I’ve been relieved by the response to my recent EDUCAUSE Review article on wikis. I was terrified at the prospect of SeriousWikiHeads reading the piece and ripping it to shreds, but so far the feedback has been gentle. Among others, Clay Shirky made a positive reference, and Ross Mayfield wrote up a long and thoughtful post, focusing critique on my handling of anonymity and privacy:
Back when Ward [Cunningham] was an advisor, we had some good discussions about [private wiki spaces], how it was necessary for organizations, and I can tell you it wasn’t outside his vision. I can’t emphasize the obvious enough. That without some privacy for groups, participants can’t share. Similar to how AA members are able to open themselves up to strangers provided they are anonymous to the outside world. Heck, the US wouldn’t exist if anonymity wasn’t provided for contributors to the Federalist Papers.
Chris Allen defines four kinds of privacy: defensive privacy, human-rights privacy, personal privacy, and contextual privacy. For most spaces and cases, the issue for wikis is contextual privacy, or what danah called the ickiness factor when something is socially off-kilter when context shifts.
The point of providing privacy or anonymity may be moot if there isn’t a sustainable solution to online security and trust — thrusting us into a transparent society. But we still have a choice to submit to the always on panopticon.
Of course, privacy comes at an opportunity cost for others to build upon your contributions. Negotiating context shifts over time proves to be the most difficult, socially and even legally, to let resources accrete value. Setting the mission and vision of a space requires a great deal of forward looking imagination while balancing the basic need to define a social context for sharing.
Mayfield notes that though I quote a few of his weblog postings in the article, I never interviewed him directly. I wish I had been able to work through my diffidence and nervousness and approached him — these insights (and doubtless others) would have greatly improved the final result.
I wish my French was good enough to help out in this respect, but it’s not even close to that level. Christophe is inviting others to make changes or corrections, and if this is something that interests you I’d encourage you to get in touch with him.
This act of unexpected generosity illustrates to me the wonders of sharing content online — it’s not a one-way process from “creator” to “taker”…it’s more like a multi-directional exchange that benefits everyone.
I hope Christophe and anyone else who works on the translation doesn’t feel bound to a literal interpretation of the original text. Taking liberties where needed can only make the piece more readable…
And as Mayfield’s post demonstrates, it’s not as if the English version couldn’t be improved. I wonder if there would be any benefit to posting the article on a wiki and inviting revisions? Or would that just seem like a perverse form of ego-tripping?