Some final thoughts about #Fedwikihappening

The Fedwiki Happening finishes today. A big thank you to Mike Caulfield, Ward Cunningham, Paul Rodwell and the Fedwiki team for the invitation to join this unique event. It has been great to end 2014 working in an environment which has made me rethink my assumptions and ways of working online.

I have written two prior posts about this Fedwiki experience: Defeated by technology and Fedwiki: further thoughts

Others have also blogged about the experience. Their posts are very informative.

Mike Caulfield appears to be delighted with the outcome – that’s good because he and his team certainly put the work in to make this Happening happen. They must be exhausted.

Now that it has ended I have mixed feelings about the experience. I don’t feel quite as excited as I did at the start. It will take me a while to think through why, but here are some initial reflections.


I have written in a previous post what I really like about the technological affordances of Fedwiki, but the experience was not without difficulty.

I started off badly and wasn’t really able to get going until the third day. This was the result of a combination of something I did, and something ‘they’ did (the Fedwiki team), i.e. mistakes were made on both sides (or at least that is my understanding, but at this point I doubt my understanding of any of it).

In the wiki, someone else who arrived late wrote that he doubted that he could catch up. The response was that it should be possible to enter Fedwiki at any point and catching up isn’t really necessary or an issue. That might be true if you already know how the technology works, but trying to enter the Happening late and learn the technology was a bit of a tall order. At this point everyone else seemed to know what they were doing, or at least know more than I did. At this point I really had to force myself to keep going.

For support, I attended a Google Hangout, which was extremely helpful. Mike and Ward Cunningham ran these twice every day barring Christmas Day. This covered all the time zones, with Ward even doing one at 4.00 am for our Australian participants. That’s dedication for you! I was only able to attend two Hangouts and I needed more technical help. Although I always received a prompt answer when I asked a question, there’s a limit to how much you feel you can bother someone and take up their time. All this reminded me of how important it is get access right before starting on ‘the work’. I understand that you can learn a lot from your mistakes and by ‘doing’, but it’s very time consuming working this way and I would have liked to have had more of a sense of achievement by the end.

I still don’t know who sees what, but I know for sure that I am not seeing what others are seeing (although I also know that that’s to be expected) and they are not necessarily seeing what I have done. So I don’t know why, if I edit a page, for example a page that Frances has written, and fork it, she won’t necessarily see my changes. Must be something I am doing wrong, or have failed to understand, but I don’t know what.

And yesterday someone collated links to people’s blog posts into one page and I found that David Jones has written a number of blog posts. That was a surprise. David Jones does not even appear in my list of Happening Folks and I can’t see him anywhere on the wiki. On reading through his posts, I see that he has his own separate Fedwiki. Maybe he hasn’t yet connected with the Happening Folks, even if he can see what we are doing.

So how it all works remains a bit of a mystery to me.


Learning in the wiki

When I started what I really liked about Fedwiki was the focus on ideas rather than people and personalities, and the possibility of being really selective about which ideas to interact with. Over the past year I have become disillusioned with social media and this felt like an opportunity to get away from it.

As the Happening has rolled out, I can see that it is a really good tool for mining ideas, but from observing how it has worked it doesn’t seem possible to keep ideas separate from the people who contribute them or to keep them separate from social media. Twitter was used during the Happening and people were blogging, including me. There was quite a bit of writing in the beginning about dominant voices; and there has been writing about attribution, lack of attribution and misattribution. My conclusion is that there will always be dominant voices and personalities, and that it’s the norm for people to want to know who wrote something or contributed an idea. So ultimately there was some focus on collaboration and community, but I am not convinced that Fedwiki is the place for either.

My sense is that thinking about Fedwiki in terms of collaboration and community is confusing and possibly dilutes the philosophy behind mining ideas that I was so attracted to. Better for me would be to think of Fedwiki in terms of co-operation and networking. Stephen Downes’ words come to mind:

Collaboration belongs to groups, while cooperation is typical of a network. The significant difference is that, in the former, the individual is subsumed under the whole, and becomes a part of the whole, which is created by conjoining a collection of largely identical members, while in the latter, the individual retains his or her individuality, while the whole is an emergent property of the collection of individuals.

Fedwiki  is a wonderful tool for sharing and amplifying ideas. There have been some great contributions; in particular I have enjoyed those associated with improvisation, music and learning spaces. For example the video of Tallis’ Spem in Alium was posted as a contribution to ideas about collaboration and the chorus of voices in Fedwiki.

