Note : some of this discussion is now redundant because ThoughtStorms itself is now closed and only editable by me.

Last week BillSeitz and I started a political argument which saw him chucking references to pages on his wiki onto this one.

Several things about this struck me.

  • Both Bill and I keep PersonalWikis. So if we carry on an argument, we can both search our respective HyperTexts looking for evidence to back up our positions. On the internet, you can always use SearchEngines for that too. But the point of a personal hypertext (or BillSeitz:TheBrain) is that it already indexes the internet in a way that's familiar. And because of SmallWorld properties, I can usually find any page I want within a short number of clicks. I think things that I've indexed in ThoughtStorms, I find quicker than things I know exist, but have to try several combinations of keywords for on Google.
  • So an argument between two people who are backed up by wikis or personal hypertexts is also a conflict between their respective texts. Which indexes the space of arguments and evidence better? Or maybe there isn't an "objective" better. It's just which is better for the purposes of this argument. Nevertheless, arguments are canalized by the structure of the wiki. And in any disagreement, one may be "fitter" than the other.
  • Both our wikis are publicly readable. But a personal hypertext is more accessible to it's creator. I know mine better, and he knows his better. So to ventur e into the opponent's text is like venturing into hostile territory. The natives know the paths intimately but you don't. (Compare ArchitectureAtWar)
  • What are "links"? Routes to new resources, of course.
  • But there's an asymmetry between my wiki and Bill's. Mine is publicly writable and his isn't. What does that mean for wikis at war? (Not anymore of course.)
    • If Bill was a less honourable character, he could, of course, try to vandalise my wiki. He could cut off supply-lines, diving into the text and wiping out connections or redirecting them. (Not totally simple on wiki because NamesOfPagesAreConcrete but nevertheless, major disruption is possible.)
    • What he might do, and what might also be within the rules of good-sportsmanship in Wiki-war, is to booby-trap pages. To go to the heart of my argument. To pages which seem secure. And which I automatically refer other readers to. And plant links to incriminating, compelling counter-evidence there. For example, when I started the page PovertyIsIncreasing, he subverted it with a link to BillSeitz:NormanBorlaug.
    • But at the same time, every link and argument he drops into my wiki enriches it, and makes it a better map of the territory. After the skirmish, when I regroup, I now have those resources. Unable to reciprocate, I haven't enriched his text, except where he has to manually pillage or scavange my pages for links to add to his.
  • What are links? Routes to resources? Booby-traps? Loot from the raid?

How did you let yourself (or why better did you make yourself) go into the ArgumentIsWar metaphor? In a wiki that seems like a happy way to lose, since you can never really "win" an argument, only cease updating pages for the moment. –EdwardVielmetti

Good question. (Welcome by the way, Edward. Want to fill in a page about yourself? :-) I don't think of argument as war, or primarily about winning (See also ValueOfArgument, ArgueAgainstMe). But I guess I do see it as using conflict. And I suppose theory of war is a body of theory about conflict. If you like, think of this page as just one which explores the metaphor to see if we get anything interesting out of it.

PhilJones