A prototype is a working example. It can be considered an editable and normative equivalent of an archetype - unlike an archetype, a prototype is explicit and can be constantly improved.

A proof of concept may need to precede a prototype to show that the idea is feasible. Prototypes often combine many concepts already proven but not previously combined. A pilot project puts prototypes into limited use, and encourages their general adoption in other projects, but retains the option of closing the project down - the Living Platform is effectively a pilot project in platform writing.

prototypes vs. templates

As a way of spreading best practices, templates aren't as good as prototypes - to point at the best instance, and keep upgrading it, takes much less work than to keep editing a template. It also keeps the effort focused on the instances, especially those subject to the most pressure or scrutiny.

Rather than a "generic" template that will fall out of date and have to be constantly updated, it makes more sense to point at the best current example - this is the prototype. When there are some features or best practices best exemplified by one instance, and other features best exemplified by another, that's the time to upgrade the best page to a near-perfect page - the new prototype.

This way, no effort is wasted on genericizing and no one copies bad old templates when better examples exist. Editors can focus on real pages and not on top-down enforcement which might be resented or might just be unnecessary - if not all pages are subject to the same degree of pressure, urgency or scrutiny as the best prototype page.

An HTML template for instance really should be created only at the last possible moment before the creation of a large number of very public pages. Until then it's better to let the prototype evolve under the pressure of a lot of specific examples and creativity of people who care only about those examples.

Current Prototypes

meeting prototype