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Author Topic: Wikipedia and beyond  (Read 1956 times)


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Wikipedia and beyond
« on: May 01, 2014, 02:45:35 pm »

This is dated from 2007, but I still found it to be an interesting, albeit long, read. Reason magazine interviewed Jimmy Wales, the founder/creator of Wikipedia. I apologize for listing so many snippets, however I did so in case anyone didn't want to read the entire interview.

<snip> Wikipedia is here to stay, but the public has an annoying habit of demanding that its heroes achieve ever more heroic feats. Wikia is an attempt to take the open-source, community-based model to profitability and broader public acceptance.

Consider, for instance, the astonishing growth and readership at the Wikia site devoted to Muppets. At a little over one year old, the Muppet Wiki has 13,700 articles. Every single one is about Muppets. Interested in an in-depth look at the use of gorilla suits in the Muppet movies? No problem. Just type in "gorilla suits" and enjoy a well-illustrated article that documents, among other things, the names of actors who have worn an ape outfit for Jim Henson. There is a timeline of all things Muppet-related. An entry on China details Big Bird's reception in the People's Republic. The site is astonishingly comprehensive and, perhaps more impressive, comprehensible to a Muppet novice.

This ever-expanding encyclopedia of Muppetry is just a tiny part of Wikia. It is an arguably trivial but hugely telling example of the power of open publishing systems to enable professionals and amateurs to work together to aggregate vast amounts of data and conversation on topics and areas ranging from the serious to the sublime. Founded in November 2004, Wikia communities use the same editing and writing structure as Wikipedia. The site provides free bandwidth, storage, blogging software, and other tools to anyone who wants to start an online community or collaborative project. If you don't care for Kermit the Frog, you can try the Your Subculture
Soundtrack, an "interconnecting database of the music scene" with more than 5,600 articles. Many of them are just enormous lists of discographies, lyrics, or guitar tabs. The topics of other Wikis range from Star Wars to polyamory to transhumanism. Wikia also includes collaborative online projects such as the Search Wiki, an effort to create an open-source competitor to Google where a Wikipedia-style universe of users rates websites and sorts the search results instead of relying solely on an algorithm.

In December, Wikia announced that its first corporate partner, Amazon, had committed $10 million to further development of the project. Amazon's money added to the $4 million kicked in by angel investors earlier in the year. Amazon and Wikia have not integrated their services, but Wales has not ruled out the possibility of cooperation at a later date, spurring not entirely tongue-in-cheek rumors of a joint Wikipedia-Amazon takeover of the Web. The site plans to make money by showing a few well-targeted, well-placed ads to massive numbers of community members and users. </snip>

<snip> It might sound strange, but Wales' interest in community dovetails nicely with his interest in individualism. No one is born into the Muppet Wiki community. Everyone who is there chooses to be there, and everyone who participates has a chance to shape its rules and content. People naturally form communities with their own delicate etiquette and expectations, and they jealously guard their own protocols. Each one is different, making Wikia communities fertile ground where thousands of
experimental social arrangements can be tried-some with millions of members and some with just two or three. Like the "framework for utopia" described in the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Wikia maximizes the chance that people can work together to get exactly what they want, while still being part of a meaningful community by maximizing freedom and opportunities for voluntary cooperation. </snip>

<snip> Wikia now has 40 employees, including a handful of Polish programmers-a huge staff compared with the three people it takes to run Wikipedia. With 500,000 articles on 2,000 topics produced by 60,000 registered users in 45 languages, the network of websites is growing fast. The biggest wikis are dedicated to Star Trek and Star Wars. Wales is partial to the wiki devoted to the TV show Lost. He also admires the Campaign Wiki, which among other projects has neutral voter guides for
elections. </snip>

<snip> Even as Wikia relies on Google ads for its only revenue at the moment, Wales recently has started to talk publicly about building a search engine using open-source tools, a project Wales casually calls "The Google Killer." Wales hopes the transparency and flexibility of an open-source model will discourage the gaming of the system that plagues Google. A search for "hotels in Tampa" on Google, a search I tried before my trip into town to interview Wales, yields nothing useful, just a jumble
of defunct ratings sites and some ads that aren't tailored to my needs. By using a community of volunteers who will rerank results and tweak algorithms, Wales hopes to get useful results in categories that are particularly subject to gaming. </snip>

Taken from a article interviewing Wikipedia founder Wales:

"Simply having rules does not change the things that people want to do," he says. "You have to change incentives."

Interesting (from the article as well):

One of the most powerful forces on Wiki¬pedia is reputation. Users rarely identify themselves by their real names, but regular users maintain consistent identities. When a particularly obnoxious edit or egregious error is found, it's easy to check all of the other changes made by the same user; you just click on his name. Users who catch others at misdeeds are praised, and frequent abusers are abused. Because it's so easy to get caught in one stupid mistake or prank, every user has an incentive to do the best he can with each entry. The evolution of a praise/shame economy within Wikipedia has been far more effective at keeping most users in line
than the addition of formal rules to deal with specific conflicts.
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Re: Wikipedia and beyond
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2014, 04:07:21 pm »

Very interesting. I often find myself at "wikipedia" in the course of my research. I don't trust it very much, but often find reference points to other, better information or enough corroboration to accept the wiki info.
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Re: Wikipedia and beyond
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2014, 11:26:53 am »

Wiki's for Muppets, Battlestar, etc., are a sad commentary on humans that so many put so much effect into nonsense, while real looming challenges are ignored…

Some sites where potentially useful comments are collected:
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