Friday, August 04, 2006

Wikiality - A Reaction or Two

By now, Steven Colbert's slam of Wikipedia has made the rounds. When I first saw the clip, I have to admit I was pretty annoyed.

How could Stephen Colbert blatantly recommend to the world that they deface a site I enjoy so much? And what did he prove? That (online) communities depends on trust, and that it's pretty easy to abuse this trust? And perhaps I was most annoyed that for a large population, Wikipedia is now a bumbling joke and not to be trusted.

But that was only my *first* reaction. My thoughts since have done a 180. I now think that the Colbert stunt was actually a good thing.

Why? Because Wiki's are inherently self correcting. Here's my guess of what's going to happen. For the next few days or weeks there will be a spike in abuse as a whole new group of users test the boundaries of Wikipedia. Eventually, these users will get tired of this game and will move on.

But next time they need some information the Wikipedia is now an option for them.

In other words, you have to trust the system - it works.

Another point that I've been rolling around in my head is how Stephen Colbert the character should dislike Wikipedia, while his viewers should love it. Why? The Wikipedia is all about facts. You say an issue is black, I say it's white, and we keep hashing it out till we both agree that it's really greenish gray. This works, because in the end, the goal is to get all the facts on the table - that's all.

And isn't this fact based (anti-spin) world exactly what the followers of Colbert are after?

They should, and hopefully will be Wikipedia's best friends.

Thanks to Simon for inspiring me to write these thoughts down.


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