Last week I stumbled across an article about a new online encyclopedia of philosophy founded by one of the original creators of Wikipedia and sponsored by Stanford University. Essentially, the article states that Wikipedia is a mess and an unreliable source, espousing the notion that structure and expertise is needed to ensure a reliable and citable source that is “worthy” of academia.
I do understand their point, and there have been instances in which Wikipedia has been incorrect but considering the size of Wikipedia it is actually more “correct” then the tried and true Encyclopedia Britannica. That statistical fact to the side, isn’t one of the core ideas behind the Internet the theory of the Long Tail and the enabling of peer-produced content and intelligence? One could read the article as an attack on new media in general, regardless of the speed and accuracy of sites such as Twitter and Blogs, they will never “official”. Are the official sources any better?
Let us take this a step further, at its core this is really an argument of open vs closed. New media enables openness but the new frameworks created by it can be leveraged by more traditional players if wanted, so push old content view new means. The argument that open means amateur and stupid, is tired and antiquated. The statement reminds me of old TV shows showing on traditional media, copyrighted for 60 years (and another 60 when the next congress gets sworn in!) and badly in need of mashups to get a new generation interested in them. Can you imagine an episode of the O’Reilly factor that has been Rickroll’d? That two minute clip is more entertaining than half of the copyrighted entertainment out of Hollywood and other traditional media.
I’ll take Wikipedia any day and if my paper is not academic enough because I cited the single largest source of human thought and expertise the world has ever known, then so be it.