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Semiformalishmaybe

By-NC

I recently had a realisation as to why the NC licenses promoted by CreativeCommons exist: it comes down to how I'd happily contribute to communities where I feel vested, but only rarely do I feel vested in communities where money is flowing around (particularly if I'm a volunteer). The noncommercial licenses CC provides are meant to contribute to communities in that same spirit. I remain an IP-Abolitionist (and a supporter (roughly speaking) of the GPL as a stopgap measure until we can change the laws), but I better understand where the NC-license-boosters are coming from now.

I've been thinking about what kind of lightweight, no-install-or-easy-install system we could design to provide distributed wikilike functionality. I suppose one way would be for some company (Google? Yahoo?) to offer to host personal wikis for the world; I'd say there are privacy concerns, but then I remember that I already have a (secondary) email account on GMail. What's so important about wikis?

  • Data are in a user-comprehensible, simple format (contrast to TeX)
  • Linking between documents (pages) is simple
  • The format is extensible
  • It's a nice, no-nonsense way to organise information, with inner links having properties suitable for exploration
Wikis remain very weak for non-texty-non-image data, and the need for graphical editors for tabular data lessens the value (or at least shows the limits) of the wiki format. Along with redefining how spreadsheets work (learn from Apple's Numbers or Lotus's Improv and take things much further), making a truly next-generation Wiki is among the few really interesting vision/conceptual problems in the "information application for end-users" field. More interesting yet is that there is a huge body of content in both formats, a widespread recognition that things should be better, and tension between flexibility and power with any solution.
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