December 5, 2005 5:56 AM   Subscribe

MemoryWiki is a project to create a bank of memories, stories and experiences. Anyone can submit their account of an historical or personal event. Some examples: First sight of Viet Cong dead | The first time I told a lie | Working with Frank Sinatra | Ukranian Independence Day, 2005.
posted by chrismear (35 comments total)
Very nice idea and great post!!!
posted by wheelieman at 6:03 AM on December 5, 2005

The lie story is very reminiscent of a story in the early part of Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude.

Had Peter been black, Ben would have nailed it completely.

What wheelieman said.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:28 AM on December 5, 2005

Why is this a wiki? Why can I edit other people's memories?
posted by smackfu at 6:29 AM on December 5, 2005

I was wondering that too, smackfu.
posted by Gator at 6:32 AM on December 5, 2005

Fun post. I made a minor contribution.
posted by LarryC at 6:37 AM on December 5, 2005

Some other interesting memories ... The Oklahoma City Bombing, London Subway Bombing and Hurricane Katrina
posted by forforf at 7:30 AM on December 5, 2005

Nice addition.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:13 AM on December 5, 2005

Ha LarryC! Plant probably didn't mind; he just hates it when people come up to him and say" FUCKING ZEPPELIN RULES!".
posted by Devils Slide at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2005

I really enjoyed this entry, but I do admit that I only clicked on it because I was scanning the list and my thought process went something like "AIDS... Pearl Harbor... NAPOLEON DYNAMITE?! WTF?!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:34 AM on December 5, 2005

This is a good idea but has problems.

It lacks important features: a rating system. There is no "wisdom of the crowds". It assumes good faith that stories are factual and not fictional. A slanderous story about an important person no one can disprove. There is no "constitution" providing what is allowed and whats disallowed (see for example Wikipedias NPOV policy). In the end the users will destroy the project unless there are clear rules, and people wiling to enforce them. "A group is its own worse enemy" by Clay Shirky outlines the issues.
posted by stbalbach at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2005

Why is this a wiki? Why can I edit other people's memories?

Because wikis are Web 2.0.
posted by mendel at 8:50 AM on December 5, 2005

We can see if anyone else knows why it's a wiki, though.
posted by mendel at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2005

Neat to read people's stories, but it seems like they used the wikki format because it's de rigueur, not because it's the best solution for their needs.
posted by raedyn at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2005

Yeah, I don't think they quite thought this through. Wiki format is convenient in that it lets people post their stories anonymously, without having to register, but it also has huge potential for vandalism and I doubt they've got the sheer numbers of people needed to keep up with that sort of thing once the site gets more attention.
posted by Gator at 8:55 AM on December 5, 2005

I suppose the real reason it's a Wiki is that setting it up is two steps:

1) Download and install mediawiki.
2) Create a front page.
posted by smackfu at 9:02 AM on December 5, 2005

In case it gets edited out, someone replaced the "IT IS A MYSTERY" answer to my "Why is this a wiki?" question with:
In the unfortunate case that someone should enter bad, incorrect, or immoral memories, then any reader can edit, modify, or delete these memories.
I've asked for clarification but that's seriously not promising. It is that contributor's only edit, though, so they might just be making shit up.
posted by mendel at 9:33 AM on December 5, 2005

This one -"The First Time" - has to be the worst of the bunch:

"The first time is always the best time. Your pumped and excited and have no idea what your doing, but you still bring your "A" game and expect the best. The first time is the best time because your introduced to a new stage in your life, leaving childhood and entering adulthood. Honestly, losing your virginity is the best time and most overrated time. Sex is just another thing in life, but that first time feels awesome. You walk away feeling like a new person, a million bucks. Something inside of you just has been freed because the blood pours out through your veins. You feel a tingly sensation running up and down your spine. Your the king of the walk, and you feel like your soaring like a bird high in the air. Becuase of this, having sex for the first time is the best time."

posted by Devils Slide at 9:39 AM on December 5, 2005

I've got to agree with the "why a wiki" group on this one.. it just doesn't even make sense.
posted by HuronBob at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2005

I'm inclined to think smackfu is right: It's a wiki because anything else would have been a nuisance to set up.

