Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pondering the wiki:

An insightful evaluation of the wiki,, flowed from Adam. His thoughts are on the mark and worthy for others to read and comment upon as well. I'll get my answers to each of his specific remarks in short order.

I'm motivated to spend a few weeks on the wiki to ramp up for the next election cycle. So, I'd love to invest some time there in the second half of October and November, 2005. Positive help and reviews are needed.

One problem with local issues and more technical politics is getting up to speed with the basic facts. Another dimension of the wiki could be for general education and information. Pointers to articles elsewhere could assist others in doing their homework. Covering trends and documenting facts help to build confidence. However, the general journalistic coverage within the wiki is crushing to the efforts for the refinement of a specific campaign platform. Both voters and candidates don't want to wade through, yet alone create, multiple term-papers before blurting out specific platform planks on certain issues. So, my question now is "how."

Additional tech tools also exist that have yet to be deployed with gusto. Podcasting, concept maps, deliberative democracy and multi-media CDs are still on the back burner. Each can serve in the campaign as tools to win supporters and lead the charge for reforming Pittsburgh's landscape. However, the roll-out for each tool is yet to be determined.

Time will tell how this can all come together, or not. If you'd like to make an impact -- join our efforts and become a positive, thoughtful contributor.
For the platform wiki, I think that the front page is really the most important page. A person should come to the front page, understand what he is looking at and how it can be useful to him. Anything on the front page that does not contribute to this is just a distraction.

So, who do we want to use the wiki?

1. Voters

2. Activists

1. Party activists
2. Issue activists

3. Candidates

4. Policy-makers


We may want to have introductory pages specifically targeted at each audience group. There already seems to be pages targeted at party activists and candidates, but not much focused on the other groups.

Another way to think of the wiki's user-base is in terms of "readers" and "editors." Readers need to find the information that they are interested in, while editors need to also know what sort of material to add. For readers, we need a link-structure that they can navigate intuitively. Right now, some of the page names aren't informative (such as "beyond the platform" and "mind food")--those titles could include just about anything. We need editors who will arrange the content in an easy-to-navigate manner with informative page titles--so the immediate issue is: what do the editors need?

Editors need guidelines--it isn't clear how to go about producing a collaborative political platform. Right now, I don't see any pages that describe the vision/mission for the wiki, and I don't see any guidelines for editors. As the main force behind this wiki, you need to provide the vision for it. There's one big question that needs to be answered for the editors:

Is the platform your platform, or is it a "meta platform".

1. Is it about your ideas and your goals as a candidate, with the allowance that others may reuse the content, or

2. Is it a collection of all possible items that could be in a platform, with a special emphasis on items that you could incorporate into your own platform?

Based on the front page right now, it seems that the answer is that this platform is for you and your political allies. This places considerable constraints on the editors, and these need to be spelled out clearly so that editors know that they aren't wasting their time.

1. What values form the basis of your campaign. This needs to be stated so that editors can contribute content that is consistent with those values, and won't just get thrown away.

2. What reforms do you expect to push? Listing these reforms allows knowledgeable activists to provide you with detailed information about these policies.

3. What issues do you think are important, but you don't have an opinion on? This allows activists to argue for their own position on those issues.

The other option is that the wiki is supposed to incorporate any idea that could be placed on a platform (a "meta-platform"). This places less constraints on the editors, as each of them is using the platform for their own purposes, but it means that we need a stricter system for distinguishing between items that you endorse and that you are interested in, and items that have been placed on the wiki by others, and possibly by opposing candidates.

Finally, we can consider how the wiki will develop, and what phase it is in right now. In my view, we have three major phases

1. Infrastructure deployment: this includes the wiki itself, a basic link-structure, and guidelines for editors

2. Initial content expansion: recruiting editors (activists), and fleshing out a number of policy positions/proposals

3. Use and maintenance: draw in the general public, continue to expand content with feedback

How we approach each of these phases ultimately depends on whether this is your platform or a meta-platform. We'll have to provide (and "enforce") general usage guidelines, which I think should mimic Wikipedia. We can address that later.

So, those are my thoughts on the wiki.

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