Notes on Wikis

I just want to make it clear from the get-go that, despite being competent in finding information on Wikipedia, Wikis in general are apparently confusing to me, so I apologize if my notes don’t seem well thought out or deeply intelligent.

How Wikis operate as social spaces for collective / collaborative work:Wiki activity 2

Wikis are changing constantly as users provide updates of various sizes and content types. As you can see in the picture to the right, popular Wikis such as the Homestuck Wiki may be updated many times throughout the day. What really makes it a social space, though, is that the audience can not only add to and change the work, they can also leave explanations for what they’ve done, like this gem I found while perusing the Homestuck Wiki’s recent activity.

Wiki activity 1

Communication between infinitely large groups is made easy because everyone can see everything that happens (every alteration, addition, message, etc.) as it happens, as well as being able to see a log of when things happen. No one is left in the dark unless the make zero effort to keep up.

How content creation gets done:

I think it seems to go something like this. (Start typing and see what happens. Trust me, it’s worth it.)

Differences in reading and writing from what we are familiar with:

Reading Wikis can be confusing. As Lamb said, Wikis often lack explicit organization. For example, I have no idea where to start or what I’m even looking at on Meatball Wiki. It doesn’t really even seem like a website so much as it is a giant collection of links. Where is all the content? What is this site even used for? Looking at it hurts my brain.

Writing on a Wiki seems very similar to writing a blog post in the technical sense. However, writing a blog or a book or anything where the discourse is one sided or can be commented on but not changed by the audience is very different from writing in a space where you know your work will be revised or added to. A traditional author or blogger will try to have their entire discourse laid out, typed up, and polished before it’s presented. In a Wiki space, on the other hand, one can post ideas at any stage of development to get input from their peers.

… whatever else comes up

“SoftSecurity” is effective because every reader is given a certain amount of power. Did someone add something incorrect or offensive? No need to try to contact admins, you can just remove or correct it yourself. This system also waives some of the formality usually associated with these actions. The readers are not officials of any sort, so they can get away with making remarks with more attitude such as calling offenders smartasses, while admins (such as the moderators on discussion forums like Reddit) are expected to posses an air of politeness and formality, which is easier for offenders to simply shrug off. Also, there is power in numbers. It’s like having an entire team cleaning up the messes of a few people.


Week Four Reflection

For this week’s assignment I chose to talk about the Invisible Audience of social media. It is definitely an interesting topic, and I wasn’t expecting to get the results I found.

When I read the instructions for this assignment stating “quote a passage from the chapter that challenges your conception or the common conception of blogs or social media” I was honestly a little anxious about it, because it is usually so easy to pick a topic from such a well-researched book and find that Google results simply corroborate what the textbook says. I was pleasantly surprised that the presence of the invisible audience (online and offline) is much more well-known that Rettberg leads us to believe.

I think this ties in to last weeks topic of shaping discussions because the blogs I found who wrote posts addressing their invisible audiences have tried to shape the discussion in a way by attempting to draw the lurkers out of their, um, lurking. Including such previously silent readers could also play in to the topic many others have written about this week: the echo chamber most social media platforms create. The invisible audience may have opinions that differ from the bloggers they follow (not on everything, or else why would they follow them? But perhaps on a couple things) which could bring new information to the discussion.

As always, the production of original posts has been lower than ideal, with only two that weren’t related to the assigned topic (Wednesdays are the Worst and Being Less Wasteful at Work). However! While looking at my classmates’ blogs I’ve noticed that this isn’t far from the norm. I think perhaps the definition of participation must include comments and discussion as well. If we’re counting comments, then I’ve actually done seven things this week. As always I shall continue to strive for daily posts, but I won’t beat myself up over a lack of posts so long as I continue to participate.

Being Less Wasteful at Work

Currently I’m working as a janitor in one of the academic halls. Glamorous right?   Anyway, one of my tasks is to wipe down tables in the classrooms, which for a long time we were doing with the crappy poster towels like those in  public restrooms. A couple weeks ago I realized, why am I using so much of this when I could be using washable towels?
That Thursday and Friday I brought in my own hand towels (which I got from a hotel I had worked at, who couldn’t use them due to stains or tears) and used them instead. I was curious to know how much paper I’d be saving by doing this, so I did some math. I estimated that I was using about 3 times my height per day, which is 16.5 feet. That adds up to 82.5 feet per week. From the first full week I started using washable towels to the end of the semester, I will have saved 1237.5 feet of paper towels.

Wednesdays are the Worst

The way my class schedule works out, most of my class time is MWF. Tuesday’s technically longer, but more spread out. Thursday is the second easiest day, and Friday is the first. Monday and Wednesday are identical.
So why is Wednesday the Worst? Because on Monday one is somewhat refreshed from the weekend, or at least they’ve gotten a little more sleep. Wednesday, however, is right in the middle. You’ve already suffered through two days, and you have another two after.
I think we could all use a mid- week nap.

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Invisible Audiences

In the blogophere, this metaphorical “room” is actually full of people reading everything you post, you just can’t see that they’re there.

