New Wiki Now

Wiki's Recent Changes creates a feedback loop that supercharges a community. We reflect on how that effect varies with population size and demeanor then speculate on how it might effect wave behavior in the federation.


What started as a mechanical tracking mechanism acquired a mystical quality as people noticed its central role forming and guiding the perpetual Wiki Now.

I scripted the creation of new HyperCard cards and added a bit of record keeping to the process. I'd been coding in Smalltalk-80 which kept ChangeSets as a layer above its append-only change log. I aped that by mechanically adding new and changed card names to the Recent Changes card.

ChangeSets were malleable and 'sorting' them became an important late step in my development process. I did the same with mechanically created Recent Changes cards when I renamed them to describe the nature of the change. This didn't carry over well to wiki since simultaneous threads interleaved. See Change Sorter

Wiki's Recent Changes created a news feed of sorts but wiki itself remained a place where structure emerged outside of the feed and was freely navigable with hyperlinks alone. The feed made wiki sticky for the most active editors but most visitors came to wiki by way of search.

I followed Recent Changes daily and corrected style abuses imported from UUCP NetNews and other mailing lists. This gave the site its highbrow feel. Others caught on to this activity which became known as Gardening.

Eventually the Recent Changes Junkies would actively jump on every new topic filling it out from their personal experience and linking it into whatever relevant content the wiki already had. Like a pop music chart RC came to guide the communities attention, Wiki Now.


Wikipedia launched with the same dynamic but eventually out grew it. Some attempts were made to segment Recent Changes. Watchlists worked for subgroups. IRC change feeds worked for others.

The blogosphere built RSS feeds and aggregators which similarly fueled that expansion. Twitter created the pure feed of fast reads which became its own sensation that Facebook had to copy for its own survival. Google was forced 'social' since it was locked out of Facebook's content. This war still rages.

Federated wiki makes whole sitemaps work like RSS once did and builds aggregator semantics into its version of Recent Changes. This makes managing the neighborhood of any given tab an important user activity. We've yet to know how this will work at scale.

The best scenario I can imagine would have Wiki Now radiating like waves though loosely related neighborhoods. The junkies could then chase down sources and drag details and maybe perspective back to their favorite corners of the federation.

Thinking within the biological metaphor, maybe these waves would be pandemics of reason that some future Khun would study. See Pandemic Optional

Thinking within the atomic metaphor, maybe these waves would guide particles of reason that would appear to tunnel through barriers like electrons in a potential well. See Pilot Waves