Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Worrying about Wikipedia (Again)

Mark Bernstein:

A community that tries to govern itself through consensus must have a mechanism for addressing those who, through error or stubbornness, cannot or will not accept any consensus. The Wikipedia of myth has Jimmy Wales, but Jimmy hasn’t scaled and Wikipedia has nothing beyond the vague hope that people of good will can outsmart the fools. Unfortunately, in the Qworty affair and many parallel situations, one side of the argument employs zealous ideologues who have years of experience manipulating wiki-law. The other side may be right, but in the new Wiki way, that’s beside the point. The institutional structures favor zealotry over good will and advantage unemployed cranks (who have all the time in the world) over sensible people (who have other things to do).

We can wreck the long tail in precisely this way; this is precisely the scenario for destroying the Web that I identified in my 2011 Web Science paper. Drive lots of traffic to wikipedia, and let a million weblogs wither. Then, let a scandal (or chance) dent Wikipedia and all that’s left are the old broadcast networks and the cable companies and the spammers and the Government of Syria.

Indeed, this is one reason Facebook has been out-competing the open Web: for all its flaws, Facebook does have a good mechanism for letting you check up on your nieces and nephews without having the trolls and spammers and Pajamas in your face. Until Google and Bing turn down the traffic to Wikipedia, Wikipedia is unlikely to change. If we wait for a major scandal to occasion this, the damage to Wikipedia may be irrecoverable.While we wait, the damage to the Real Web continues daily.

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