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When I left NNA to start a consulting business, I started taking a much closer look at the online resources available to the VectorWorks community, to see where my stuff would fit it. I found that there is a ton of stuff out there, but that you really have to poke around a bit to find it. The first place to start, of course, is the VectorWorks Community page. For third-party content, the next place to go is VectorDepot. But if you poke around some more, you quickly realize that there is a lot of good stuff that is not listed on either of those sites.

So I asked the question, "What would it take to get these sites to list all of the VectorWorks-related resources?"

It's instantly obvious that no single webmaster could maintain all of this information. Adding new material as it becomes available, updating existing stuff, and removing dead links, is an extremely time-consuming task. The only way that this could ever be done would be if the entire community was the webmaster.

And there's more to this than just the old saying, "Many hands make light work." Yes, an enormous task like this could only be done by a lot of people. But more importantly, in a community project, the people doing the work in each area are the individual experts for that kind of thing, and there's a real economy there, because the expert can get it right the first time. If requests for website updates are funneled through a single webmaster who then processes the request, you're using two people to do one job, and the one who is actually doing the work is not the expert. This takes 5 times longer, unless corrections have to be made, in which case it takes 10 times longer. Better to just tell everybody that if they see something that could be improved, to just do it. Then, you'll have 5~10 times more stuff, and it will be higher quality stuff.

In fact, there was already a community-maintained site, namely VectorLab. This site was conceived by Frank Brault, and taken over by Orso Schmid, and it provides a framework in which anybody can add stuff. Interestingly, even VectorLab does not have everything, nor does it even have the framework necessary to hold everything in a way that is easy to navigate.

Then I realized that the idea is not to try to come up with a framework that works for everything, and then to cram all of the information in the world into that framework. Even with the entire community engaged, all of the information is simply not going to go into one framework, at least not without sacrificing the benefits of the variety of different formats already in use. Rather, the idea is to come up with a site that is easy to navigate, with categories for the most common types of stuff, and under each category, to start out by listing all of the other sites that have related information. In other words, the site shouldn't contain everything — it should simply contain whatever it can, and list whatever it can't.

So this is the idea behind VectorWiki. It's a community-maintained directory of VectorWorks-related resources.

"If VectorWiki doesn't have it, it will tell you where to find it."

This, in my opinion, is the only reasonable way of approaching the task of having an up-to-date representation of all of the resources available to the VectorWorks community.

My sincerest thanks to Orso B. Schmid of VectorLab for teaching me how to do a wiki and for offering many useful suggestions.

- Charles 15:58, 16 April 2007 (EDT)

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