March 16, 2009
A reply to "Wikipedia criticism, and why it fails to matter"
wrote a blog post
"Wikipedia criticism, and why it fails to matter"
(and follow-up) where he discussed many critics of
Wikipedia, and raised a question:
Does criticism of Wikipedia serve any purpose (constructive or
destructive) other than being an excuse to fill journal columns and
blog space (I might note that the critical articles I wrote about
Wikipedia have driven the most traffic to my blog)? it is hard to
say. I want to argue here that it does not at least serve the obvious
purpose of keeping potential readers away from Wikipedia.
For my reply, let me put it this way:
Part of my motivation has been the delusion that I can make a (small)
difference in the world. But I am not nearly so deluded as to think I
can significantly keep potential readers away from
Wikipedia. Indeed, as I repeatedly try to point out that
Wikipedia's success has been driven by an implicit subsidy by Google
(implicit meaning there's no deal, no specific arrangement, but rather
an effect overall), it logically follows my ability to compete with that is,
in practice, nil.
I started critiquing Wikipedia in
since my biography there was being used as a weapon in a longstanding
harassment campaign. And then the more I looked into the real inner
workings of Wikipedia, the worse it seemed. I suspect many people
don't understand the frame of reference I try to convey, of
where idealistic unpaid acolytes work themselves to burn-out, while a few
people at the top benefit enormously.
But I have no grandiose views about my readership and influence. At best,
I'd aim to affect things like
Jonathan Zittrain's use of Wikipedia in his book - i.e. some intellectuals
might read me, and as a result the hype would be less extensive, maybe even
debunked a little. Realistically, that's the best I can hope for (and I
likely won't achieve even that much).
That is, I'm not trying to change (directly) the number of Wikipedia editors,
but rather the Public Intellectual perspective on Wikipedia.
To me, structurally,
Wikipedia embodies many policy trends which I find immoral and
destructive - e.g. the shifting of risk and responsibility from
institutions onto relatively powerless individuals, while
simultaneously shifting personal benefits to a tiny elite.
I know, that's not the way we're told (often by PR flacks) to think about it.
But how many
$50,000 - $100,000 ? - speaker's fee gigs do the article writers get?
Perhaps it's futile to criticize all that. It's certainly not lucrative.
Maybe I've made the same mistake that I made during the Great Bubble,
of not getting on the gravy train while the getting was good.
I suppose it all comes down to the question of which side you're on, and
why you're on it.
By Seth Finkelstein |
posted in wikipedia
on March 16, 2009 06:09 AM
> But how many $50,000 - $100,000 ? - speaker's
> fee gigs do the article writers get?
Wikipedia is a free source of knowledge and I find the deal works like this: you edit a little (or don't, it's totally up to you), and in return, you get a wealth of knowledge totally free. And if you only add bits and pieces here and there, why *should* you get 50,000 bucks or so? That is the kind of amount one may get for a full-time job, not for a bit of editing here and there. And I suspect many of the people who edit here and there may have a full-time job, where they earn money. Put reversely, your argument could also be: "How come those people who have a full-time job and *get paid* there at their job... also get to access the wealth of information that is Wikipedia *for free*?" And you may also say, "Whoever never edits at Wikipedia should also not get access to the articles for free! You should only get free access to articles you co-edited substantially, otherwise you need to pay!"
I believe that people that work themselves to death on wikipedia have no one to blame but themselves. Have a little self restraint. The world isn't going to end if you do not perfect that wikipedia page.
It works like the cult of Linux, in which Torvalds takes devotees to Linustown and feeds them OSI-certified Kool-Aid.
Philipp Lenssen: Quite a few people do the equivalent of a full-time job, or even more. The site is run overall by a small core of participants who devote a huge amount of unpaid time, sometimes to their personal detriment. The human cost bothers me.
David Gerard: In fact, people often do get paid for working on Linux. And if not paid directly, there are strong traditions of credit in open source projects where contributors can use their work as a basis for future paying work. Wikipedia is crucially not like open source projects in that way.
Nice to see you respond to my post (or rather, to one of the contentions in it).
Side note: As a even-more-of-a-non-entity blogger than you, I expect to see a traffic spike from your link.
The fact that Wikipedia, Inc. does not respond to criticism is one of the most telling facts about it.
And no, banning and defaming critics is not what normal people mean by "responding".
Wikipedia criticism won't shut them down. It still matters if it leads to improvements in the editing process, for example when dealing with the potential to abuse Wikipedia as a defamation machine.
Seth,I don't know who would be getting $50,000.00-
$100,000.00 speaker fees from being listed in Wikipedia. while looking for some high school friends I keyed one of their names into Google, which took me to Wikipedia and sure enough I am in it ( under The Human Expression ) I never had a clue I was listed in it and have yet to get any offers to speak even in the $0.50 - $1.00 range. but I AM AVAIABLE FOR ANY WELL PAYING SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS !