Category "Authority"

Category "Blog Posts"

Category "Wikipedia"

June 16, 2005

The Authority Debate: A Chronological Link List
The Shirky/boyd Debate

boyd, danah. “Academia and Wikipedia.” Many 2 Many. 4 Jan. 2005. 10 June 2005.

Boyd responds to Shirky with this refutation of Wikipedian authority. She supposes that the Academy does not necessarily dislike Wikipedia, but rather fears it because it is new. She herself does not encourage her students to cite Wikipedia as a source, and notes that her own early, incorrect articles on anthropology have yet to be corrected. However, she is careful to say that she does not dislike Wikipedia, but rather does not consider it equivalent to an encyclopedia. Her primary concern is that students are not experienced enough to know when to trust Wikipedia and when they would be better off with another source. She pushes for a vetted Wikipedia that would be more accountable and authoritative.

Shirky, Clay. “Wikipedia: Me on boyd on Sanger on Wales.” Many 2 Many. 1 Jan. 2005. 14 June 2005.

Shirky states once again that Wikipedia and Britannica are not comparable. The question should instead be, “Under what conditions is Britannica better, and under what conditions is Wikipedia better?“ Wikipedia has the advantage as a real-time information source, as demonstrated by the article on the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. It also has advantages in the areas of cost, availability, topicality, and breadth of coverage. In all of these ways, it will in fact never be an encyclopedia. Instead, it is something radically different — and “the principle value is in that radical difference.”
Britannica’s innovation was the move to substitute institutional brand for authorship. “This was a huge leap, and one that required a shift in authority, away from the literal (authority derived from a particular author) to authority by proxy (though the entries have authors, the authority is derived from the values of the institution that employs those authors.)” As such, it and Wikipedia are very closely related in nature.

Shirky, Clay. “Wikipedia: The nature of authority, and a LazyWeb request...” Many 2 Many. 6 Jan. 2005. 14 June, 2005.

“Wikipedia is not a product, it is a system,” Shirky says in this second response. This property transforms time into an advantage: while Britannica becomes stale over time, Wikipedia is constantly refreshed. Shirky also explores personal authority (i.e. Mom’s Diner) versus brand authority (McDonald’s). Wikipedia has yet to achieve brand authority, and since all contributions are anonymous it also lacks personal authority. Instead, it has a market of trust in the same way that Ebay does: “the syndication of user attention and the possibility of recourse for bad behavior keeps people generally honest.” Trustworthiness becomes a social fact in such a market. We assume that many pairs of eyes have re/viewed it, and so it (whatever ‘it’ is) becomes worthy of our trust.
The problem, of course, is those Wikipedia pages that have only been edited by one person. Shirky proposes a dashboard trust profile for pages that would show how many times the page had been edited by how many people over how much time. Such a widget would serve as a method of generating trust (or not).

boyd, danah. On a Vetted Wikipedia, Reflexivity and Investment in Quality (a.k.a. more responses to Clay).” Many 2 Many. 8 Jan 2005. 14 June 2005.

Boyd clarifies her position (that Wikipedia is not worse than Britannica, but different) and adds, “If legitimacy requires a definitional change, I’m worried. Why does it have to be an encyclopedia? Why can’t it simply be Wikipedia?” She suggests:

Most interestingly, she points to the value of Wikipedia as open-source brand, with attendant expectations for that brand that are very different from expectations for Britannica.

Shirky, Clay. “Who’s Afraid of Wikipedia?” Many 2 Many. 28 Feb. 2005. 16 June 2005.

Shirky gets his first student paper citing Wikipedia, and says that he would expect a student to cite any sources they gleaned information from. If they learned something from the Wikipedia entry and didn’t cite it, they would be guilty of academic dishonesty. As with any encyclopedia citation, one would look for additional primary-source citations in the bib. That’s that.

boyd, danah. “Situating Wikipedia.” Apophenia. 6 March, 2005. 16 June 2005.

In this final response, boyd clarifies two brief points:

Posted by kenne329 at 2:46 PM | Authority | Blog Posts | Wikipedia

Category "Authority"

Category "Blog Posts"

Category "Webzines"

Category "Wikipedia"

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. 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:

This perception, which may or may not mirror reality, results in lack of support from the Academy and the public. Sanger reinforces the claim that Wikipedia's product is uneven, and suggests that this is largely due to anti-elitism. An example he uses is the article posted by two experts that is then “hacked to bits by the hoi polloi” who make later edits to the article without respect to the expertise of the original authors. While the premise of Wikipedia is that errors and gaps will be fixed over time, Sanger suggests that something should be done to “guarantee a reputation for reliability.”Sanger no longer participates in Wikipedia because of the uncollegial atmosphere fostered by policies of tolerance for trolls. He suggests that other experts shun the project because they do not want to deal with rudeness and disrespect. Less tolerance for disruption would create a more welcoming atmosphere that would draw in subject matter experts.

