Indeed, why? I’m writing this because I want a wiki and I’m interested in Gemini and I’ve read some things on the mailing list that make me think other people don’t love wiki as much as I do. (Start with Sean Conner’s post if you’re interested. Some quotes from that thread can be found in the comments on 2020-06-04 Gemini Upload.)
Some people think that we should all self-host the things we write. This is a good idea. We don’t want to depend on faceless corporations that can take away our online presence on a whim.
At the same time, however, not all of us have the means to self-host. Some of us have no time, because system administration takes time to learn, takes time to practice, takes time to do. Some of us lack the know-how. We can write, and we want to write, but we can’t host. Perhaps we don’t have the money to pay for a host. Or we don’t have the energy or the time to look for the cheapest host out there. Perhaps we want to write but we feel comfortable with our phones and so we want to write on our phones. It’s like the best camera being the one you have on you. The best writing implement is the one you have on you. These days, it might be your phone.
Also, let us not forget that not every service is rendered by a faceless corporation. We can get service from cooperatives, from neighbours, from family members, from friends, from schools, from libraries, from friends we’ve made online. To design solutions that make it hard for friends to help each other, we design for the cold alienation of modern capitalism. We need to grow networks and help each other. Sure, we can write to each other. But we can also host each other. Like all these pubnix systems out there, we’re sharing a resource. Why should sharing shell access be any different from sharing text hosting?
And finally, let’s not forget that self-hosting means self-writing. But what if you’re collaborating? Of course, we could pull in yet another dependency: use git, or some other distributed version control system! Or how about the systems we us allow us to collaborate naturally, because they are inherently designed to do so? I share Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for a read-write web that Sean Conner dug up in RFC-1945, where we read that the POST method can be used for the “Annotation of existing resources” and for “Posting a message to a bulletin board, newsgroup, mailing list, or similar group of articles”, and that “the PUT method requests that the enclosed entity be stored” and that “the origin server can create the resource”. Yes! That’s exactly it.
And wikis were the big break through: we had browsers, we had forms, and that was it. But Ward Cunningham wrote the WikiWikiWeb, a website with pages that are quickly editable by users. The barrier to entry was extremely low.
Sure, it also attracted vandalism and spam, and like email, and like the fediverse, the technology is in a constant arms race to block and ban miscreants. But it still works and barriers to entry can still be low. We can all come together under a banner, be it the biggest encyclopedia known to humankind, or wikis on Star Wars, or the Malazan Empire of the Fallen, or Emacs, or any other kind of topic, really, and we can collaborate. It’s the simplest collaboration platform that works. You write some text. I fix mistakes. You make additions. I reorganise. You split it up. I link it. The hypertext grows without necessary “ownership” of pages.
The effort required to maintain a wiki is worth it, to me, because we have a viable alternative to the isolation of self-hosting, and the surrender to value-extracting corporations. Doing things together, achieving things together, is important to teach the new generation of people coming online, it is important to teach ourselves that resistance is not futile, resistance is not a struggle, resistance to the machine is the simple act of having fun and building things together.