[acawiki-general] Proposal: new hosting for AcaWiki

Reid Priedhorsky reid at reidster.net
Fri Apr 1 12:31:59 EDT 2011

[I am putting the most interesting stuff at the beginning, but there are 
some responses in-line below too.]

I spoke with Mako Hill, one of the principals at AcaWiki, last week and 
am now quite enthusiastic about the system. I believe the flaws can be 
fixed and we should take advantage of the small but present community 
which is hungry for new members.

The key problem is hosting, and Mako shares this concern. It turns out 
that the current hosts (Creative Commons) also would like to transfer 
hosting somewhere else, as running a MediaWiki is not part of their core 
mission. So, our interests align.

Thus, I propose that we move AcaWiki hosting to Referata, retaining all 
existing history and user accounts. If acawiki.referata.com is OK, then 
it can be done for free; if keeping the acawiki.org domain is important 
(in this case, the move would be completely transparent to users), then 
we'll need to find $50/mo; if keeping the existing skin is important 
(which think it is not - see below), then $80/mo.

AcaWiki folks, what do you think about this? Have I mischaracterized 
anything about you above?

I would be happy to lead this process (Mako gave me some technical 
people at CC to talk to) and could start on this in late April. (I have 
some unavoidable responsibilities in the next few weeks and won't have 
time until then.)

Once this is done, I could then facilitate the other technical tasks 
which I offered to do (uploading existing stuff into AcaWiki).

>> I don't necessarily believe that we need it to be the standard MW look
>> in all respects (though I personally like the consistency), but the wiki
>> controls need to be consistent with other MW installs (most importantly,
>> Wikipedia) so people can see easily that it's a wiki and in particular
>> one they've used before.
> Actually, the controls seem to me to be quite similar to the standard
> Wikipedia layout. For example, look at
> http://acawiki.org/Measuring_user_influence_in_Twitter:_The_million_follower_fallacy.
> The page edit controls are on the top of the article, and the navigation
> bar is on the left, all very similar to Wikipedia. Since these key
> functional elements are very similar to the default, I assumed that your
> comments had more to do with the aesthetic elememts. Could you perhaps
> point out some specific differences in the core MediaWiki functionality
> elements that you think might confuse new users who are familiar with
> editing Wikipedia?

Hmm, looking again you are right. I'm not sure exactly what happened; 
perhaps I was confusing AcaWiki with something else.

Anyway, I still don't like the AcaWiki default skin. I could provide a 
specific critique of the problems I see, but it might be better to 
simply offer a better one for comparison, which I am happy to do. At a 
high level, it's a little sloppy, it wastes important vertical space, 
and standard elements (e.g., search, login) are in nonstandard 
locations. On the other hand, the default MW skin is very professional 
looking and gets these things right. It's another aspect of separation 
of responsibilities - let people who are good at web design design the 

> Actually, another reason for my comments is that I would assume that the
> core audience of contributors (academic researchers who are willing to
> share their research summaries online) would not have trouble trying to
> learn how to edit, even if AcaWiki used something other than MediaWiki.

That is true; however, many won't. Barriers to entry matter a lot more 
than one might think, even small ones. The basic theory is, folks who 
are new to a system don't care much about it and are easy to drive away 
by making small mistakes. On the other hand, if their initial experience 
is smooth and pleasant, and enables microcontributions right away, that 
builds emotional investment in the community and those people are more 
likely to come back and help build the community and the resource. 
Researchers in particular are very busy and (I claim) will have less 
patience than average to hassle with bad systems.


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