Monday, April 16, 2007

Barbarians are at the gate, and they don't like it

Below is an announcement on the Converse College website of the presentation last week by Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia.org. This is the typical reaction of those who control the status quo when faced with a discontinuous innovation. What really struck me was this sentence:
While Wikipedia's supporters often portray the site as a brave new world in which scholars can rub elbows with the general public, doubters say Wikipedia devalues the notion of expertise itself.
Scholars can rub elbows with the general public? They completely don't get this wisdom of the crowd thing, do they?

Wikipedia Founder Discusses Controversial Web Encyclopedia

March 2007

Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales, creator and founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.org, spoke about the controversial site in Twichell Auditorium at Converse April 10. The event, which was free and open to the public, drew an estimated audience of 700 people.

Wales discussed the world of peer-reviewed open content Internet media and the founding of Wikipedia. The event was an offering of the Friends of the Spartanburg County Public Libraries Dennis L. Bruce Author Series, and was sponsored by Spartanburg County Public Libraries and Converse.

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia currently ranks among the top ten most-visited Web sites worldwide. Today, Wikipedia has nearly 5 million articles in many languages, including more than 1.3 million in the English-language version. There are 229 language editions of Wikipedia.

Despite its growth and popularity, critics have questioned Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy because anyone can edit and upload content. While Wikipedia's supporters often portray the site as a brave new world in which scholars can rub elbows with the general public, doubters say Wikipedia devalues the notion of expertise itself.

In the current issue of TIME magazine, Wales says in response to a question about growing concerns of the validity of Wikipedia entries that “The key is to look at the quality of articles. The quality of Wikipedia today compared with three years ago is a dramatic improvement. But people do need to be aware of how it is created and edited so they can treat it with the appropriate caution. The site is a wonderful starting point for research. But it's only a starting point because there's always a chance that there's something wrong, and you should check your sources.”

In 2006, TIME magazine named the 40-year-old Wales as one of America's 100 most influential people. The former options trader is the founder and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit corporation that operates the Wikipedia website and several other wiki projects. Wakes is also founder of the for-profit company Wikia, Inc.

1 comment:

transcend said...

I attended his presentation at Twitchell as well. My 8-year-old son asked him the question about which entry he liked the best.

I particularly enjoyed Wales' point about creating software and applications that assumed "the best in people" instead of the worst. He gave the analogy of a restaurant that gives people steak knives assuming they won't kill eachother with them. We don't assume the same thing in the computing world, however, which creates a very closed system that is not conducive to interaction and learning.