Well-reasoned, polite discussion of the nature of online knowledge production communities, with special but not exclusive focus on community policy (production, governance, management) questions; "the new politics of knowledge" broadly speaking. Read more.
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About the SharedKnowing Mailing List
SharedKnowing is a mailing list for both discussion and announcements, not specifically affiliated with any project, but hosted by the Citizendium.
Purpose of the list
Well-reasoned, polite discussion of the nature of online knowledge production communities, with special but not exclusive focus on community policy (production, governance, management) questions; "the new politics of knowledge" broadly speaking. Though participation is by no means restricted to philosophers, we would like the list to have a more theoretical or philosophical focus, as opposed to being concerned with the specific minutia of specific communities (such as Wikipedia).
The collaborative knowledge community component of the list is important. It is not a list about Internet communities generally, much less the Internet generally. It's about Internet communities that are both collaborative and aimed at compiling knowledge.
This is a neutral forum which persons with all manner of cyberphilosophy are encouraged to join. While hosted by Citizendium, the list otherwise has no special relation to or official support of Citizendium.
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When will the discussion start?
We will give people a chance to get on the list before we start discussing. It should start up in mid- to late October. Until then, everyone will be moderated. After that, everyone will be unmoderated all at once.
Who should join
The list is open. It is especially recommended for everyone who likes to think deeply about collaborative Internet knowledge communities. We would like to gather together professors, students, independent scholars, and intellectuals generally, from every discipline and profession, who are thinking about this nest of problems. This includes
- philosophers interested in any of several branches of philosophy, including social and applied epistemology; the philosophy of the Internet and of information; continental philosophers interested in "the politics of knowledge"; political philosophers interested in the nature and politics of online communities
- communications scholars studying Internet communication and publishing
- sociologists and social anthropologists studying Internet society and culture, especially of Web 2.0
- library and information scientists concerned about the quality of information online, or who study online social content production systems
- computer scientists and programmers interested in the workflow, project design, the deep operation of wikis and other collaborative knowledge production software, "the blogosphere" taken as a collaborative entity, etc.
- publishers who have an interest in how new collaborative content production systems are impacting their industry
- journalists reporting about online communities, or who are interested in citizen journalism
- business scholars and entrepreneurs who want to deepen their grasp of the future impact of collaborative knowledge production systems such as Wikipedia, Citizendium, Mahalo, and many others
- anyone who runs or participates heavily in a wiki or other online collaborative content production system, or who is planning such a system, or contemplating starting one; particularly, people who like to think about community management/policy questions
Students enrolled in related courses, and their professors, are encouraged to join. But this is not a strictly academic list, of course.
Core and example questions
Here are some questions the list is apt to take up. There are no doubt many other examples, but this is a long list to give new contributors a good idea of what we might cover:
- What exactly is an Internet community, anyway?
- Why do some wikis work, and other wikis fail? In particular, what policies make them work? What is the "deep explanation" of collaborative work?
- What exactly do we mean by "collaboration," anyway? Is there an important distinction between traditional collaboration and the newer sort of (strong) collaboration featured in wikis? Is the Blogosphere a collaborative community? (What is it collaborating on?)
- Is everything that uses wiki software a wiki in fact? If not, what is needed to transform a website with wiki software installed into an actual wiki?
- What is the proper role, if any, of experts in collaborative knowledge communities?
- But what constitutes success, for an online community? How can this be decided? What is or should be the goal of Wikipedia? Of the Citizendium? Of Digg?
- Does it make any sense at all to speak of a purpose or goal of the Blogosphere? Should bloggers somehow regulate their behavior accordingly?
- Is neutrality, as a policy for wikis, achievable? Is it well-justified?
- What are the merits of other common policies, such as notability, no original research, citation, and so forth?
- How, in general, should disputes be managed in online communities?
- Are there minimum levels of importance for what should be included in an online knowledge database? (Wikipedians discuss this under the heading "deletionism vs. inclusionism.")
- Can collaborative citizen journalism really work? What are we to make of the Assignment Zero experiment?
- What are the reasons for permitting anonymous contribution? Can it be defended, for example, on grounds of privacy? Does anonymous contribution necessarily undermine rules enforcement, or make that irremediably difficult? Does it necessarily undermine the credibility of the content? Why or why not?
