Category "Peer Production"
June 18, 2005
The FUD-based Encyclopedia
Krowne, Aaron. “The FUD-based Encyclopedia.” Free Software Magazine. March 2005. http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/free_issues/issue_02/fud_based_encyclopedia/. 16 June 2005.
Krowne responds rather vehemently to McHenry’s “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia,” calling the piece “contradictory, incoherent ... selective, dishonest, and misleading” (1). He also considers Wikipedia within the context of Commons-Based Peer Production.
FUD stands for ‘Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt,’ and Krowne claims that these terms describe oppositional rhetoric directed at open-source and open-access communities. McHenry’s piece is, then, propaganda in this war (1). As a librarian, Krowne endorses Wikipedia and finds it to be a good, solid source (2). He attacks McHenry’s notions about the unreliability of Wikipedia entries, most particularly through the size of McHenry’s sample set: 1 entry out of (at that time) 1 million (3). He also points to McHenry’s complaints about lower-order concerns (spelling, grammar, text flow), which ignore the sheer breadth of Wikipedia’s coverage. Finally, he sweeps aside McHenry’s use of the public restroom metaphor, pointing out that Wikipedia’s revision history is transparent and readily available — quite the opposite of Britannica.
More importantly, Krowne situates Wikipedia within theories of Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP). Working from Benkler’s “Coase’s Penguin,” he proposes the “first two laws of CBPP”:
- When positive contributions exceed negative contributions by a sufficient factor in a CBPP project, the project will be successful (5).
- Cohesion quality is the quality of the presentation of the concepts in a collaborative component (such as an encyclopedia entry). Assuming the success criterion of Law 1 is met, cohesion quality of a component will overall rise. However, it may temporarily decline. The declines are by small amounts and the rises are by large amounts (5-6).
- Laws 1 and 2 explain why cohesion quality of the entire collection (or project) increases over time: the uncoordinated temporary declines in cohesion quality cancel out with small rises in other components, and the less frequent jumps in cohesion quality accumulate to nudge the bulk average upwards. This is without even taking into account coverage quality, which counts any conceptual addition as positive, regardless of the elegance of its integration (6).
Krowne also explores multiple styles of CBPP. The first distinction is based on the idea of an authority model. “The authority model of a CBPP system governs who has permissions to access and modify which artifacts, when, and in what workflow sequence” (7). He outlines two distinct authority models:
- The Free-Form Model: allows anyone to edit any entry at any time. (Ex: Wikipedia) It assumes that all users are on the same level, and that expertise will be universally recognized and deferred to. This model may initially produce high coverage with lower cohesion.
- The Owner-Centric Model: assumes an owner of each entry. Other users may suggest changes, but only the owner can apply the changes, and only he can grant other users ‘edit’ access to the entry (7). This model assumes that the owner is the subject-matter expert, and that all other users will defer to that expertise. This model will initially produce highly cohesive product with lower coverage.
Category "Blog Posts"
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.)
June 8, 2005
The Faith-Based Encyclopedia
McHenry, Robert. “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia”. Tech Central Station. 15 Nov. 2004. http://www.techcentralstation.com/111504A.html. 8 June 2005.
McHenry, a former editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Britannica, entirely dismisses Wikipedia as an authoritative resource. His primary concerns center around the fact that it is impossible to determine the expertise levels of the contributors or to ensure correction of incorrect articles. He calls the Wikipedian procedure of organic improvement a “unspecified quasi-Darwinian process” that has no hope of ensuring eventual accuracy. In particular, he takes issue with Wikipedia’s policy of encouraging people to post rough drafts for improvement, claiming that this is a disservice to readers who come in search of accurate information. In his review of one article, he points not only to factual errors but also to typos and style errors as well as awkward writing — all of which are prevented through the formal process of encyclopedias such as Britannica.
His concerns are founded in a very traditional view of knowledge production, and his tone is vitriolic — he goes so far as to compare Wikipedia to a public restroom, where it’s not possible to know who used the facilities previously.