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The collaborative use of wikis and #tags will enable MIT alumni to share their collective know-how towards solutions for global problems



The internet and social media platforms provide opportunities for collaboration that have not yet been seized at scale.

Using systematically defined #tags and wikis on the available social media platforms will yield significant  benefits for collaboratories as each #tag (and the associated web-page) acts as a tiny space, supporting the discourse about a specific topic. This micro-space is open 24/7 to anyone (with access). All can use the #tag, either for looking up for a topic how the "status including brainstorm" has evolved, or for contributing genuine new content. The #tag timeline will expose "repeated" content and thus counter the familiar "repeater" attitude that currently pollutes much publishing and many debates. 

Climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (which includes the actions on climate change) are areas where enhanced collaboration capabilities are necessary. The alumni of MIT, globally a top ranking university, can play a leading role in applying the internet and social media for pushing our cognitive limits.

How the #tags divide the problem space is an essential feature.

Any alumni who likes to verify, engage in, or contribute to an exchange of ideas, should find in seconds the #tag corresponding to a topic.

A (proof-of-concept) service for such search is provided by #tagpivots and #tagclouds which present topic maps of one or more dimensions (categories), each dimension being covered for 360°. These dimensions don't have the depth of academic classifications, and are intended to be complementary to such classifications.

My experience has yielded these topic dimensions for "society-level" challenges:

  • what is the goal or target? E.g. "carbon neutrality", or the sustainable development goals
  • which economic activity? E.g. transportation, or construction
  • which function of government  ? E.g. oversight of education, or environmental protection
  • the territory: a country, state, city?

What actions do you propose?

Actions for the alumni

Access the "alumni wiki" with #tag "per page" conventions that follow "international agreements", and are searchable via  #tagpivot or #tagcloud. This is an essential feature as at some point outcomes from the internal sharing may be put in the public domain.

If an alumni observes that her or his interests are suitably covered in a tagged discourse, she or he can opt not to engage personally for the topic. On the other hand, if the alumni observes that issues, or pertinent contributions are neglected,  a comment can be made, or a link to (self) published texts can be posted, with the suitable #tag.

The simple use of the #tag conveys some commitments:

  • that the content is contributed to a specific topical discourse,
  • that the author/contributor has taken into consideration prior contributions, and supports or rejects them (with arguments), or has shown awareness of them in the new contribution


Looking up a tag

A #tagpivot is demonstrated at , it is a single wiki page which supports tens of thousands of views, for looking up individual topics within a dimension, or topics across more than one dimension. An example is education: there is a hash tag for education as an economic activity, and one for education (oversight) as a function of government. 

The #tagpivot complements academic classifications, it doesn't substitute for them.

An example of a tag cloud is one with the #tags for all counties in the United States. In the proof-of-concept, alphabetical order search must be used. But sure, by means of apps or some  predictive typing functions on the tag cloud, the search can be much faster. 

Dependencies via joint use of #tags from different dimensions (categories)

Content that is related to dependencies, for instance between development targets or goals, functions of government and economic activities may need more than one #tag. The different views of the #tagpivot can be set via the selection of tabs in each topic dimension. Thus it becomes easy to add multiple meaningful tags for a single post. 

Also the #tagcloud offers a function "show from all categories", for instance for education in the sustainable development targets,  we get a "cross dimension" list of pages tagged with education.

Twitter doesn't support (free) timelines for tweets with multiple tags.  

Let's now move to the "platform" provider side for the collaboration:

First, the recruiting and engagement (the alumni organisation):

  1. A small team to get familiar with the proposed collaborative use of social media and wiki ; it decides about which pages to open up publicly.
  2. The alumni team to set up a "mission wiki" with pages (and related #tags) that it considers within the scope of the collaborative effort (note that Twitter #tag timeline widgets can be embedded on a site by anyone, especially also by a blogger, interest group, or university lab with a specific interest/expertise in a topic - simply embedding the #tag timeline indicates a collaborative intent.
  3. Open to the public, Twitter offers the best value for #tag users (with memory of up to two years). But only for posts on Twitter. However if the alumni network wants to follow specific topics and #tags across more social platforms (G+, Facebook, ..), there are paid services for this.
  4. If some platforms support Twitter like functionality on an intranet, such services could be used among Alumni, on pages hidden for the public
  5. By selecting as #tags those that have been proposed at  - , the alumni prepare for sharing those findings and discourse which are intended for the public discourse, and across languages as the defined tags are language neutral (in the past three years no similar proposition has popped up)
  6. For sharing to private sector channels, the interfaces and policies must be designed, or established
  7. The alumni can promote the hashtags and use them via their social media channels
  8. External "contributors"  are encouraged to use public pages or social media channels; alumni can either comment at public or "partner pages" per wiki-page.


Next, the problem solving (collaboratively, deep and broad):

Once we are aware of what is being done and proposed (by all) in a certain area, and we can bring know how, data, ideas, pains together in the micro-space which either is a micro-commons or a "micro-club-space" via the #tag timeline, or the trail of comments, alumni, researchers, policy makers can apply problem solving methods such as the one explained at

This problem orientation is already reflected in  pages for functions of government and economic activities of the Actor Atlas, with some principles for allocating factors of problems and solutions to public or private sector explained at the social architecture link (See the References).