I'm also inclined to agree that it's a bad solution, for so very many reasons. First, the answer that mendel got seems to directly contradict the purpose of the thing, as stated. Second, since people will be just making stuff up, and wikis create page addresses from article titles, you're going to get some seriously messed up URLs really fast. Third, it's a guarantee of war for valuable "space" as people compete to usurp good titles and wipe out memories they don't like....

This could actually be really interesting to watch. Ugly, but interesting.

The core idea is really cool, though. Someone should go do something similar with a better app design. It would be a great application for tagging; people could dissent in the comments. I'm thinking a tabbed UI like MediaWiki's would be good, so the dissent could be "backstory"...
posted by lodurr at 10:47 AM on December 5, 2005

Why MemoryWiki is a Wiki (for Now). From the editor of MW, Marshall Poe

Some of you asked a good question: why is MW a wiki? The answer is this: it had many (though not all) of the elements I wanted from the CMS. Most importantly, the wiki placed the fewest obstacles in the way of potential contributors. You just go to the site and type, period. That’s very important, as most people don’t want to write anyway. Some, as you say, will be put off by the fact that their memoirs can be edited. This is a real danger. But I would urge writers to trust readers. So far, the edits have only been improvements (adding hyperlinks to Wikipedia, including pictures). MW is a work-in-progress (and only a month or so old). So perhaps that will change.

People, of course, can vandalize. If there is a lot of vandalism on MemoryWiki, then I may lock down certain memoirs (after reverting to an un-vandalized version). But I don’t think they will for the most part. I could be wrong, but right now I’m working on that premise. If I *am* wrong, then we may have to institute a registration system, but I really don’t want to do that. People don’t like to register (I know I don’t!), and I think that it would really discourage posting.

In other words, MemoryWiki is an experiment. It will change, no doubt about it. I would be very interested in hearing your suggestions on the above, and trust that I will take them to heart.

Also, if anyone would like to help, contact me. I’m looking for stewards for the site (to prevent vandalism, improve entries and generally spread the word.

Marshall Poe
The Atlantic Monthly
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:08 AM on December 5, 2005

I guess I'm unclear on why anyone should be able to edit anyone else's memory. I mean, if it's my memory, then it's mine. That's the point of it being my memory -- right?

So unless you've got a liability problem, nobody should ever be editing anybody else's "memories", or else they're not really memories anymore.
posted by lodurr at 11:22 AM on December 5, 2005

Wikis are just cool.

But why doesn't MediaWiki use proper diff & patch like algorithms for merging updates?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:59 AM on December 5, 2005

"If there is a lot of vandalism on MemoryWiki, then I may lock down certain memoirs..."

The concept of locking down certain memories because of memory vandalism is...interesting.

"So far, the edits have only been improvements (adding hyperlinks to Wikipedia, including pictures)."

I wouldn't consider someone adding a hyperlink or a photo to my memories an "improvement."
posted by tpl1212 at 12:25 PM on December 5, 2005

The more I think of this, the more I reach this conclusion:

MemoryWiki isn't intended to build a library of memories; rather, it's intended to build a library of stories.

Those are different things. Stories are things that have meaning; they're how humans normally extract meaning from the world around them. They're also how societies come to agree on what's real, what's moral, what's true, what's worth doing, what's worth fighting/dying/living for.

And as such, stories don't always have a positive impact. Stories are also how societies get into wars, and how people convince one another to hate some particular flavor of "other." They're how we decide bad things as well as good.

We create stories by melding and editing memories. And that's what will happen -- and indeed, it now seems to me, is intended to happen -- at MemoryWiki. It really can't be anything else, as long as people can edit other people's memories.

Here's a basic example of the problem with MemoryWiki: to say that adding things like hyperlinks is a "positive" memory is to betray ignorance of semiotics, if not of basic critical skills: If on the web I say "boo!", and then I say "boo!", they mean two different things.

So, really, MemoryWiki should change its name and its mission statement. It not only isn't what it purports to be, but under its current design, can't possibly be.
posted by lodurr at 12:36 PM on December 5, 2005

Again from the editor:

Thanks for your comments.

