Why did OSS Watch set up this wiki?
Good question. OSS Watch has a website http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/ so why does it need a wiki as well? What is the relationship between the wiki and the website? What will the wiki accomplish that the website does not?
It can hardly escape anyone's notice that there is a relationship between the open source movement and the open content movement. One could say that the former has inspired the latter. Or perhaps both have been inspired by an earlier ideal of the free movement of ideas between peers for the greater good of the commonwealth.
Plus wikis are fun!
The OSS Watch team has been using a wiki as a team intranet since August 2003. At first we were sceptical (well, I was, at least). So we undertook a three-month trial. During that time we explored different aspects of a wiki - the question of push versus pull communications, the potential for disorder, the empty or partial page phenomenon, and more. Eventually we concluded that as an additional tool of team communication a wiki was excellent. That conclusion was probably aided by the fact that although (most) of the members of the team are in the same building, none of us share an office. The wiki became a common ground for us. It was a place to start document ideas, store useful information that we might want to refer to later, and, yes, a place where we could have some fun!
Of course there is a big difference between a wiki for use only by a small team and a public wiki open to the world. Why go down that route?
Periodically OSS Watch likes to rethink its primary mission and reinvent itself to meet new challenges. The biggest challenge for us at present is to create a space in which staff, students and researchers in UK higher and further education can come together around the ideas and the practicalities of free and open source software. Well, I say that creating the space is the biggest challenge, but clearly I ought to say that getting people to use that space is the real challenge. Or even better, that facilitating the growth of that community is our challenge.
Community building is no simple task. And very few communities are exactly alike. That is certainly true of open source software development communities. This is actually something we think about a great deal. See A guide to participating in an open source community We are still thinking about it. However, best practice is not something you derive from axioms, it is something you learn from experience.
We hope that this OSS Watch wiki becomes a place where individuals in universities and colleges across the UK come to learn from each other about free and open source software. But in the end, it will become what we collectively make of it.
OSS Watch versus OSS Watch Wiki
Clearly there is some relationship between the OSS Watch website http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/ and the OSS Watch Wiki http://wiki.oss-watch.ac.uk/ At the very least both have the active participation of OSS Watch staff. The wiki, however, is no mere addendum to the OSS Watch website. We really mean what we say above. The OSS Watch Wiki "will become what we collectively make of it." Because we don't know fully what that will be, we don't have a prescriptive statement of the relationship between the wiki and the OSS Watch website. It may be that for a time the website, or rather briefing notes published on the website, serve as fodder for discussion, comment, or rebuttal on the wiki. It may be that the wiki will ignore the website altogether. That's okay too. I'd like to think that eventually a natural symbiosis will develop between the two.