Move to a Better Web

The Transport plugin automates import of web content into federated wiki where some responsibility for the result rests with the transporer's author. We would like to improve this process but have to ask first, what exactly are we trying to do?

# Audience

Authors write to an audience assembled by a publisher within a medium. Screenwriters write for the screen while news reporters write for the morning paper. The medium and its gatekeepers moderate what can be said.

Authors write to change minds. A newly empowered reader enlarges the author's audience with devoted attention, friends and neighbors, and sometimes engaging the author in conversation.

Federated wiki is one of many publishers on the internet seeking to improve human culture by broadening access to and quality within this medium. Wiki more than others encourages incremental improvement made possible by collective ownership of the written works. Federation provides a new twist and the mechanisms we've chosen to provide federation further colors the conversation.

# Import

Although copyright law and business models tug at any new medium we will imagine that open licensing and fair use allows sufficient material to flow into the federation that we must consider import a useful or possibly primary source of content.

The federation's survival as a medium would then depend on being a better browser for content written by authors addressing a different audience. How might this be so?

Wiki as copier. The web is forever in motion. Importing a page from the web brings the lifetime of the content under the control of the reader.

Wiki as public. The web is a lonely place. Importing a page brings it into view of the reader's own community where each other's reactions can be felt.

Wiki as magnifier. The web is a sprawling cacophony. Importing a page removes distractions while providing a comforting uniformity to the look and feel.

Wiki as opinion. The web is free and worthless. Importing selective content can increase its value by reinterpreting it in a specific context.

# Target

Imported content must assume the form of original work created with full knowledge of particular affordances within the federation.

Width. We constrain pages to a fixed column width leaving their horizontal arrangement to the reader.

Synopsis. We apply special attention to the first paragraph of a page expecting it to summarize the remainder.

Complete. We expect a page to survive isolation even as we make some effort to connect links with their source.

Titles. We require unique titles within a site and function smoothly only when titles are unique among neighbors.

Primitive. We deplore exotic mechanism that cannot be inferred by direct observation. One tells wiki what to do.

# Conversion

Most web content falls short of our goals so we must provide editorial control over its import for satisfactory results. In some cases this can be handled by careful transporter coding. In others, further human intervention is required.

Items. A transporter can convert individual items and present them in varying form on a ghost page ready to be moved to a permanent home.

Pages. A transporter can convert whole pages when they are appropriately sized and of obvious title needing no further editing.

Texts. A transporter can convert fragments of a large text and provide (at one time) a mechanism to return to the transporter for more on demand.

Links. A transporter might not exist that meets any of the import motivations within the constraints of the target. One can always resort to an external link.

See Contingent Also extension of the federation.