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CHOICE OF A WIKI SITE

The organisers of the competition encouraged submissions in a formal different from the conventional text of a written or academic essay. Websites and artistic media were mentioned specifically.

A solution to the condition of the RSoF that is as effective as John Stephenson Rowntree’s proposal is likely to be as radical and as far reaching as he was. I noted that there was a gap of some 30 years between publication of his ‘essay’ and the critical Manchester Conference. It seemed unlikely therefore that full and satisfying descriptions and explanations could be given within the confines of a 5000-word essay.

I see the future of the RSoF as essentially cooperative, evolving and open ended - like a meeting for worship. The core concepts of my suggestions are also essentially cooperative, open-ended and evolving.

Next, I realised that after the competition adjudicators, a wider audience would need definitions, explanations and detailed development or definitions of unfamiliar ideas. This suggested that, while some readers would read the essay linearly, others would want to jump in and out to other material.

Finally, I realised that what I suggesting is not as simple or as well defined as changing the rules of the RSoF. It is an on-going journey for the Society as a whole and for the individuals within it, now and in the future. It is essentially open-ended.

It might therefore be helpful for commentators and others, after the competition, to be able to add their own comments, put objections and alternatives, add their own experience, and contribute further materials and lines of thought.

I had already discovered Wikipedia in my own studies and had used it to help give explanations and background to a previous essay aimed at an audience without (necessarily) my own background. From here it was a short step to realise that there were several possible threads (lines of thinking) in this work which a reader might want to follow. Multiple threads are difficult to follow and to confine in a linear essay.

Most people are familiar with a web browser. A wiki site is a development of the conventional web site with the added ability to edit the web pages and with the ability to comment on them or to discuss them with others. It was developed for collaborative projects, initially in developing computer-based systems. An essential element in the wiki site is that the source code and the material in the site are open source. This means that the material is checked and cross-checked, validated and tested by many different people. The best known wiki in the public domain is Wikipedia, an open source, free, on-line encyclopaedia. There are several others in the public domain.

I realised that the wiki site concept and the electronic form of presentation mean that at least some present Friends might not have ready access to my work. On the other hand, Friends Quarterly, by selecting essays in one or more threads will have a wealth of material to publish. But perhaps I am being overly optimistic.

On the other hand, Friends with communications difficulties can adjust the presentation to suit their needs. This is not possible with a published text-based delivery.

There are practical issues of cost, maintenance, confidentiality, ethics, access and so on. I do not ignore them or down-play them. But they are not central to this essay and are more properly for a future discussion. (On the wiki?)

Wiki sites are often amorphous collections of pages with random access search engines. There is a broad structure of; areas where new material is vetted and areas with password-limited access. The essay site has other structures as well. One structure is the logic of the essay and metadata about the essay. Another structure is the threads that run through and across the essay’s structure. A third, more amorphous structure lies in the links to other material, typically to Wikipedia for definitions of concepts and to the Quaker websites.

New threads could be started such as business, governance, philosophy and so on. They are not (yet) represented here because they are not central to this essay.

SUCCESS FACTORS

Like much else in our modern world, the eventual success of the site will depend heavily on the extent to which it is used and the quality of the contributions that other people make to it. I can't do it on my own. The best I can do is kick-off the discussion and hope that others will follow. The first step is to write, the second is to let people know about the site.

SITE DEVELOPMENT

I see this wiki site (if it is ever fully used) as not just as an essay or as a repository of views. I see it as a key tool in the development of Quakerism.

• A full wiki has the ability to collect comments on pages. And so enable the development of lines of thought and issues raised in the wiki.
• A repository of spiritual, practical and research experience. A logical extension of Friends House Library and Woodbrook’s Library into the internet age. It would not replace them but add new, different material with different study tools such as a discussion forum.
• A resource (like Quaker Life’s resource room) for individuals, LM and AMs in their spiritual development answering that of God
• An interactive forum for discussing contemporary and historic topics.
• An outreach open area where members of the public can find out about Quakers, possibly interactively, but see http://www.quakerweek.org.uk/ask/.
• A wiki site is a logical development of Quaker publishing tradition that stretches from eighteenth century tracts to the modern The Friend, Quaker monthly (now Quaker Voices), Quaker Studies and Friends Quarterly. I see this as a set of subscribed specialist areas edited and monitored as our present publications. But the wiki would add greater efficiency and flexibility in the editing process, greater opportunities for comment and feedback, ready access to archive editions, the possibility of open discussion on topics of mutual interest.
• The wiki might provide new tools for learning or study using the interactive power of computer games and open learning.

This implementation is a pilot for a full wiki site with content support and monitoring, as well as the technical support. The site works as intended but the navigation in particular is very clunky; if should be much easier and more precise, especially for the threading.

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