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Monday, January 10, 2005

Start A Wiki About Initiating Wikipedia Ver 2

Wired has published an article about Wikipedia's Growth Pains. The excellent article captures the issues centered around wikipedia. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:

"One of the mysteries of scale is that there's no such thing as scaling well," said Clay Shirky. "You can make something 100 times bigger, and if it works, you think you've got it licked. But the next power of 10 can kill it. So I don't know whether or not openness and co-creation are incompatible at Wikipedia scale." The difficulties Wikipedia faces these days relate mostly to its systems for creating and vetting articles, and whether it covers enough specialized topics sufficiently well to be considered a well-rounded, single-reference source. Any member of the Wikipedia community can write an entry, which then can be edited by other members. Entries are never finished, given that anyone can make edits to any of them. But that also means there is no final authority who signs off on the accuracy of entries; veracity is assumed to come from the self-policing nature of the community.
Wikipedia, for all its breadth of coverage, cannot claim that each and every one of its entries meets any bottom-line standard for accuracy. In a recent article posted on community site Kuro5hin.org, former Wikipedia developer Lawrence Sanger addressed a litany of problems with the project. In some Wikipedia areas, "academics and experts of all sorts generally are not accorded any sort of special respect by some Wikipedians," Sanger says. "If someone is made to defend his or her contribution by some crank, or a troll, the rest of the community, generally speaking, will not come to the defense of the expert." And that's a problem, Sanger believes, in trying to build a large, well-respected resource. "There needs to be some sort of deference to expertise," he said. "I think the managers of Wikipedia need to be creative about how this sort of problem can be solved." Jimmy Wales, president of the Wikimedia Foundation, thinks the project is very healthy. "Wikipedia is very, very big and has a very active community of contributors," he said. "It is increasingly high-quality. It is increasingly being cited and relied upon in news by academics, librarians and researchers." Wales acknowledges that Wikipedia is not perfect. He notes that the community does suffer from members writing nonsense entries, or messing with others' entries, but said he and other project managers are determined to look for solutions.
"It is absolutely crucial that we pursue creative, rational processes to get it right," Wales said. "And what that means is everything about how the community and process are managed (is) constantly under review." Yet Wales also thinks that those who feel Wikipedia, or any encyclopedia for that matter, should be a top-tier reference source are off-base. "We're after a standard that is suitable for the general reader," he said. Wales said he and his team are trying to figure out how to transition the project into what he calls "Wikipedia 1.0." Essentially, that would mean that at some point, the entirety of the existing Wikipedia would be frozen. Naturally, though, given the open-ended nature of the project, a new Wikipedia based on the 1.0 version would open up at that point, and anyone could add new entries and edit them going forward. But at least at that point, Wales said, people could point to the 1.0 version and say it was a completed work. He said he's not sure when that will happen, but hinted it would not be in 2005.
The fundamental question, is what people should expect of Wikipedia. As it grows and becomes a repository of 2 million entries from more and more contributors, more of whom are experts in their fields, it probably will be seen as on par with the Britannicas of the world. But first it must convince those experts to become involved, and that will likely mean finding a way to make them feel welcome. "What could ensure its survival for a very long time is a system of governance that rewards participation," said Shirky. "That's the hallmark of long-standing communal institutions."

My Take: Building a sustainable online community of contributors would be the key. Wikipedia has demonstrated that this can happen in its case - quite consistently and hope remains. Wikipedia is too important an instituition to put everything on hope alone. Wiki may consider three things:
A. Organise wiki more like the w3c consortium and make participation in decision making more focussed.
B. Wikipedia may consider some rotating corporate sponsorships - say once in a year or two - Not for commercial exploitation or for banner ads - Corporate sponsorship brings with it lot more focussed, measurable way to define future nature of growth.
C. Wiki to start a wiki discussing these developments.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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