ThoughtStorms Wiki

SebPaquet recently called ThoughtStorms "amazing", which I'm pretty chuffed about. Recognition from one of the earliest big names on PhilsBlogRoll counts for a lot.

But it set me wondering whether ThoughtStorms was a vehicle for becoming famous. Can you be an A-list WikiNaut?

I'm starting to think not. A couple of years ago, I started another futile grab for fame : my BeatBlog of free rhythmical fragments and musical sketches. I'd worked out that contemporary electronic music had organized itself into recognizable SupplyChain or FoodWeb of those who created the individual sounds, those who created the patterns and small cells of music (the BreakBeats and the melodies), and those who wove them together : musicians who made songs and tracks; DJs who made long sequences of tracks into an evening's dancing.

As my favourite occupation was composing melodies and rhythms, but not taking the time to organize these components on a larger scale, I figured I'd specialize at that level, and simply churn out hundreds of short beats and fragments on a regular basis, and wait for other exponents of FreeMusic to integrate them into larger scale modules.

But of course, the law of the supply chain is that suppliers get squeezed. And the law of the food-web is that billions of anonymous plankton get eaten. And the law of branding is that the brand closest to the customer wins. And TheUserIsThePlatform. etc.

In electronic music, the DJ seized control from the individual track-makers. Only to be supplanted in some genres by the MCs who sit on top of the session.

If anyone used and appreciated the beats I wrote, I never heard it. In fact, it's hard to see how anyone would get credit for creating something so low-down in the food-chain when the fame and glory is going to get grabbed by the customer-facing DJs and "name" musicians.

Now I'm wondering whether ThoughtStorms suffers a similar condition. What is the value proposition of a PersonalWiki like this? To me, it's becoming increasingly clear what the value of my wiki is. It's not the usual wiki virtue of integrating the small fragments of information from a community. It's the ease of accreting a large number of fragments from one very scatty and disorganized individual. In that sense, I'm so disorganized that I behave a bit like an unco-ordinated group. And a tool for groups is the best tool for me personally. :-)

But there's another way of looking at the value of ThoughtStorms. It does a bit of low-level agregating and organizing and connecting of a lot of MicroContent fragments : small thoughts and links to other resources and ideas out there on the web. This is famously what weblogs do too. But weblogs are more reader focused. I talk about TheJoyOfMultitexturality, but as WardCunningham points out, basically wiki makes things easier for writers but harder for readers : (TradeOffBetweenReadingAndWriting)

But what that really means, is that I'm deliberately pitching myself lower down the food-web than a blogger who writes more reader-oriented / customer-friendly text; in a regular, reliable format; delivered in a range of convenient syndication feeds. My value is as a supplier of connections between ideas, which are themselves expressed in too crude a form for the average reader. So a blogger can repackage those ideas and gain from them. The bloggers themselves are very honorable and will credit and link to the source, but I imagine that most readers of SebPaquet or BillSeitz who click through, quickly decide that they're glad that they can leave the work of sifting through the debris for the odd, interesting idea, to someone else, who'll package it more neatly.

The bloggers are an essential connection between my ideas and the wider public, but they are all taking their cut of the value in terms of attention. (Remember music retailers take 50% of the price of a CD?)

I should stress here that this isn't a complaint. I chose to pitch my thoughts at this level, and not try to write a more user-friendly blog for several reasons : time, taste, dislike of regular commitment etc. And a belief that there's PlentyOfRoomAtTheBottom. And I'm very happy with ThoughtStorms. It is amazing to me, the way it seems to almost automagically come up with new connections and stimulating bisociations. (WikiIsPayingOff)

But this wiki will never make me famous.

Counter 1

Bloggers do something similar in terms of chasing the smaller, less polished, with respect to mainstream journalism, and they get famous. Maybe there's room for fame at all levels. (See also ) http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/03/22.html )

Counter 2

SunirShah arguably got famous from wikiing. –SebPaquet

: good point, and that empty link reminds me that there should be a page dedicated to him here, update, now is ... – PhilJones

Also, he didn't intend to get famous from wikiing. In a similiar vein, Linus Torvalds never thought Linux would make him famous; fame was never his goal. But he's famous nonetheless. I think an intentional "grab for fame" is almost always doomed to fail, because this is not valuable to anyone other than the person trying to be famous. Most people outside of the entertainment industry become famous by simply doing their work. As people gradually discover the value that this work has for them, this particular person becomes more well-known. If the person offers enough value to enough people, her fame reaches a critical mass, and begins to snowball. – StephenGilbert (just thinking out loud)

Counter 3



Surely no one gets famous from wiki because :

  • a) most people assume wikis are a collaborative form, and credit doesn't belong to anyone in particular.
  • b) people don't like to link to something as fluid as a wiki, because ReFactoring might always break the link.

**Or it might change the content of the page, ala Meatball:ContentSwizzling. – StephenGilbert

See also :

  • on fragments : WikisAndWeblogs