Wikis and Cohousing Website Members Area, etc. (was, ironically: Very Quick Question)
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 12:49:17 -0700 (PDT)
I personally ported, edited, and built out most of the existing cohousing
content in the IC Wiki. I did this independently from Coho/US, although I
was on its board at the time. This was months before I joined the Coho/US

As mentioned by John, much of the original content in that section came from
Rob. It was formerly a print book, which was then ported to textual web
pages on the NICA website. Quite a bit of the text from Rob was merely
wiki-ized, reformatted to fit that medium. It was also updated, with dead
links extracted and new ones added. A lot of additional cohousing content
was also added to help fill-out the offering.

I viewed my volunteer work on this as being in service to both the FIC and
NICA (Northwest Intentional Communities Association), a regional
organization that decided to get out of the "community-content-business."

I spent hundreds of hours working on the IC Wiki in 2007. The idea of
hosting it there was based on my observation that so much of the "cohousing
content" was more broadly applicable to a larger number of communities,
including cohousing. I feel that just as Cohousing can learn from other type
of communities, so can others learn from our experiences and practices.

In my opinion, the Wiki software platform doesn't really matter much,
although lots of folks love to talk about it. Tony Sirna, the FIC guy that
selected MediaWiki, consulted with the handful of FIC volunteers that
actually had history creating online content. This is a MUCH SMALLER number
of people than those who ask others to create what they want. While the
usage of the Cohousing Section of the IC Wiki is substantial, the number of
contributors is negligible. People involved in community are often quite
busy and many not very interested in writing, or collecting resources for

That's also true for Coho-L. To use the "derisive" but common phrase, most
people are lurkers, while a few of us write volumes. This is true of
WikiPedia, but the many millions of users ensure that a small percent is a
critical mass.

This conversation about Wikis spun out of John's assertion that

"the members area really isn't a wiki where collaborative documents are

Exactly correct - why? Because very few create online, collaborative
documents. I suspect that most involved in cohousing are too busy in their
other endeavors to take on yet another "creative opportunity."

The Members Area was created to lower the bar - under the theory we could
create a more accessible space, where you can ask a simple question and, in
theory, get some answers and dialog from some very experienced folks, in
addition to some grass roots folks.

We are trying to make creating in the Members area more attractive to people
with interests in communicating using the relatively new type of
communication - Blogs, Forums, and the Resource section. This does make it
far easier for people to post documents than many Wiki engines. This is
quite a different goal than creating documents collaboratively or
writing/reading emails.

We have found that the small number of responses made to some Blog and Forum
postings have already stimulated new thinking from some of our Bloggers,
including Charles Durrett and Diana Leafe Christian. These are people who do
not typically engage very much online - they are busy professionals with
active Cohousing businesses. Much of their communication involves writing
books and actively helping Cohousing Groups up close and personal.

Chuck co-authored "Cohousing" with Katie McCamant and "Senior Cohousing."
Diana wrote "Creating a Life Together," and "Finding Community." Both of
these professionals travel often to work with many different groups. I do
not believe that either currently reads Coho-L, although I know that some of
their friends or staff do sometimes forward occasional postings.

Our hope remains that the Members Area becomes useful for more of the many
thousands of people who visit the Cohousing Website every month. The Website
serves a great many who are curious about Cohousing, but not yet ready to
watch the flow of text on Coho-L. Part of the Association's role is
Recruiting Future Cohousers - I see this coming from taking baby steps
toward authentic engagement. We want to make it easier for newcomers to join
Forming Groups, to Form New Groups themselves, or buy one of the growing
numbers of available cohousing homes... a market research factoid I'd like
to know is how many cohousing homes are actually available for purchase at
any given time in any given locale.

The Cohousing Website team did consider integrating Wiki technology, but
after my experience seeing how few people ACTUALLY engage, we decided to try
and create something that would be more accessible - not for creating
collaborative Documents, but to support some active learning, to support a
growing resource that many could contribute to without actually having to
learn some new technology.

The Members Area is evolving - we recently got some great ideas on how to
improve it from the 70+ people who responded to our 3-question online survey
- you, gentle reader, probably didn't receive notice of the survey as it was
only sent to our 300+ current Members. We also had some productive dialog
with those who called into our Members Area Conference Call.

If the Members Area ultimately proves to have been a bad idea, based
primarily on how interactive it ends up being, then the web team might shut
it down and shift our attention to other things. Our current plan is to
continue supporting its growth and then reevaluate its relative value/cost
in January, as we begin a planning cycle for our 2009 online work.

On Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 10:08 AM, John Faust <wjfaust [at]> wrote:

> No reason not to use it. It already contains quite a few good
> articles/documents and our forming group has made extensive use of them. I
> think Rob Sandelin actually contributed a number of those articles. The
> only
> drawback is that specific wiki engine. It, like the existing Cohousing US
> wiki, uses MediaWiki--the same one used by Wikipedia. The editor can be
> awkward for beginning wiki contributors. A Google Site might be easier to
> use. It is the reformulated JotSpot wiki recommended by Rob. It has a very
> familiar looking editor.
> John
> On Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 5:28 AM, Sharon Villines
> <sharon [at]>wrote:
> >
> >
> > On Aug 25, 2008, at 3:51 PM, John Faust wrote:
> >
> > > The problem is that the members area really isn't a wiki where
> > > collaborative
> > > documents are built.
> >
> > I think Wiki's are the best way to build information resources, but
> > why not use the IC wiki? There is a cohousing section.
> >
> > Sharon
> > ----
> > Sharon Villines in Washington DC
> > Where all roads lead to Casablanca
> >
> >
> > _________________________________________________________________
> > Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> _________________________________________________________________
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Craig Ragland

Coho/US executive director
craig [at]

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