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WantToKnow.info On Steroids
Using Group Think to Take WantToKnow.info to the Next Level

Dear WantToKnow.info friends,

There's a new term out there for collaborative work. It's called "Crowdsourcing." This process uses a kind of group think to better formulate documents and ideas in a variety of settings. You can see a good Wikipedia article on this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is the process that made Wikipedia one of the 10 most popular websites on the Internet. Many thousands of people are engaged in building this gigantic knowledge base using a clear set of rules and using the "Wiki" software which provides an ever-developing end product. A discussion page for each article allows developers to discuss and debate over the text until consensus is reached, or until satisfactory notes are included as references that point to the various differences of opinions.

Using this type of collaborative process, the fabulous work of WantToKnow.info could be greatly enhanced by those of us who wish to help. Though many hundreds of people have contributed to making WantToKnow.info what it is today, the vast majority of editing has been done by WTK manager Fred Burks. Fred would be thrilled to have any interested help to take WantToKnow.info to the next level through using our group think capabilities.

Here is how we plan to get started with this.

Thanks to the inspiring suggestion of a great supporter, Stan P., we've now set up a special wiki just for WantToKnow.info using a model very similar to Wikipedia. In this new wiki, anyone who is given permission to join can edit WantToKnow.info articles there, just as in Wikipedia. Anyone who has the time and editing skills and who is willing to collaborate with others is welcome to join. All who join can read and follow the behind the scenes discussions for each article, too.

Before we start editing WantToKnow.info articles, a group of us might initially choose to examine and actually improve some topic in Wikipedia for practice. We could join the existing community there to study how things work in sufficient depth, so as to understand how the community of people working on an article interact with each other. Any who already have experience with editing wikis would also be more than welcome to coach others and work together with Stan P., who has volunteered to be the initial manager of our wiki.

Once a group of us understand how Wikipedia works, we can turn our attention to deciding how to use the ideas we learned to further the process of creating and improving WantToKnow.info documents. The documents we create don't need to look or be anything like Wikipedia documents, but the process of learning to build them together as a collaborative process can result in giving the work of WantToKnow.info a huge boost.

The wiki we've set up for WantToKnow.info has a special page describing the criteria used for writing and editing on our website. It also contains links for people new to wikis to learn how to edit and create pages. Even those who are not familiar with wikis can join in. All that's required is some writing skill, time, and desire to make a difference in our world.

As we set this up, we are quite aware that WantToKnow.info is monitored by some who do not support our work. Mention is made in our wiki that we expect there will be a few who join in this endeavor whose intention is to disrupt our work. Any who are found to be intentionally disruptive or divisive will have their access to the wiki removed. We may eventually need to develop a further set of guidelines to avoid this and other problems, and to further support the kind of work we're doing. Yet we have little doubt that all of this in the end will enhance our ability to work together.

Once we're ready to actually begin the editing process, we've already picked a couple topics to start with as a trial run. We'll add more once we see how this progresses. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is only a year away, we're starting with our two-page and 10-page summaries of 9/11. These summaries, though still quite good, are somewhat outdated and can be significantly improved with your help. We also have a 10-page banking summary for which we'd like to create a more concise two-page version.

Using the conversation tabs on the webpages for these documents, we can look at what's being done by interested editors, study how people are working on them together, and make suggestions as we finally begin the actual editing. By working together from the start, we can have effective collaboration and develop a quality product together.

This new project will need a number of key people to help. The idea man behind this new Wiki, Stan P., will be the initial manager. Stan has volunteered to instigate, but doesn't have the time to oversee or coordinate all of the research and writing we hope to do. He will coordinate giving access to the wiki and the initial investigation of this process. Yet we particularly welcome any who have experience with wikis to take leadership roles in this and coordinate with Stan. Though Fred will occasionally monitor the wiki, Stan will be the overall manager until one or more people with more time and skill take on this role. Note that as the WantToKnow.info manager, Fred will have the final say on what gets posted to the website, at least until the process is well established.

With this new wiki we hope build a effective process which can be incorporated into WantToKnow.info, so that eventually it will become much more of a group collaborative effort in which all who have some time, interest, and skill are welcome. Please only contact us if you really have the time and energy to be a contributing member to this effort. If you are interested in joining us on this bold new adventure, please contact Stan using the webpage form at https://www.WantToKnow.info/contactuswiki. Take care, and have a great day while you're at it!

With excitement and best wishes,
Stan P. and Fred Burks for WantToKnow.info


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