The Hollow Tree Stuffed with Notes

Sometimes we have to redraft a note for ourselves because we see a use in it for our own thinking that others do not share.

To change substantially the direction of an existing note in FW, we can make a separate note, copy paragraphs to it, remember to link back to the note where the paragraphs were originally found. Or we fork the first version and change that.

Doing all this work forces our attention. Our attention is the basis of who we are in any exchange. It's all we have.

##Then what happens?

Subsequent forks from both then develop different pathways for thinking about a topic of shared concern.

How easily can someone who comes to the fork in these two paths evaluate the differences between two versions. at the level of editing? On what basis is one path chosen?

Should the branching paths hope to rejoin? How should those who take one come to hear about discoveries and branches from the other path?

This loops back to purpose. What is fedwiki for? At one level, the fact that its users are dispersed across all the timezones means that it's a hollow tree stuffed with notes.

In the morning we come to see if someone has left a note that we need. This is a slowed-down conversation in public, filled with chance and choice.

##Care in Federated Wiki

This introduces a level of care in relation to the other person's argument that is rare in face to face conversation or even blogging. The fact that we can not only respond, but also we can change what was said in the original, makes us careful.

This is why the fedwiki is a cool technology; it doesn't foster intemperate debate, because it slows down to the pace of editing--much, much slower than writing. See Duet Pedagogy, a note for two hands, that examines the issue of global educational philanthropy as colonising project.

How is it possible to engage with these debates without imposing values, language and shared culture on all those involved?

When we write and think in the fedwiki, we are careful because we have another's words on our keyboard in editable form, and because our action in relation to those words is public, even when our identity is at the level of discoverable, rather than obvious.

This is why writing is inseparable from the question of attribution. The debate about attribution in federated thinking has so far focused on external dimensions--reputation and so on. But making it clear who says what is also part of a practice founded on ethical attention.

Without it, debate slips into the murky swamp of the passive voice, or the strategic incorporation of the royal We.

And so it's relevant that when we edit, we know whose words we're editing. And sometimes that is useful.

And other times, maybe it isn't.