Ideally, you are right, I suppose. Editing is problematic. But it's all a matter of tradeoffs. I'd love to hear someone suggest an ideal solution, one that balances ease of entry and security.

I'd be happy to lock down anyone's memoir who wants it protected. All you have to do is send me an email (via the site). Also, if you don't like an edit (e.g., a picture or something), then you can revert to an earlier verison or send me an email and I'll do the same. Of course, there will be cases of unwelcome changes (and vandalism) that no one catches, but I hope they will be few. And if I could put together a group of stewards for the site, then my work would be easier and more effective.

Marshall Poe
The Atlantic Monthly
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:37 PM on December 5, 2005

Marshall, I'm afraid your tradeoff requirements (which amount AFAICS to "zero barrier") are unrealistic if you actually want memories and not composites. You'll have to have registration, if only to get useful traceability on the edits. Otherwise, it's not really a Memory-wiki.

It may be kind of neat, but it won't be a memory wiki.

One compromise I can see: Provide a one-click "revert" view of the original story in its original form. That should be feasible with MediaWiki, I think.
posted by lodurr at 12:45 PM on December 5, 2005

Hi Lodurr:

Thanks for your comments. They are much appreciated. The one click "revert" is a FANTASTIC Idea. I'll work on that asap.

About "memory" vs. "story," I'm sympathetic to your point. I have written and taught history for about 20 years, so I agree that really all memories are in some sense fiction. Ones that are edited by others even more so. Nonetheless, I was faced with another trade off: if I called the site "StoryWiki," I'd get a lot of Sleeping Beauty; if I called it "MemoryWiki," I have to admit that I'm really not going to get "memories." I chose the latter because I like the connotations of "remembering" and the link to the word "memoir." But you are right, these are in somes sense stories. In the end, there is no way to exactly recall anything (the mind is not a camera) or reflect exactly a memory in another medium.

I just want to save these memories/stories for the future. That's my only purpose. If you want to know more about my thoughts on the matter, you might read an article I wrote on the matter at Kuros5hin. (It's down right now, but should be up soon).

Best, Marshall Poe
posted by MarshallPoe at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2005

Of course, there will be cases of unwelcome changes (and vandalism) that no one catches, but I hope they will be few.

The thing is, as was stated in the now-deleted "Why is this a wiki" section, people will have to stand constant vigil over their own entries in order to "catch" unwelcome changes. Unless they think to request a locking, which isn't something most people would think to do.

Also, it isn't necessary to keep signing your comments, your username makes it clear who you are.
posted by Gator at 1:49 PM on December 5, 2005

MarshallPoe: Might I suggest the Everything2 codebase as a more effective solution? At one point in time, Everything2 was similar to what you are trying to create, quite by accident. Later, the administration decided to curtail the "Getting to know you nodes" phenomenon and purposely took the site in a different direction. Regardless, the code lends itself to what you're trying to do quite well.
posted by signalnine at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2005

Stupid. Got memories? Get your own webpage and link to it.
posted by Joeforking at 4:07 PM on December 5, 2005

Reminds me of this other anonymous memory-sharing site. With a different focus of course.
posted by lunarboy at 4:37 PM on December 5, 2005

Great concept. Bad format.
posted by sjvilla79 at 5:18 PM on December 5, 2005

Well, Marshall seems to have taken our advice to heart: The main page now states that memories will be locked after copyediting, and no further changes will be made to your entries unless you request it.

This is still less-than-ideal, if you ask me. In fact, there's even less of a point to having it in wiki format than before, now that editing has essentially been turned off.
posted by Gator at 8:03 AM on December 6, 2005

I think of it as an object lesson in knowing your key requirements before you implement.

Anyway, it's a truism that you often don't know the real consequences of your design until yous ee them in practice. For example, Matt's new My Comments page is probably keeping threads alive for a lot longer on average.
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on December 6, 2005

"It's a truism that you often don't know the real consequences of your design until you see them in practice."

Amen! (and thanks to everyone)

Marshall Poe
The Atlantic Monthly
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:53 AM on December 6, 2005

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