New Dashboard Project

by pieterh on 08 Sep 2009 10:28

Some people like to announce projects only when they are ready and mature. I used to be a perfectionist like this, but one thing I've learned: perfectionism excludes participation. If you want people to help you in your Wikidot projects (and don't we all love it when someone else makes an intelligent edit to one of our pages?), you need to be able to announce them as raw concepts, and build them in public view.

So, my general process goes like this. Someone complains. The stronger they complain, the better. This is why we have the Tuesday Rants. We can often relativise and put aside things that annoy us, but to make our Wikidot world better, it is often the most emotional response that is most accurate.

From a complaint, I think, "what's not working?" Something is not working… so I make a guess, and then think of a solution. Since I'm an obsessive Wikidot user, the solution is almost always, "make a new Wikidot site". Clone button, I love you! :-)

For me, a Wikidot site is always a social answer to a social problem. So, for example some people told me the "Hall of Fame" section on this blog was biased and incomplete (obviously true, since it was just my personal view). Solution: the all new Hall of Fame where anyone can thank another Wikidot user for their help, and the wise old users (the existing "black belts") can award belts of various colors to other people.

It is never certain if such a site can work or not. Some are just bound to fail. But the cost of experimentation is so low, it's much easier to try and see, than to spend too much time thinking. We think better collectively, than individually.

So, last night I started another concept site to answer another problem. The problem is finding information in the large and growing wikidotverse. For new users, it must be horribly confusing. Some people have proposed making one huge large site with all the documentation, forums, snippets, and so on.

That is not going to happen, if only because we'd have to forcibly ban people from making smaller competing sites. A site is two things:

  • Information that people come to read
  • A community, a team that works together to make the site

One massive site would mean one massive team, but that does not scale. If you're an admin of the Community site you'll know the problem. Twenty or so admins, but most are absent and the work is done by a handful. This is always how it goes. One huge site would mean huge amounts of work for a handful of people. Not sustainable! Many smaller sites means spreading the work over many smaller teams, each doing less. Much better.

But back to the "looking for information" part. How do we keep track of so many projects, so much chaos? There is a dashboard page (see the side menu) that shows some main sites. But who maintains this page? Can it scale to 20, 100, 500 sites? In fact it won't scale beyond 10 sites or so and is really a personal dashboard, suitable for specific advanced users.

We need a more generic dashboard that can be customized to suit each person's tastes.

So here is my concept answer: a new dashboard that can organize dozens, hundreds of sites into neat little piles, and further, do this independently for each user. This would become the new "personal homepage".

This project consists just of a single page with some ideas. Anyone can join, edit, contribute. There is functionality missing in Wikidot to make it possible. I'm not even sure what that means, exactly. But together, over the coming weeks and months, we'll figure it out, and make it work.

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