June 10, 2005
The Authority Debate: A Chronological Link List
Anti-Elitism in Wikipedia
Sanger, Larry. “Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism.“ Kuro5hin. 31 Dec. 2004. http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/12/30/142458/25. 10 June 2005.
Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia and an ex-employee, discusses issues that he feels impede Wikipedia’s current and future success. The root problem, he says, is a policy of anti-elitism, or lack of respect for expertise. He identifies two contributing factors:
- lack of public perception of credibility, particularly in areas of detail
- the dominance of difficult people, trolls, and their enablers.
It’s been suggested that Sanger’s opinions are at odds with Wikipedia’s policy of “radical openness.” In his conclusion, Sanger says they are not, and that openess does not require disrespect. He doubts that his suggestions will be implemented at Wikipedia, and supposes that a project fork will eventually occur so that a vetted version of Wikipedia can be developed.
Shirky, Clay. “K5 Article on Wikipedia Anti-Elitism”. Many 2 Many. 3 Jan. 2005. http://www.corante.com/many/archives/2005/01/03/k5_article_on_wikipedia_antielitism.php. 10 June 2005.
In response to the Sanger piece, Shirky claims that Wikipedia’s anti-elitism is a feature, not a flaw. He responds to Sanger point-by-point:
- The Academy’s perception of Wikipedia as flawed is largely tied to Wikipedia’s policy of publication without “privilege.” In other words, academics refuse to accept it as an encyclopedia because it does not conform to models of knowledge production that privilege authorial reputation and privilege. If Wikipedia were to be forced into a ‘filter, then publish’ model, it would be broken.
- He agrees that trolls represent a large problem for Wikipedia, and for social software in general. However, he also acknowledges that any open environment will always experience governance issues, and points to Wikipedia’s policies of incremental closure (no edits to the homepage, etc.). Excessive closure would slow the project growth.
- He argues that radical collaboration means that expert opinions must be mingled with those of non-experts. A policy of automatic deference to experts is at odds with the function of any wiki, let alone Wikipedia.
(Same-day link post at BoingBoing.)