Friday, December 02, 2005

Is this really what Wikipedia is for?

So it seems Adam Curry has found himself in trouble for some half-finished Wikipedia editing. And no sooner had this all come to the fore than Dave Winer weighed in on the concept of Wikipedia itself,
-- the bigger problem is that Wikipedia is so often considered authoritative. That must stop now, surely. Every fact in there must be considered partisan, written by someone with a confict of interest.
It's a difficult thing to settle on a single agreeable view of something so recent and so publicly debated. Does this mean it shouldn't be documented at all? Maybe. Would having some third party historian necessarily make things right? Surely the final interpretation of events would not sit equally well with everybody. