When I come across some interesting texts in the suttas, I copy and paste to my own Dhammawiki in Evernote. In this way I build up a quick way of finding references. Now I would like to suggest a wiki on SuttaCentral which would be open to editing for all members. What do you think about this?
Sujato here! Absolutely. I think that would be a great idea. To do a simple wiki, we can use Discourse itself. There’s a setting to make a post wiki-able, and then anyone can edit it. In fact I’ve done that with this thread, just to show that it’s possible.
I believe this ability is limited to staff and users of “trust level 4”. I haven’t paid attention to the different user levels on Discourse, but basically I think that means you’d have to apply to be a wiki editor and we, the admins, could grant that.
This would enable us to develop articles and notes on various aspects of Dhamma. As a simple example, suppose you want to explain a particular topic. Let’s take the khandhas, as that’s currently under discussion. Hopefully someone with a reasonable background can get something out of such discussions. But for a newcomer, it will all be a bit meaningless.
So we decide to do a wiki post on the topic of the khandhas. We use a dedicated “wiki” category. We can do an overview, provide historical context, opinions of scholars, references, and the like.
This has a number of advantages:
- There’s a ready-built platform and community.
- Each discussion can be networked as many times as we like to the main texts simply by including relevant sutta IDs.
- We can use Discourse’s nice markdown, image handling, and so on.
- No additional work for us!
But it also has disadvantages.
- There’s no hierarchical structure of pages. Discourse only allows categories and sub-categories, so if everything is under the “wiki” category, that means we have only one level left.
- There’s none of the complex wiki backend, recording of who made what edits, ability to roll back edits, and so on. (Although the comments could be pressed into service for this).
- No auto-generated Table of Contents (although it has been discussed and may be implemented).
- No trivial way of linking between topics by title.
- No footnotes.
Some of these things might be hackable or make it into upcoming Discourse releases.
We’re not in a position currently to be building a whole new platform. Our devas are currently running the main site—home grown from 100% organic code—the elasticsearch search engine for that, the Discourse platform, and the Pootle translation engine.
So if a “proper” wiki was to be built, someone would need to volunteer to do that. It’s a lot of work!
One approach might be to simply start here, do some articles, and see how it goes. We should get a sense of what works or doesn’t work.