Posts about wikipedia

The ‘pedia fight in 20 volumes

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and Dale Hoiberg, editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Britannica, engage in an entertaining smackdown over at the Wall Street Journal. I give the match to Wales. Let’s go to the videotape:

Mr. Hoiberg: No, we don’t publish rough drafts. We want our articles to be correct before they are published. We stand behind our process, based on trained editors and fact-checkers, more than 4,000 experts, and sound writing. Our model works well. Wikipedia is very different, but nothing in their model suggests we should change what we do.

Mr. Wales: Fitting words for an epitaph…

But it’s a shame we’re not past this us-v-them narrative in the worlds of Wikipedia, encyclopedias, and shared knowledge. Newspapers are finally starting — just starting — to figure out how to work together. How should the publishers and the people in this world work together?

Sometime ago, I suggested that if I were a publisher, I’d piggyback onto Wikipedia and put effort into vetting articles there in what Fred Wilson called the Redhat version of Wikipedia.

If I were a reference publisher, a library association, a university, a media company, or a foundation, I’d take Wikipedia as raw material and vet entries, perhaps even charging for the service: On demand or on the basis of traffic and links, I’d go in and vet already-written pieces and bless that version of it. Then maybe I’d publish a book from it. Subsequent changes would be unvetted until and unless I chose to or the audience asked me to review them.

So that’s what I would do starting from Wikipedia. Britannica could use the work of Wikipedia and its experts to create the world’s largest vetted encyclopedia. If only it opened itself up to the possibilities.

And starting from Britannica? Well, they could put up the encyclopedia as a wiki and invite people to correct it, add to it, to propose articles that aren’t there but ought to be. They could turn it into something the community cares about, instead of merely buys.

Or they could just keep being pissy.

(Link fixed now)

Adverpedia

Jimmy Wales says Wikipedia may accept advertising. I think it’s a good idea. Some will have a kneejerk response against filthy lucre. But I say the right question is: What could those resources buy? The full Times of London interview with Jimbo here.

Pickipedia

Dana Boyd has a wonderful post bringing perspective and sanity to the recent discussion about wikipedia… and about judging the fruits of interactivity in context.

Ourpedia

A few weeks ago, I suggested that publishers, associations, experts and others should vet articles in Wikipedia and in essence create blessed versions of the open-source wealth of knowledge there. At the time, Fred Wilson called it the Red Hat Wikipedia. Now David Weinberger and Wikipedian SJ Klein sing the refrain:

Anyone could certify particular versions of particular articles as reliable. I could, you could, the American Association of Pediatrics could, because this doesn’t have to happen on the Wikipedia site. Dozens (hundreds?) of other sites already take Wikipedia’s content as their own, under Wikipedia’s Creative Commons license. So, why not encourage various authorities (personal or institutional) to create their own seals of Good Wiki Keeping, publishing a virtual slice through Wikipedia….

Not to mention that it would be a perfect example for my book about how knowledge is becoming miscellanized, and reclustered using different organizational principles.

UberWikipedia

There’s regularly wringing of hands over something wrong — or worse, poisoned — at Wikipedia. Where some see a problem, I see an opportunity:

If I were a reference publisher, a library association, a university, a media company, or a foundation, I’d take Wikipedia as raw material and vet entries, perhaps even charging for the service: On demand or on the basis of traffic and links, I’d go in and vet already-written pieces and bless that version of it. Then maybe I’d publish a book from it. Subsequent changes would be unvetted until and unless I chose to or the audience asked me to review them. If a piece just simply isn’t up to snuff, I’d put it on a gray list, which I’d also make available not only as a warning (that’s seeing the problem again) but as a challenge to Wikipedians to improve the piece and make the grade (that’s the opportunity). And if the public sees a piece that is haunted by inaccuracy or, worse, is manipulated for someone’s agenda, then they can post a public warning as well. And, of course, I don’t have to do all this just with staff. I can also vet Wikipedians or others so that when they review a piece and bless it, so we can consider it blessed. And if there’s any money in this, I share it with them. In short, I’d create a superstructure of known, proven editors and researchers not to replace a single thing about Wikipedia today but to add value on top of it.

I agree with Dave Winer that “we need to determine what authority means in the age of Internet scholarship.” And I agree with Rex that Wikipedia itself must remain as open as it is today and that we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater when one error or one Wikipedian in need of meds is found. The vast — and dynamic — resource that Wikipedia has become is invaluable and the vast majority of what is in there is quite useful. What we need is mostly a pressure-relief valve for these complaints and reputed scandals that inevitably emerge.

Now that I think of it, this might have been a nice business model for the shrinking Britannica. It might still be.

: UPDATE: Fred Wilson calls this the Redhat version of Wikipedia.