“If people can write a functional open source operating system, there is no reason why they can’t write an encyclopaedia.”
This comparison keeps turning up, and while it sounds reasonable on a sloganeering level, its fundamentally wrong.
The driver for the development of Linux is real and pressing - the movement of mass computing to a monolithic, corporately-controlled standard is stiflingly unhealthy, and OSS breeds diversity and invention. Particularly, had LAMP [Editors note: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP] not been created, a lot of the web innovation of the last decade likely wouldn’t have happened. Good-quality developers were drawn to OSS for good reasons, and established a decent level of governance because you just can’t engineer software without it. Because the technically incompetent don’t last long, Linux benefits from a virtuous circle: better software = more users = more developers = better software.
There is no such driver for the development of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a redundant re-mediation of the internet, which is already an “open-source encyclopaedia”, and which anyone on a connected network can contribute to with a lot less moderation and interference than they’d get from a wp admin.
Because the task of a wp editor is to basically read and re-mediate, without the need to engage with ideas and work hard to (god forbid) become an expert, its a magnet for the not-particularly-bright. Many contributors aren’t really interested in putting knowledge on the internet, because they fear the obscurity that awaits their mediocre contributions - so they rely on wikipedia’s skewed pagerank to put their stunted prose at the top of search results pages and give them that warm glow of self-importance. And there’s no effective competence filter, so the circle is reversed: higher SERPS for mediocre content = more users = more talentless nincompoops throwing shite at the wiki and linking to each other = higher SERPS for mediocre content.
And the worst bit - the bit that really shows up the facile nature of the “wp = open source” comparison - is that the logical conclusion of wikia/wikipedia is a monolithic, corporately-controlled standard, where every page and every site pretty much looks the same, works the same, and has the same culture.
It is a recurring theme, and one regular poster Moulton had earlier picked up:
It’s basically a failure of leadership. There are plenty of models of successful open source projects. Debian and Ubuntu, for example, are exemplary social contract communities with good project leadership.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, Wikipedia eschewed that proven organizational model in favor of a cultish enterprise with way too much anonymity and way too little organizational vision, and negligible attention to an ethical value system.