Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

How I’m Feeling about #FedWikiHappening

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This is one of the most interesting experiences I have ever had, and yet it has elements similar to lots of other experiences I have had over the past year or so.

And I am feeling a mixture of elation, frustration, excitement, trepidation, cautious enthusiasm, disappointment… All in one.

But here is the thing. I am totally getting two things that Mike did when starting this thing:
1. He chose a small number of people. ESSENTIAL. Because the tech support would have been horrendous, and fedwiki is not just about the tech, but also the philosophy. Both together need scaffolding as well as community harmony at first….
2. Who he chose is also telling. I know and have worked with most of these people. They’re people who are digitally literate (so tech savvy and also critical and thoughtful in their use of tech) and also mostly know each other. All that helps in collaboration in general and also in having people push each other forward, support each other with issues, etc.

But mostly, it’s good to be in the company of these people as the year winds down. Not all of them are as active, but enough are to create a buzz.

Now i am also feeling a bit frustrated (inspired by Alex North’s fedwiki post on Opinionated wiki) by some aspects, so I’ll rehash here one of the things i wrote there (semi-anonymously coz unsigned, but not so anonymous now, i guess):

Whose Wiki Is it Anyway

If we take the fedwiki culture to its extreme, i.e. The notion of no one author owning content, but each having their space to accept/reject changes, and take it to the entire fedwikihappening, this to my mind means: not privileging programmer voice over user choice. This means that while I respect that people who developed fedwiki and have been using it for some time know much more about its capabilities, functionality, philosophy, it should be acceptable for users to think differently and imagine diff uses according to their own contexts. This means developers have these broad choices:
1. Explain to users why they’re asking the wrong question (and many of us have kept saying “or is that the wrong question?” Or “is that old-web thinking?”

2. Consider whether making changes (e.g. Notifications, clearer tracking) would give fedwiki a boost, or it would confuse its purpose.

3. Let users figure it out on their own.

4. Recognize that to empower users you need to create space for them to resist the structure the tech imposes on them, and listen to their frustrations and needs and question yourself and your product – can you make it more inclusive to women’s preferred ways of working, for example? It’s no coincidence that Frances and I are working on this (encouraged by Mike) or that Kate started a post on We Make the Road by Walking. And I took that as a sign… If you’re going to ask me to walk here, give me a say in making the road what it is… Don’t tell me how to walk it…(love Alan levine’s contribution to that one, esp. the photo)

There might be a bit of all three happening at the moment.

I am also frustrated by my compulsion to troubleshoot for others (can’t help it; but also coz i started earlier and am a bit more comfy with it – altho i feel everyone’s caught up by now hehe) but given my very basic knowledge, I am not always sure where problems lie. E.g. Today Frances and I seemed not to be seeing each other’s edits. Not sure which of us was doing sthg wrong, coz i know both of us have seen each other’s edits before. So what’s new? But the timezone thing is another reason i am compelled to troubleshoot. Because otherwise we (Frances, Catherine, Kate and I) would have to wait for Mike to wake up. Not fair to Mike. Maybe fedwiki needs developers and advocates across more timezones. Oh, hang on, that’s what this happening is! Because we’re a mix of techies and eddies đŸ™‚

I was going to write a post about what I thought Fedwiki’s strong points are, but Jenny Mackness wrote a great one today, so I’ll just link back to it here so others can read. And it amazes me she managed all that while having lots of huge tech problems (i told her i think she forked someone else”s welcome page). Because i was following fedwiki on Mike’s blog for ages and not “getting it” till i played, and also not until i played collaboratively with others.

I love keith’s comment on Jenny’s blog about empathizing with how students feel with new tech. This bears a new blogpost all its own. Coming soon.

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