“When you imagine who will read your Facebook or blog posts, you are more likely to think of the much smaller group of active Facebook than the large group of invisible lurkers.”

Rettberg asserts that, on social networking sites, it’s “easy to forget about all the invisible readers.” On the one hand I can agree completely. It took forever for me to even notice that I have 75 followers on Tumblr, and I often forget while writing more personal posts that one of those followers is my brother.

On the other hand, such an assertion (although made very recently, the second edition of Blogging is copyrighted 2014) is somewhat outdated. The idea of an invisible audience isn’t exactly new, and is a common phenomenon both online and off, as Ryan Holiday explains. Preteens, teenagers, and young adults often operate under the pretense that they are being watched and evaluated at all times by their peers and the public. Brittany Johnson describes how this can affect college students academically (in regards to presentations and such) and provides some tips for overcoming the effects of what she calls Invisible Audience Syndrome.

Today’s bloggers (with the possible exception of those who are new to the social media scene) are usually well aware of the fact that they have an invisible audience and little control over who sees their posts. Unlike Dooce, who posted her complaints about her job on her blog and was subsequently fired for it, most bloggers are not only aware of the possible vastness of their readership, they openly acknowledge it. Many bloggers such as the authors of Hurray Crochet and The Chalice Well write posts specifically aimed towards the lurkers of the blogosphere, usually to say something along the lines of “hey, I know you’re out there, thanks for listening to me ramble about shit on the internet.” One blogger who goes by the username blondeambassador even went so far as to give her (I’m assuming she’s female based on the posts) blog the title “Letters to an Invisible Audience”

The author of NDloveNY gives a brief yet accurate explanation of how the knowledge that one has an audience affects how a blogger writes and what they write about. She elaborates on the fact that she tailors her posts so as to avoid angering her audience or hurting their feelings. Had Dooce considered the possibility that her employers could read her blog, she might not have written what she wrote. The influence of the invisible audience is quite pervasive. Rettberg states that it can be easy to forget you are friends with certain people on Facebook if you don’t interact with them regularly as they disappear from you’re news feed. I have to disagree with this. Even though I don’t always see them in my news feed, I am all too aware of the fact that I am friends with a lot of moms from when I was in 4-H, and I usually censor myself accordingly so as not to have their opinion of my character marred. This has been changing though, as I become more comfortable in my stance on inflammatory issues and better able to defend my stances.

Week Three Reflection

This week’s assignment was enjoyable, but it wasn’t without some difficult aspects. I chose shaping discussion on blogs as my topic, which I considered interesting to research. It was challenging for me to find posts that best exemplified how discussion usually functions and how shaping it can be difficult for the blogger, especially while keeping such examples strictly to “blogs”. This is why I expanded my definition of a blog to include Facebook, which Rettberg also considers very similar since (as Halie pointed out) it is a frequently updated sites with entries in reverse chronological order. I think that this ties in well with what we’ve been learning in general; what is a blog and how do they work?

I definitely feel that more could have been said about this topic (though in all honesty, one could always say more on every topic. There is always more to be explored and investigated), but I consider the work I’ve done to be fairly adequate in giving the audience a concise explanation of the topic. If I were to do it again, I would spend more time delving into a wider variety of blogs to see how they personally handled discussion with the audience. How do they contribute to the discussion, other than providing the starting point? How do they deal with troublesome followers? What do they do when an all-out internet fight breaks out?

Over this past week, I’ve sort of been in “lurker” mode. I’ve only actually made three other posts, which admittedly had nothing to do with this weeks work. I have been watching what everyone else has been tweeting, and I’ve read several WordPress posts as well, but my focus has been directed mostly towards my other 4 classes, especially my 4000 level wildlife management class, so I haven’t been as active in the discussion as I would have hoped.

So, improvements to make for next week:

  • Try to manage homework better so I have more time for discussion
  • Investigate topics more thuroughly
  • Communicate more during the week via Twitter

Shaping Discussion on Blogs

There are many cases in which a blogger may want to try to direct or control the flow of discussion on one of their posts. This can be done in various ways with varying degrees of success. Rettberg gives one example that highlights the difficulty of shaping the discussion without simply shutting it down. A blogger who goes by SouleMama had written a post concerning the fact that her family had caught whooping cough. In the post she asked that her reader’s not turn this into a vaccine debate, both because she disliked arguing and because the strain they’d caught was unaffected by vaccines anyway. This, and the example of Beckie0 below, illustrate the fact that an audience will steer the discussion in whatever way they want regardless of the author’s wishes. SouleMama ended up closing down the comments on that post because the audience couldn’t help but start a debate, even though she had asked them not too. In this case, which is far from unusual, appealing to the audience’s sense of pathos is only effective if the audience is sympathetic enough to listen.

