Obsolete/CFS Wiki Proposal

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Obsolete Page

This page is no longer current, and is being kept only for archival purposes. This page was created in 2005, and did not get any response (positive or negative). In the absence of an official CFS wiki site, there is a Carolina Friends School page on this wiki and another one on the HTYP wiki; please feel free to use either of those for further discussion.

What's a Wiki?

Well, first of all, you're looking at one. A wiki is, in short, a web site wherein anyone can add new content or edit existing content. There are measures to prevent abuse ("spamming", e.g. posting pages full of links or messages of commercial, political, or idealogical nature inappropriate to the mission of the wiki site in question), various means of monitoring new input for abuses, and tools for recovering the original content of accidentally or intentionally deleted or mis-edited pages, as well as tracking the source of edits (i.e. who made changes, and when).

In a traditional web site, the webmaster (often an unpaid volunteer or overworked IT staffer with little interest in writing) becomes a very thin bottleneck. Content must be approved, formatted nicely, and included in the site's directory links. Errors are often only discovered after a page is posted, and updates are often needed in the face of changing information.

Not only does the wiki software allow the labor-load to be spread among many editors, it also automates many of the organizing tasks. For example, articles may be categorized, and the page for each category will automatically show an alphabetized list of articles in that category. (See, for example, Category:Durham, NC on this wiki.) Links to not-yet-posted articles may be included, and the articles themselves written later simply by clicking on the link. A list of "wanted" articles (i.e. articles which have been linked but not written) is automatically generated. Articles may be moved to a different location within the wiki, and the wiki software will redirect all links. (No more 404 errors!) Pages with multiple sections have tables-of-contents automatically generated (see, for example, the top of this page).

Probably the best example of a wiki is Wikipedia, an on-line encyclopedia in multiple languages whose content now rivals the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The wiki software is free and open-source; I have installed it three times, and it never took more than two hours despite various technical issues arising. I spent more time on the logo than on installing the software.

Why Should CFS Have a Wiki?

One word: Community! A Wiki is like a bulletin board that anyone can post on -- from anywhere on the internet -- and which can be expanded as needed -- and whose articles can be searched and organized in various ways.

CFS has a vast, rich resource of teachers (past and present), students, alumni, and other community members who may no longer live in the area, and whose stories and observations may never be heard by more than a few others. A wiki can serve as a repository for community wisdom, a point of contact between community members, and a showcase for the community's values and creative output.

Costs of Having a Wiki

The financial cost could be as little as zero, if volunteers agreed to handle the hosting and edit-patrolling for the site. For starters, I could do the installation and hosting on the same server which hosts the Hypertwiki, and some of the edit-patrolling.

In fact, CFS itself need not even take an active part in creating the wiki. I have already created a CFS wiki page on this site, which of course (being a wiki) may be edited or have additional pages added by others. (The long url for this page, however, is something of a hinderance to promotion -- http://www.hypertwins.org/wiki/index.php/CFS doesn't roll off the tongue quite as trippingly as would, say, http://wiki.cfsnc.org. In order to have that shorter, more memorable, more-official-sounding address, there would obviously have to be some official CFS involvement.)

Costs of Not Having a Wiki

Speaking from a personal point of view: Who will remember who Jenny Hall (namesake of the Jenny Hall Fund) was, 20 years from now, or that she painted part of the mural still visible on the middle school pavilion? Who, aside from their families, will remember who Jim Millar or Karleton Fyfe were, aside from names on "adopt-a-highway" signs? How about Carl Dolan? Ann V. Simon? Who remembers the song recorded in a studio by music teacher Dave Smith and two middle-school girls, "Brownian Motion", or where it can be found? Who remembers that respected local musician Dexter Romweber used to be known as "Jon" when he was in the CFS middle school? Who knew that crazy Robbie Fulks went on to have a career as a country musician in Chicago? (Well, ok, probably everyone except me...) Who still has a copy of the "Class of 2001" graduation parody issue of the CFS Journal in 1981, or the Course Offerings parody the previous year?

Where will the stories of the school's early days, such as the Klopfer remniscences ("Why Such a Large Water Tower?") in the Spring "We & Thee" (or in the 40th anniversary publication), be available for the community to read, if they missed the original publication? I have no doubt that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other "lesser" stories which will probably seldom see the light of day once this month's issue is in the recycling bin, if they made it into print at all.

And what about the activities and discoveries of today's students? A CFS wiki could serve as a sort of instant yearbook/newsletter/journal -- photos, essays about trips taken, books read, experiments done... I'm sure my imagination is failing to think of more than a small portion of the uses to which the innovative and active CFS student body could put such a tool.

Placed on a wiki, all such articles could be indexed by author, date, type of article... a wealth of anchoring information for a community seeking to maintain a steady direction in the face of a complex and changing world.

And that's enough of my blabbing for now. Thanks for reading. :-)