Wikipedia Flirts With Disaster

// // December 05th 2008 // Technology

Wikipedia has secured a $890,000 grant from Stanton Foundation to make the editing process more user-friendly. At first glance this seems innocuous, but it has the potential to ruin Wikipedia.

“Wikipedia attracts writers who have a moderate-to-high level of technical understanding, but it excludes lots of smart, knowledgeable people who are less tech-centric,” Sue Gardner, the Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director, said in a statement Wednesday.

Ms. Gardner is right. But it also excludes the ubiquitous trolls and troglodytes who inhabit the comment space on social networks and forums. Ever peek at the comments on YouTube? Yeah, not the type you want editing material on Wikipedia.

Here’s today’s featured article on Wikipedia.

Now imagine that the monkeys have overwhelmed the safeguards through new user-friendly editing.

Sure it’s an exaggeration but the fact remains that Wikipedia is inviting more people into the editing process. They don’t get to choose just the smart people.

The current editing environment actually provides a filter via the technical and code obstacles. It’s a screening process that, while somewhat biased, helps keep the monkey masses out. Might it not be easier to provide tutorials for the ‘smart’ people who are motivated to contribute to Wikipedia?

User-friendly editing is a can of worms, a Pandora’s box. Wikipedia should be careful for what it wishes.

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