As part of my desire to do something useful for OWS, I’m looking to learn a bit about Media Wiki, in particular the semantic data side of the wiki. For those who aren’t nerds, the term “semantic data” is a layer of data that is separate from the content or the visual styling of this data. It’s data that describes the type of content that is displayed. In a rudimentary form, I guess you could say what we know of as “tags” (i.e. like in delicious.com, tag clouds, etc) could constitute a type of semantic data, but hardcore data people would probably shoot me down on this point.
For instance, if you were to share a digital contact card from your phone via bluetooth to another handset, the .vcf file that you would send is full of semantic markup – things like address, telephone number, first name, etc. Basically, it’s data that specifies what kind of content is coming next. So far, so good.
Why is this important to a wiki, you ask? Well I found a few incredible plugins for Media Wiki, that allow users to sort and display data in incredibly sophisticated ways. When I think of how this could be leveraged for Occupy Wall St, I imagine the following:
A single wiki that could provide a list of all of the assets of the movement, organized primarily by location (physical location, or if the asset is solely online, this would be a separate category), but then, also by any of the following tags/metadata. So, for instance the wiki page for OccupyChicago would have landing pages with links to each of the following sections and subsections, all generated via templates in the wiki, so each occupation could simply plug in and fill in their assets, projects, and goals/strategies (the following labels in quotes are NOT meant as final taxonomies, merely illustrative examples):
Working Group Assets:
“[Working Group Name] Online Tools” (any relevant workspaces/wikis/websites for collaborative work)
“[Working Group Name] Discussions Archives” (links to previous conversations in the form of archived forums/lists)
“[Working Group Name] Offline Resources” (Local supportive organizations, allies, spaces, sources for supplies or other support)
“[Working Group Name] Member Profiles” (links to individual occupiers websites, twitter, RSS feeds, etc
“[Working Group Name] News/Tags” (links to location specific and/or group-specific RSS feeds, Twitter streams, specific hashtags used to post content, specific stories that the group as a whole should be aware of – ie instances of sabotage, hacking, impersonation, or any malfeasance of any kind, coming from either within the movement or from the outside.
“[Working Group Name] Already Implemented Suggestions” (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] Specific Projects Underway” (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] Discarded Proposals” (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] Proposed Projects” (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] Urgently Needed” (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] I am Offering” (Working group specific, self explanatory)
Strategy/Objectives Related Content:
“[Working Group Name] Abstract Arguments/Ideas for Moving Forward”
“[Working Group Name] Debates/Unresolved Issues”
“[Working Group Name] Consensus Agreed Upon Short Term Objectives” (CAUSTO?) (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] Consensus Agreed Upon Medium Term Objectives” (CAUMTO?) (Working group specific, self explanatory)
“[Working Group Name] Consensus Agreed Upon Long Term Objectives” (CAULTO?) (Working group specific, self explanatory)
A tool like this would be useful for ALL types of visitors to the wiki – first time visitors who can get a bird’s eye view of the OWS as a whole, as well as their local occupation; as well as returning OWS participants/Occupiers who want to keep track of current activity related to their local occupation, as well as educate themselves about what other similar Working Groups have done previously, thereby allowing working groups to learn from one another’s processes – both good lessons and bad.
In short, there is a tremendous about of duplicated effort, and time spent of supporters and potential supporters simply trying to grasp what is happening, and where – be it online or offline. By leveraging the power of a database, with the self-mapping ability of the wiki, together with the powerful search & filtering options afforded by good use of semantic markup, we could build a powerful tool.
Soooo, how can we build this super cool wiki? I’m going to write about this in my next post – Media Wiki Part 2.