While in Iceland back in November Brian Suda and I (when not discussing ideas for sausage innuendo) had an idea for a kind of physical wiki. I had met a guy at Etech a few years ago who was experimenting with placing blank pieces of paper and pens in public spaces and seeing what conversation might develop; Brian was trying to work out how to make real-world travel guides more social. One of the ideas we came up with was this physical wiki - to act both as a social object and a way of sharing knowledge amongst strangers. When I found myself on the Barcamp London Planning Committee I thought I’d take the opportunity to make a prototype: PaperWiki v1.0b.
What is a PaperWiki?
Basically, it’s a load of bits of paper stuck on a wall and connected by bits of string.
Things are written on bits of paper and stuck on the wall. People can locate things spatially - grouping notes as they see fit - or connect related notes with bits of string. They can also write directly onto other peoples’ notes. Simple and fairly intuitive.
Given the Barcamp context and the technical awareness of attendees I assumed that the “wiki” label would carry a fairly big hint for use. I added a note about the wiki with a link to the title to act as an example too though, just in case.
Seized by last-second doubt I also scattered a few sample questions about the space as well.
The best and most surprising thing about the whole shebang was how easily people seemed to accept the idea. I was worried that it’d need a bit more explanation or worse still, might not use it at all.
That said, it turns out that when presented with a blank piece of paper geeks will create a Twitter clone. This isn’t a hard and fast rule - I’m not coining Stenhouse’s Law just yet - but it went down a storm. Introducing Papr.
And alongside Papr a PaperNet emerged, including its own protocol, pampp://…
…a link-shortner, Tinyprl…
…a Flickr clone, Plickr…
…and assorted other jokes…
Uumm, it’s not quite what I had in mind! By Sunday the jokes had overwhelmed the useful information… More Geocities than WikiSpaces. But it was still good fun and it seemed to serve its purpose as a social object so I think it was a success.