Saturday, March 05, 2005

Wired on Wikipedia

This was a great article looking at Wikipedia. All sorts of questions are answered.

How does the Wikipedia model differ from other encyclopedias?

In the beginning, encyclopedias relied on the One Smart Guy model.

With the Industrial Revolution, the One Smart Guy approach gradually gave way to the One Best Way model, which borrowed the principles of scien­tific management and the lessons of assembly lines.

Now Wales has brought forth a third model - call it One for All. Instead of one really smart guy, Wikipedia draws on thousands of fairly smart guys and gals - because in the metamathematics of encyclopedias, 500 Kvarans equals one Pliny the Elder. Instead of clearly delineated lines of authority, Wikipedia depends on radical decentralization and self-organization - open source in its purest form. Most encyclopedias start to fossilize the moment they're printed on a page. But add Wiki software and some helping hands and you get something self-repairing and almost alive. A different production model creates a product that's fluid, fast, fixable, and free.

Encyclopedias aspire to be infallible. But Wikipedia requires that the perfect never be the enemy of the good. Citizen editors don't need to make an entry flawless. They just need to make it better. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Wikipedia a 7.8 in reliability," Kvaran told me in New Mexico. "I'd give Britannica an 8.8."

There's another equally important difference between the two offerings. The One Best Way approach creates something finished. The One for All model creates something alive.

How do you handle people who "graffiti" the site, and how big of a problem is it?
When MIT's Fernanda ViƩgas and IBM's Martin Wattenberg and Kushal Dave studied Wikipedia, they found that cases of mass deletions, a common form of vandalism, were corrected in a median time of 2.8 minutes. When an obscenity accompanied the mass deletion, the median time dropped to 1.7 minutes.

It turns out that Wikipedia has an innate capacity to heal itself. Making changes is so simple that who prevails often comes down to who cares more. And hardcore Wikipedians care. A lot.
What motivates people to contribute?
For Danny Wool, chance arrived on a winter afternoon in 2002, after an argument about - of all things - Kryptonite. Googling the term from his Brooklyn home to settle the debate, he came upon the Wikipedia entry. He looked up a few more subjects and noticed that each one contained a mysterious hyperlink that said Edit. Curious but too nervous to do anything, he returned to Wikipedia a few more times. Then one night he corrected an error in an article about Jewish holidays. You can do that?! It was his first inhalation of Wiki crack. He became one of Wikipedia's ­earliest registered users and wrote his first article - on Muckleshoot, a Washington state Indian tribe. Since then, he has made more than 16,000 contributions.
One thing I was not able to figure out is how long the tail of contributions is. What % article edits are inputted by people that only add a contribution or two? While you can see who the top editors are, you can't tell what % of total edits these people make up.

via Wired Magazine

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.