool to use. The UX/UI will be a challenge for my students to overcome. Most have never peaked at the source code of a website.
I am excited to play with federated wiki and explore its uses.