January 27, 2009

Wikipedia takes a step away from openness

The open encyclopedia Wikipedia has announced a step away from its totally open model used so far. The idea is that changes to certain articles would not be visible until they have been reviewed by a "trustworthy" person. The discussion has come to life after a false death announcement on the site, which can be seen here. Though the crowd actually corrected the false statement only in five minutes Wikipedia still considers to follow Encyclopedia Britannica on having reviewed articles.

The idea is explained more here:

The FlaggedRevisions (FlaggedRevs) extension has not currently been installed on the English version of Wikipedia, though it was implemented on the German language Wikipedia for all articles in May 2008. On the English version, it is currently being discussed here, here and here as to whether or not a trial should be attempted, to try out the various options and see if this system would work here, and how best to configure it.

Shift from openness

Though I might be inherently skeptical to the idea of letting the crowd have full power over the information gathering and quality review of an encyclopedia I am still skeptical to the quality control function perhaps to be implemented. Since the basic and fundamental idea of Wikipedia is the openness and the wisdom of the crowd, straining it will most certainly take the edge away from it.

Becoming more controlled means more closely linked to the establishment and the ideas expressed under each topic will be filtered, or at least thought to be. This is the same way as Encyclopedia Britannica has made, just the other way around. They are using trusted writers really skilled in the areas in which they contribute. These writers will also start to review user contributions and then possibly adding them to the database. What Britannica has but Wikipedia lacks is, at least from my perspective, trust in the individual reviewers/contributors.

Wikipedia is using a totally open model where they take benefit from that with large enough user base at least one will know the right answer. A model which has proven to work really well over the years and the last mishaps were corrected within 5 minutes. Establishing FlaggedRevisions will probably move the use and idea of Wikipedia away from what it was intended to be in to something else.

The future

Though Wikipedia still do not have any sustainable business model I do suspect that this quality review might be a first shift in centralizing information control and also perhaps start to leverage from the huge source of information in the database. It might not be conscious shift though.

Johan Örneblad

Via dn.se and nyteknik.se.


  1. Wikipedia is certainly an interesting topic, and it will be very interesting to follow if they will construct an open business model which is viable (more on open business models here: http://tbmdb.blogspot.com/2009/01/open-business-models.html).

    Jimmy Wales actually discusses the possibilities of business models in a Fora.tv talk (http://fora.tv/2006/04/14/Jimmy_Wales_on_Wikipedia) but seems to come to the somewhat drastic conclusion that democracy will be benefitted more by collecting donations.

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