- To what extent do traditional theories or models of government, such as democracy, republicanism, aristocracy, etc., apply to online communities? How fruitful is the notion that online communities are indeed not just communities, but in many cases also polities? If there is a useful analogy at work here, what is the best system of internal governance for online communities?
Note: the fact that Citizendium has taken definite policy positions on some of these questions does not mean that Citzendium's positions will be presumed correct. This list is officially independent of Citizendium.
Relevant and irrelevant Internet communities/websites
Relevant to the list: Wikipedia, Citizendium, and other wiki nonfiction writing projects; mailing lists, Slashdot, Digg, Usenet, and other discussion forums, insofar as these are used to share information and build knowledge; del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Mahalo, and other link collection and bookmarking projects; Project Gutenberg, archive.org, Google Books, and other book/archive digitization projects; many user-built scientific and academic projects such as Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Perseus Project; some ratings and consumer websites, including Amazon.com, insofar as they include an attempt to create reliable user-generated information; Google Earth, insofar as it is participatory.
Less relevant to the list (their purpose is not knowledge first and foremost): MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and other social network websites; MoveOn and other political action communities; eBay, craigslist, and other sales websites; mashups, like WeatherBonk, which do not have a significant social component; most media file exchange services; Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other 3D virtual worlds that do not have any clear educational purpose.
Discussion of the latter could be on-topic, if they indicate something interesting about knowledge communities.
Other encouraged posts
In addition to discussion, certain announcements are also encouraged. For example:
- "News" relevant to the list topic; e.g., news about reasonably important communities starting up, or about experimental innovations
- Reviews of books; hawking your own book is OK once or twice, but not repeatedly
- Links to new, interesting news articles, academic papers, and (meaty) blog posts
- Calls for papers and participation; announcements of relevant conferences, new journals, and journal issues
- Requests for comment on academic papers posted on the Web
Subjects that will be deemed off-topic
To help the list retain a certain focus, several related subjects will be deemed off-topic, unless they can be directly tied to the more central topic of the list. Off-topic subjects include:
- Internet politics, such as net neutrality, or the proposed .xxx domain; the list isn't for many of these sort of "traditional" issues about net politics, but is focused exclusively on collaborative knowledge production communities
- Selling anything, except maybe your latest (relevant) book; for anything else, get moderator/listowner permission
- How to use wiki or promote a blog; the list isn't a help desk, it's for theorizing
- Particular personalities; this is definitely not the place to complain about the Wikipedia admin you love to hate (see below)
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization), for the most part; this list is not for marketing issues
Occasional posts and announcements about such ancillary topics will be tolerated, but extended discussion of them will not.
Listmembers will have the opportunity to vote to restrict or expand the list scope, but these will be our initial parameters.
The list will be unmoderated, except if, in the judgment of the listowner or moderators, a person's contributions warrant turning on that person's moderation flag. While you may feel free to discuss mailing list moderation as a general topic on this list, rest assured that the list itself will not change its policy on this point. The listowner recognizes a very broad right to freedom of thought, but does not recognize a blanket right to say whatever you damn well please, even if it is flame-bait or extremely off-topic.
If a person's messages are moderated and then rejected more than three times, then the listowner reserves the right to eject the person altogether. You have been warned. Our moderators have better things to do than handhold hotheads.
The following are some rules of behavior. This is all elaboration of one injunction: be kind! Obviously, we have erred on the side of detail:
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- This is an open, rational discussion. As such, do not attempt to prove points by saying how much you know about the subject. We don't care about how much you know about the subject. We care only what your arguments are. If you think someone is an idiot for making a certain argument, we recommend that you ignore him or her, not that you reply condescendingly.
- "Flame bait" is also grounds for moderation and/or expulsion. In other words, discussions that are apt to make other people very angry must be conducted with proportionate sensitivity to other views. We won't censor you based on your positions, of course, but we may ask you to word your remarks more tactfully, so that the list can discuss difficult issues with professional coolness and rational detachment.
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The listowner is Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief of the Citizendium and co-founder of Wikipedia.
Sanger will be asking for volunteers to help moderate the list. Moderators from outside the Citizendium community are especially encouraged to apply.
"Plebiscites" about list policy may, occasionally, be called, but the listowner reserves the right to determine list policy exclusively. The listowner also reserves the right--only if necessary--to act as "the court of final appeal" in resolving personal disputes. Yes, it's a benevolent dictatorship. (Discussion of the notion of benevolent dictatorship is very much fair game.)
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