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. 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:

He ends with the warning that Wikipedia and Britannica are not comparable, but are different things entirely. Wikipedia, as a real-time open application, is capable of things that Britannica is not, and vice versa. In five years, he claims, Wikipedia will be “essential infrastructure.”

(Same-day link post at BoingBoing.)

Posted by kenne329 at 1:54 PM | Authority | Blog Posts | Webzines | Wikipedia

Category "Authority"

Category "Blog Posts"

Category "Wikipedia"

June 7, 2005

The Authority Debate: A Chronological Link List
Wikipedia Stress Tests

(See also note on Havalais, “The Isuzu Experiment,” in previous entry. It’s filed there instead of here to maintain chronological order.)

Felten, Edward W. “Wikipedia Quality Check.” Freedom to Tinker. 3 Sept. 2004. 7 June 2005.

Felten reviews entries on subjects he knows well: his university, his town, himself, his research areas, and the Microsoft anti-trust case. The entries on Princeton University and Princeton township were accurate, and the entry on him had only an incorrect birth year. He also notes that the articles on his research areas (virtual memory and public-key cryptography) are remarkably accurate, thorough, and contain information that would not normally be found in a traditional encyclopedia. The entry on the Microsoft case was “riddled with errors.”

CmdrTaco. “Wikipedia != Authoritative?” Slashdot. 9 Sept. 2004. 7 June 2005.

Points to similar experiment conducted by Frozen North. Five errors were entered, and five days later they remained uncorrected.

Posted by kenne329 at 3:36 PM | Authority | Blog Posts | Wikipedia

Category "Authority"

Category "Blog Posts"

Category "Wikipedia"

June 6, 2005

The Authority Debate: A Chronological Link List
Initial Blog Responses


Doctorow, Cory. “Journalist: Wikipedia is ‘outrageous,’ ‘repugnant,’ and ‘dangerous’.” BoingBoing. 28 Aug. 2004. 6 June 2005.

News of the debate moves to the blogosphere with this post to BoingBoing. It contains a summary of the Fasoldt/Technodirt debate, but does not go further.

Ito, Joi. “Wikipedia Attacked by Ignorant Reporter.” Joi Ito’s Web. 8/29/04 (JST). 6 June 2005.

Ito provides the usual summary, and then provides support through references to the authorityWikipedians earn through participation:

Tradition[al] authority is gained through a combination of talent, hard work and politics. Wikipedia and many open source projects gain their authority through the collective scrutiny of thousands of people. Although it depends a bit on the field, the question is whether something is more likely to be true coming from a source whose resume sounds authoritative or a source that has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people (with the ability to comment) and has survived.

He also referenced the Gillmor article and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica prize awarded to Wikipedia that year.

Powers, Shelley. “Truth and Authority”. Burningbird. 28 Aug. 2004. 6 June 2005.

The popular Burningbird also notes the previous posts. Most interestingly, she points to another article by Fasoldt writted under the pseudonym Dr. Gizmo, in which he defends Wikipedia. (No link available.) She then turns to a short discussion of truth v. authority, noting that both are relative at best. She pronounces Wikipedia a good source, but not the good source.

Mayfield, Ross. “Wikipedia Reputation and the Wemedia Project.”. Corante: Many 2 Many. 29 Aug. 2004. 6 June 2005.

Mayfield specifically tags Wikipedia as “collaborative editing”, and further notes that “Coupling emergent content development and formal editorial process is a very competitive business model for print. But if the public learns to use and trust the content that emerges in Wikipedia as an authority, it is even more disruptive.” He then traces the previous discussion from Fasoldt through Powers and briefly wonders if codifying reputation will constrain production within the Wikipedia community.

Havalais, Alex. “The Isuzu Experiment.” Alex Havalais, a thaumaturgical compendium. 29 Aug. 2004. 6 June 2005.

Havalais details his experiment to determine the self-correcting potential of Wikipedia by entering incorrect information on 13 pages and seeing how long it takes to be corrected. He planned to give the experiment two weeks, but all changes were found and fixed within hours. (See also Wikipedia proves its amazing self-healing powers, BoingBoing 8/30.)

Brooke, Collin. “Better to be ignored?” Collin vs. Blog. 29 Aug. 2004. 6 June 2005.

Brooke points to a false binary in Fasoldt’s arguments: “Authority/trustworthiness/reputation/credibility is something that pre-exists the research.” Credibility is demonstrated through rigor as well as scholarly conflict and resolution, not through citing ‘authoritative’ sources. Wikipedia’s advantage is that this scholarly back-and-forth is visible to the public through the article histories, allowing researchers to make individual decisions concerning authority. He further suggests teaching critical thinking by assigning students to research the validity of Wikipedia posts and, if they find information missing, to contribute it themselves.

Posted by kenne329 at 12:09 PM | Authority | Blog Posts | Wikipedia