There were many more unpredictable and surprising connections made between ideas in Fedwiki. This is the strength of Fedwiki. If I were to use Fedwiki with learners, I would use it for collating a rich bank of ideas around a given topic and enabling each participant to organise and edit the ideas as they wished. I would try to keep the focus on ideas rather than people, so I wouldn’t encourage collaboration or community although I am not anti collaboration or community in the right place.

It will be interesting to see how Fedwiki develops.

Many thanks to Mike, Ward, Paul and the team for all their efforts to make this a memorable event. A wonderful way to end 2014. I am now looking forward to having time to slowly go back through some of the fascinating ideas that have been contributed and reflect on their significance for my own work, research and practice.


8 thoughts on “Some final thoughts about #Fedwikihappening

  1. Yin January 5, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    Jenny, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    “When I started what I really liked about Fedwiki was the focus on ideas rather than people and personalities, and the possibility of being really selective about which ideas to interact with.”

    This resonated with me. I find that’s what is beguiling about Twitter, the quiet clarity of ideas rather than the personalities.

  2. jennymackness January 5, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    Yin – thank you for your comment. I notice on your profile that you have written ” multifaceted border-crosser, I believe that breakthroughs happen at intersections! ” – so I can see why you are interested in Fedwiki. If you want your own fedwiki site (and don’t already have one), then you could contact Mike Caulfield and ask him to set you up with a site.

    And your comment about border crossing made me wonder whether you follow the work of Etienne Wenger, who writes a lot about working across boundaries.


  3. Yin January 5, 2015 / 8:01 pm

    Your comment brought a smile to my face. Haha! Yes, I love Wenger’s ideas and his book. Through you and the Fedwikihappening folks, I move from the periphery slowly to some understanding of this phenomenon. Indeed, a direct (vs. vicarious) experience is needed to lead me to greater insights of what this whole “messy learning” event is suggesting, through the blogposts I’m reading. I have a fuzzy idea about the whole thing. I will contact Mike Caulfield some day, soon, I hope. 😛

  4. jennymackness January 5, 2015 / 8:15 pm

    Yes do contact Mike Caulfield. Fedwiki is fascinating if very frustrating for those of us (me :-)) who aren’t in love with technology for it’s own sake!

    And I can also recommend Etienne’s BEtreat workshops – which can be attended f2f or online – I have done both and blogged about the experience, e.g. Maybe you have already attended a BEtreat.

  5. Alyson Indrunas January 6, 2015 / 1:16 am


    What a beautiful post! Contrary to my job title, I’m not “in love with technology for it’s own sake.” In fact, I’m more than willing to kick technology to the curb if it’s not working for me. And I’m more than happy to encourage a skilled lecturer and seminar facilitator to not use technology if it’s distracting from her teaching. Personally, the FedWiki became more about my writing than about the technology itself, but I did originally seek to gain experience for my job.

    I’m not sure if it’s the space that I am in personally and professionally, but something clicked. I haven’t quite been able to articulate it. I was really struck by this quote of yours “I still don’t know who sees what, but I know for sure that I am not seeing what others are seeing (although I also know that that’s to be expected) and they are not necessarily seeing what I have done.” I share the same thought, but for some reason, I don’t really seem to care. It’s a different kind of authorship, and a different kind of writing that is so surprisingly refreshing. I’ll respond more in depth to what you’ve written, Jenny, but I want to encourage you to write more. You’re a lovely writer.

  6. Yin Wah Kreher (@yinbk) January 7, 2015 / 3:19 am

    Fantastic! No, I have not attended a Betreat. I came across the site a long time ago when it was just set up. It has grown. I’ll be sure to consider it. Thanks for this gem! 🙂

  7. Alyson Indrunas January 7, 2015 / 8:48 pm

    I have big plans to get caught up this weekend on the FedWiki happenings. Frances’ post is on my reading list. It’s the beginning of the quarter for me, so the world is upside down busy. I’m also horrified to report that I actually had Mike Caulfield in my *real* neighborhood (WSU has a satellite campus at my community college) and we talked about our jobs and actual work. It was a delightful meeting on the clock, so to speak. He had to go, so I only got to say 20 words of the 2,000 that I planned to say about the FedWiki! And oh, the questions, that I have. And yes, I’ll follow along with interest as well. Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s