Monday, December 31, 2007


I wish I had seen this far sooner

A fellow named David Wiley wrote this post, "OERs, Producers, Consumers, and Reuse", on the nature of open source and sharing knowledge. Applied to Wikipedia, it explains why the content on Wikipedia will always be uneven: Wikipedians "scratch their own itches", so we are left with such contradictions that the article on Xena (57,321 bytes) is longer than the one on Cleopatra (39,710 bytes) -- known as Wikigroanings.

This also offers a partial explanation why there are so many content wars on Wikipedia: because people are passionate about their subjects, they are also passionate about their contributions.

I've found a number of other thoughtful posts on Wiley's blog, Iterating towards Openness. Also check out this response to his post, which led me to it.


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Not having read the article, but I intend to do so. I have some experience in observing FLOSS projects and 'scratching your own itch' is what happens there, too.
With software, you don't have random folks trying to modify your work, only a small, controlled group can do that but that is what a wiki allows. A wiki article maintainer is like an army-of-one trying to fight the approaching hordes. With similar psychological states ensuing.
From Unbundled Software to Unbumbled Consensus

Part of the problem with the "encyclopedia that anyone can edit" is that it gravitates toward adolescent popular culture, including a lot of fandom, parochial puffery, and street-gang rivalry (AKA Web-Side Story).
Kevix, anyone who has participated in Wikipedia for at least 6 months would agree with you about the sense of being an "army-of-one trying to fight the approaching hordes". Sometimes I wonder when the desire to write an encyclopedia will overrule the desire to let everyone write it, and Wikipedia will no longer be open to all. After all, there's a lot of good writing in Wikipedia that has been smothered inadvertently with continual re-writing.

If (or when) this sea change comes, we can be sure of one thing. The same number of people will be unhappy with Wikipedia as before -- although the individuals will be different.

Moulton, while there is a lot of energy spent on "adolescent popular culture" in wikipedia, one of its strengths is that at the same time the rest of us are left alone to write articles on more serious subjects. I haven't had any adolescents muck around with the articles I've been working on most recently, like Iyasu V of Ethiopia or Tekle Giyorgis II of Ethiopia -- just to mention two at random.

This disconnect within the project may not always be a good thing, though: despite my best efforts, too often I hear of an editor I respect leaving when I see his farewell note on his user page, days or even months later.

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