Rebecca Brown (A.K.A. Beckie0) Is well known on Tumblr and Youtube for her topic-driven blog and vlog concerning Trichotillomania. Because that is what she’s known for, there is a presupposition from the audience that they can drive the topic in that direction, even if a post has nothing to do with Trichotillomania, as is evident in this Instagram picture she linked to in a Tumblr post. The photo and caption were about blueberries, but people started commenting about Trichotillomania anyway. She did try to call them out, as she has multiple channels for discussing Trichotillomania and this wasn’t one of them, and another person blatantly told her she couldn’t tell other people what to talk about. Excuse me? Super rude. This shows that, in the blogosphere, the original poster has very little control over how discussion unfolds. Beckie0 also often has trouble within the “Trich” group on Facebook, in which she had posted things concerning her condition to what she believed would be an understanding audience, only to find herself censored at every turn. I guess this would be an example of controlling discussion from the viewpoint of the one being controlled, and an excellent example of what happens when a blog (or in this case a Facebook group, which is sort of like a blog that anyone can contribute to) crosses the line from guiding the discussion to acting more as a blog dictator. Basically they’ve said “Yeah, this is a welcoming, understanding community, so long as you post what we want you to post.”

So what is a blogger to do? It seems that the human side of shaping discussion by leading towards (or even flat out asking people to avoid) certain topics often fails, so let’s take a look at the technical side.

On Tumblr, there are three main ways to have a “discussion” on a post. The first is that, if the author ends the post with a question, a box will appear at the bottom in which others can answer. This is controlled by a character limit, and isn’t very effective for back-and-forth discussion. The second is that, on a text post (as opposed to images or videos), there is sometimes a “reply” button. It is similar to the comment option here on WordPress, but it doesn’t appear on all text posts. I’ve been on Tumblr for 2 years and I still have no idea how they determine which posts do or do not get this button, as there doesn’t seem to be a setting to control it or anything like that. The most common method of discussion is to reblog and add your own comments. There doesn’t seam to be any way of preventing others from reblogging a post, so unfortunately none of these options offer any control to the original poster, so the audience can still say anything they want. On Tumblr, anyone can say anything. There is no moderation, it depends entirely on human decency, which isn’t always abundant.

On sites such as WordPress or Blogger, it is much easier for the blogger to moderate discussion on their own posts. There are a variety of settings concerning discussion available. The blogger can choose to restrict the ability to comment at all to registered, logged-in users, and there are multiple options for how individual comments must be approved. If the blogger doesn’t particularly care how people comment, then they can set it so that no moderation is required. For those a little more wary, the “comment author must have a previously approved comment” setting allows them to moderate each users’ first comment, and then from there they must trust that the user will comment in a similar manner in the future. Bloggers who desire complete control can set it so that each comment must be approved before it is displayed. One negative aspect of such a controlling setting is that it can be a LOT of work to read and moderate every comment, especially if you run a popular blog. And

Derivative Work on Youtube

Recently I found this gem of a video on Youtube. People have been making parodies of Les Miserables (and this line specifically) since it came out just over a year ago. Now, the original book was published back in 1862, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s considered public domain or not. The other movies featured definitely aren’t. What I find interesting is the idea that the movie is a derivative work of the book, which means that videos such as this one are derivatives of a derivative!

Don’t Feed the Trolls

Anyone who has been on the internet (especially on social media sites and forums) has probably encountered a troll at least once. A troll is “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument” (according to urbandictionary). You’ve probably heard advice along the lines of, “don’t feed the trolls, interacting or arguing with them only gives them satisfaction. Ignore them or they win.”

Steph Guthrie, founder of Women in Toronto Politics, has an eloquently accurate response to such advice.


Yes, that’s right. It doesn’t do any good to allow these “trolls” to continue their completely innappropriate behavior. This point is further proven by performance artist Marina Abramovic, who did a piece in which she stood completely still while audience members were allowed to use any of 72 objects to do whatever they wanted to her, and she didn’t react. For six hours the audience’s actions escalated. One person even pointed a gun at her head. This piece proved that aggressors are not deterred by a lack of reaction. Once the six hour time limit was up, Marina began to move towards the audience, and they scattered. They were not deterred by her silence, they were afraid of consequences.

The Wolf Hunt

(A.K.A. Why “treehuggers” give actual wildlife/habitat management people a bad name and make me want to rip my hair out.)

I’ve encountered people like this multiple times (here on campus and outside the State Fair 2012), but until now I didn’t have the inherent knowledge to challenge them on the spot. This time I had the internet at my disposal to check the numbers.

Basic summary: people are protesting the wolf hunt in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan without actually bothering to learn anything about why wolves were de-listed as endangered or what the regulations of the wolf hunt are.

Basic explaination: Wolf populations are sustainable, and so strictly regulated harvesting was introduced mainly for ecological reasons. No more than 220 wolves are to be killed in Minnesota (leaving ~2,000 alive, well above the planned minimum population for the state). The hunt was introduced to prevent wolves from encroaching on human habitats (which would be dangerous for both wolves and humans), and the prevent wolves from entering a full-blown boom-bust population cycle (which I explained in the post I linked to above).