ThoughtStorms Wiki

HeatherJames added this link to ProgrammingWithAndInWiki but deserves its own page.

What if there were a [programming] contest that more accurately modeled the way ideas really move through the world? Suppose, once an idea had been put forward by one person, it could then be freely adopted and modified by anyone else even as the contest is still running? The winning entry for this kind of contest would be an amalgamated effort by many contestants, simultaneously competing and collaborating. This approach is more like the messy, organic way in which much software, particularly open source software, actually gets built. Presumably, then, an open source programming contest might show us something about how innovation works in the real world.

For several years, we have been running exactly this kind of contest using the MATLAB programming language, and the results have given us a fascinating quantitative perspective on the dynamics of innovation and reward in collaborative programming. Over time, we have observed a striking resemblance between our open source contest and wiki-based Web sites. A wiki is a bare-bones document management tool for online collaboration. Simply put, wiki is a page or a collection of pages that can be modified by anyone viewing it. This simple rule has profound consequences. By drastically lowering the cost of participation, the number of participants is correspondingly expanded. Surprisingly, documents created and maintained on wikis are often cogent, helpful, and well-maintained. Enormous projects have been built as wikis, the most spectacular of which is the Wikipedia, an entire encyclopedia which spontaneously grows in volume and value through wiki-induced collaboration. Our contests resemble a wiki in the sense that anyone can modify any of the code on display. As with wikis, the result is a fertile meeting of the minds, and a model for successful collaborative design.

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