Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
<Previous Next>
Tue Dec 12 11:20:32 2006
Kernel Drinking Game

A drinking game for Linux:

Take a drink every time:

Jimbo Wales has announced that Wikia (a company he started that's not part of the Wikimedia Foundation) will provide free Wiki space to the world in exchange for linkbacks to the main Wikia site. The key difference between this and what they were doing before is that presumably advertisements (which were a condition of having a Wikia site as an alternate to payment) can be disabled, or all associated profits go to the people who requested the Wiki space. I don't know if linkbacks will provide enough revenue in some fashion to offset the costs of running the thing, but I never really understood how advertising-based businesses afford what they afford anyhow. From a certain quote in that article, Jimbo doesn't understand it either. "We don't have all the business model answers, but we are confident -- as we always have been -- that the wisdom of our community will prevail". This seems to me like something that would (and should) scare off investors - it's one thing to be able to toss up one's hands at a success and say "I don't know how it works", but for things that are in the future, that seems less wise.

There's another thing to note about the community - the Wikipedia community (which may be distinct from the Wikia community, if there is a unified one) works (when it works) in article production because it attracts a lot of people who are individually suited to particular tasks they do. Academes and intellectuals provide a lot of the good content, people who can write well copyedit, some people work on big-picture stuff, etc. It's not the power of democracy or any type of group wisdom that makes things work - it's the capacity to inspire people with spare time and specific skills to join the community and contribute to their area of interest. If there were no academic culture in the world, Wikipedia would be irreperably crippled. I sometimes worry when I see large numbers of starry-eyed Wikipedians fail to understand how Wikipedia works, especially when they're prominent people who make things happen. In stating the above, I realise that there may be a problem with my inadequate concern for easy entry into the community - people joining us (eventually) have a lot of things to learn, but the deep education that I've been advocating for new users to inculturate them really needs to be friendly and do a good job at grabbing the interest of everyone who might be useful. I don't know if I really understood that before.

In a recent conversation, I used a phrase I like to describe philosophers and nonphilosophers. The geist of the conversation was that philosophers, in doing self-inquiry and creation of new values, end up questioning a lot of things that others take for granted (the values of their society). This questioning and rebuilding eventually takes them, metaphorically, out of the well-paved plains in which a stable society lives, into the woods where they might make a little clearing. The people around them in their life and others influenced by them might come partway from the plains into the woods (or not), while many of those committed to existing plains (or other philosophers defending their own spot in the woods) will take potshots at them, just as kulturkampf is always happening at a low level between those inhabiting different plains. To extend it even further beyond that conversation, a philosopher is always very different in experience from their distant intellectual descendants - while in theory their position may be close, the buildup over the years eventually turn parts of that campsite in the woods from being a flexible and new creation (whatever its flavour) into traditions or dogma.

Thinking about that latter part, that might mean that I have to change my interpretations of some other things too. I think I understand more fully, and am more comfortable with asserting that terms for positions should be held very loosely, as descriptively rather than prescriptively as possible. I have long refused to call myself a humanist, partly because I disagree with some of the intuitions of humanism, and partly because I feel that people would feel they could hold me to a humanistic standard which I never cared about. I am comfortable calling myself an unorthodox communist, with the understanding that I neither approve of nor feel any responsibility for existing attempts at communism (although also pointing out that advocates of capitalism have a lot to answer for if they even try to hold me to that standard). The words "that's not what it means to me" are always on my lips, ready to unchain myself from other people's assertions as to what I should be based on the terms i use to describe myself. Ahh, reflection, and rummaging in the woods of philosophy.