Mumbles To Meself

I was just reading a page on the OLPCWiki and came across a comment voiced in the first person:

“With the sucess of projects like the macHeist bundle, 100,000 units doesn’t seem like much with a proper internet campaign. I would love to buy 2 give 1 free.”

I am pretty sure that this is my first time ever encountering a first person statement in a wiki. It was unexpectedly jarring. I was forced to wonder why I found it to be so strange. My conclusion was that a wiki allows us to take a community of voices and condense them into a singular voice. This voice almost invariably speaks in the third person, like an encyclopedia. I’m not sure anyone has ever explicitly dictated this; it simply makes sense.

The faux pas of writing in a conversational first person on wikis is certain to become more common as the general internet population starts to figure out what a wiki is. To be honest, I’m surprised that it’s not already much more common, but I guess that’s a testament to the power of self-policing communities.

The thought of a wiki speaking in the first person is almost unnerving. In scifi films about artificial intelligence gone wrong, one of the standard tricks is to give the computer a voice that is actually a composite of many voices. It sounds spooky and aethereal. Wikis speaking in the first person are basically the written equivalent of that. It’s creepy.

There is also the pragmatic aspect. The statement I came across in the OLPCWiki is clearly meant to be taken as the statement of an individual. However, since a wiki is not modeled around conversations, the individual making this comment been lost and only the statement remained. This is in contrast to a forum thread or a mailing list, which explicitly tracks the core elements of a conversation: who made which statements, when they made them, and what they were responding to.

This left me with one of those fuzzy feelings in the corner of my brain. (I guess we call them ideas.) I began to wonder what happens if you make a wiki that is entirely voiced in the first person? What if you encourage contributors to have conversations with each other, but solely through the wiki, and solely speaking in the voice of the wiki? It sounds like a glorious mess. Possibly I will call it mumblestoitself.com, or wemumblestomyself.com.

Does this already exist? Is anyone interested in participating?


One thought on “Mumbles To Meself

  1. >I am glad I linked to your blog! You have some great insights and I am enjoying reading your thoughts. This is an intriguing concept. I wonder if it would make information consumption on wikis less passive and mindless? It’s a great idea and I could see two possible effects: it could discourage people from accepting wiki information as authoritative and it could conversely encourage creators of wikis (thinking Wikipedia here) to try and give their information a bit more authority control.

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