Why Not Refactor Home Pages

Why is refactoring a personal page different than refactoring any other page?


I'm raising the "what is an identity" question, but I think that any edit that messes directly with what an identity has to say about itself -- in a space that is easily recognizable as the social system's ceded self story space for that identity -- is morally reprehensible. The self story space is a rule by tradition, and its inviolability is a rule by extension. In the "real world" it might correspond to a living space or a mailbox. Just because it's publicly changeable doesn't mean the public should change it in any way that directly affects what the story's author meant. Suppose you live in a cardboard box on the street? Should random members of the public set fire to it because the street is public and they have lighters? Wiki is very egalitarian -- we all live in cardboard boxes on the street!

A further thought: you may be discomfited by the notion of a "rule by tradition" on WikiWikiWeb, but you can't escape history. People have memories; Wiki has a memory (possibly more flawed than an individual human's) however much one might wish it didn't. -- KevinKinnell

The importance of rules arising from tradition cannot be overstated around here. My big question would be: what's the relationship between our ownership of our cardboard boxes (which others can scribble on) and Ward's ownership of the street and/or city? -- RichardDrake

I'm very uncertain of Ward's ownership of the Wiki. It's like saying Franklin, Jefferson and Adams owned the nation. The major difference is that Ward can voluntarily destroy this particular Wiki. (Others exist, and some might even get to the speed and minimalism of this one.) This, and the fact that external forces (suppose Ward goes bankrupt, God forbid) can destroy this Wiki are what keep Ward out of a god role.

If we're going to keep the "public street" analogy, we'd better clarify the correspondences: let's say the street is the wiki, the c2 Web server(s) are the city and the InterNet is the county. That still leaves us some upward and downward expansion to find the point where the analogy becomes totally ridiculous. -- KevinKinnell

I personally feel that even my home page "belongs" to Ward in some sense. He's not god but I hope he's not just the man in the truck early in the morning who hoses down the street and gives me an unwanted shower! He's the host of this party. We need to pay attention to that because:

-- RichardDrake

Just because you can destroy something doesn't mean you own it. (And just because you can ruin something doesn't mean you have any right to it.)

The Wiki belongs to anyone sincere to the spirit of the Wiki. Indeed, if it weren't for our ownership, it wouldn't exist in the first place. -- JosephTurian


For a *really* old view of Wiki as a public space, see http://c2.com/doc/space.html (May 1, 1995)

Interesting document; it appears that Ward has a very hands off attitude toward the experiment; he'd like suggestions for improving the tool and that's about it.

I think we have to assume that the owner of Wiki has gpl'd it to us, to screw up or make Utopian as we see fit. Which is, of course, the reason for all of the meta-discussion. If Ward just laid down the law, we wouldn't even be having this discussion, there would be nothing to discuss. Not that I didn't see your point about respect to the host, it just seems that the host has said "there ya go, go nuts." Our property rights are the same as in the real world: we all get together and decide what having "property rights" means. This is why I thought that rules-by-extension and rules-by-tradition exist on this Wiki. Some of the traditions probably started when the Wiki started (like the YourName page) because they were obvious, or obvious at the time. The extensions should come about from experience in other social spaces, by analogy. If I could analogize something I'm doing on Wiki into a "real world situation" (like being at a party) and the analogy-action would get me punched in the face, then I might want to consider heavily whether I should do it on Wiki.

If an action I was taking on Wiki could be convincingly analogized as violence, then it would be a morally reprehensible action in my view. Defacing a home page analogizes to writing graffiti all over the neighbor's door at best, burning their house at worst. Violence, by any measure. That is why I think it shouldn't be done. I have a great deal of respect for Ward and C2 for what they've made available here, in no small part because they do not interfere with the evolution of the space, but their approach to the space leaves them out of the set of motives for wiki-citizen-behaviour. -- KevinKinnell


If Ward just laid down the law, we wouldn't even be having this discussion, there would be nothing to discuss.

I have laid down the law, as strongly as I can without destroying the effects I sought. See GoodStyle, WikiHistory -- WardCunningham


I think the content of a HomePage belongs to the owner of the homepage. He doesn't need to sign anything to protect it. Any message sent to him becomes his property. Friendly edits are welcome, but only he should delete or refactor. A homepage starts with some real personal information ("I am a ... at XyCorporation" or an e-mail address or a Web page link), just writing "I was here" doesn't create a homepage and may be deleted eventually. If you see a homepage without CategoryHomePage, add it, as I do occasionally. Of course everything here belongs to Ward but this is a different kind of ownership. -- HelmutLeitner

The only unasked for edit of a HomePage I do is when I'm updating backlinks. That is, if someone has UnitTests on a bookmark section of their homepage, I use SixSingleQuotes to change it to its new incarnation as UnitTests. I've been assuming that people won't mind if I update their bookmarks instead of letting my changes rudely break them. Is this generally kosher with Wiki or am I unintentionally trespassing?

I personally am happy when people fix my bookmarks or correct my mis-spellings. -- DavidCary.

Very little here belongs to Ward. See WikiCopyRights. WikiMail is all right to delete if it remains stale, as often people leave material behind until the concerned party is satisfied with the conversation. Sometimes you will see an edit to improve the quality of someone else's namepage. Perhaps the target might enjoy this as an example of WikiNature, and all part of the fun.


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