The openness and inclusiveness of the discourse in micro-commons matters for several reasons (taken from , tab 4 / Ground)

  • Multi-stakeholder initiatives must balance many stakeholders' perspectives on what is effective and fair, what is comprehensive and balanced.
  • Each stakeholder has its own benefit-cost expectations, and by reasoning translates these into values and indicators to measure these.
  • Critical issues emerge where stakeholder expectations are translated into conflicting clauses of statutes (see Statute Books for "positioned" U.S.Codes) or conflicting interests in initiatives.
  • For an open and transparent negotiation among stakeholders with equal rights it is important that the expectations by various stakeholders are traceable to values and indicators.
  • For an effective implementation it is important that change proposals reflect the current baseline.
  • By using wikis, with comments and #tag timelines as a communication channel for initiative content, such a traceability can be achieved alongside, or within multiple initiatives preparation and implementation.


Next Scaling quickly (reaching beyond MIT Alumni)

Other stakeholders (including academic institutions) can work according to the same approach, wikis and tags are specific per country or state, but are built following the same structure to enable sharing among peers.

Using similar tags for "internal spaces" ensures the seamless re-usability of the content as it moves from the proprietary or club domain to the public domain (requirement highlighted by Prof. F Kimura - from The University of Tokyo - see references).

The agreement on the #tags and their configuration enables a peer-to-peer exchange that is un-achievable by other means in public-private stakeholder constellations.

What are the key challenges?

As the technology (except for the structured #tags) is already widely used, the key challenge is the collaborative/collective action. The approach only works when there is a number of contributors that share content and debate problems and solutions in the proposed way.

The MIT Alumni network with its 130 000 members can kick off such a global collaboratory as no other network could do.

What are the key benefits?

This is an incomplete list:

  • transparency that builds trust ( see the problem solving section of the proposed actions)
  • single version of the "truth" ( the micro-space, "micro commons" or "micro-club-goods" per topic/ #tag)
  • avoidance of information overload ( the #tag timeline as part of the micro commons, the preference for on-demand access to information rather than the subscriber model)
  • easy identification of "forgotten areas" (for which tags is there no content? via the 360° degrees covering of topic dimensions)
  • the distributive business model
  • preparing content in the "club domain" prior to  contributing some of it to an inclusive public discourse where no one is left out
  • a more humble attitude towards problems facing society, and the contributions each of us can make: at first, the #tag pivot and #tag cloud can seem overwhelming - they may keep us in a "cognitive stranglehold,"  however, when using it and finding our way in a broad range of topics, we build confidence, while always being reminded that each of us can only make a small contribution - this must be contrasted with the overconfidence that many get when using search engines.  


What are the proposal’s costs?

Besides the Alumni support team, the only cost for a basic collaboration platform, either private or open access, is the wiki; the open access wiki can also be free  (community sites).

A suitable mission wiki structure can be cloned free of charge, within a sharing model.

The major pain for uses is looking up the tags, but as users will have specific interests, they will quickly remember the tags for topics that really interest them.

Time line

When the MIT alumni adopt a collaborative approach in addressing the global challenges and co-inventing solutions, this could be quickly succeeded by a global adoption of the approach. This is because of the defined #tags , the availability of the Actor Atlas, and the use of low-hurdle technology.

Also, when new topics are selected for collaboration, the same approach can be applied. Users, moderators and platform owners don't have to adopt new approaches. If others have already advanced on a topic, a broader collaboration can proceed from their status, all in a seamless manner.

With an improved knowledge exchange, innovative and socially acceptable solutions will be designed and introduced faster, and with a lower cost. 

If we look at history for cognitive technologies that we still use, so called "stable technologies", these include the alphabet, the decimal positional number system, coordinate geometry. Their use has become even more empowering with material technologies such as the printing press which yielded dictionaries and encyclopedia (only after hundreds of years though).

Today, we have the internet and social media which are badly in need of some "soft" structure and agreements so as to push further our collaborative and cognitive limits.

The proposition is a step in that direction. Only trying it at scale can proof whether or not we approach a stable technology for collaboration at a massive scale, and whether we can push again our cognitive limits and mutual trust for decades or centuries to come.

Related proposals

A "public-side" proposal, with title "Community based climate collaboration via #tags and wiki"  has been submitted to the contest Fostering Climate Collaboration in Boulder, CO . That proposal explains the purely public variant of this proposal. 


The keynote paper by Prof. Fumihiko Kimura  (Knowledge and skill chains in engineering and manufacturing) - cited in a comment at Economic activities (#isicWW) (Actor Atlas).

About  Paul Otlet and the Mundaneum, these are earlier efforts of structuring information (which me, a Belgian, only discovered as Google featured the Mundaneum on its Search page on August 23, 2015 in commemoration of Otlet's birthday).

"placing new content" as a missing element in the internet and social media eco-system

Eventually, the collaboration has to impact all sectors:

About social architecture:

About preventing information overload: collaboratively-scoping-information-and-coping-with-its-overload

The SDG Compass guide describes a process that will have to be performed for all sectors setting "standards" for their member-organisations; in order to contain costs, a collaborative approach is desirable here.