Archive for the ‘Big Picture’ Category
And we’re just supposed to take his word for it
Every once in a while, Jimbo Wales will mistakenly schedule an interview with a reporter or talk-show host who is actually willing to broach the subject of how Wikipedia might cause problems for society overall, or have negative effects on individuals or social institutions. In most such situations, his response is to point out that Wikipedia is “benign,” as if this is somehow self-evident, and that he fails to understand how or why anyone could possibly think otherwise.
Unfortunately, many highly successful technological innovations, no matter how seemingly “benign” they might be when considered at face value, can actually have devastating unintended consequences. One example of this is the modern toilet. Like Wikipedia, the toilet is a receptacle for human effluvia and other waste products. Unlike Wikipedia, it’s a fairly simple mechanical device that provides a seemingly clean and efficient means of disposing of that waste, minimizing its unpleasant stench and effectively eliminating the equally-unpleasant task of manual removing it from people’s homes. Nearly 200 years after its invention, it is difficult to imagine a modern, “civilized” society without toilets. But when they were first introduced, the story was rather different - indeed, a case study of disastrous unintended consequences.
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What is the life expectancy of Wikipedia?
- It has a scandal-prone structure, from the Board of Trustees right down to “anyone can edit” which includes an anon editing an article on Seigenthaler that sat there for four months.
- The person most closely associated with Wikipedia loves his celebrity status but prefers to spin away over Wikipedia’s problems rather than deal with them.
- The social networking model, from Wikipedia, to Orkut in Brazil, to Napster, Grokster, and YouTube and copyright, is headed for a more restrictive legal environment.
- To the extent that any sort of wiki-type “encyclopedia” survives, it will probably have to go with non-anonymous editing. Examples are Citizendium, and Google’s Knol.
- The funds from donations will not be sufficient to sustain the needs of the Wikimedia Foundation. If Google is serious about Knol, it may even be too late to start showing ads on Wikipedia. Google is not likely to rank Wikipedia well if it competes with Knol.
- The mainstream media is losing its infatuation with Wikipedia.
I give it three more years.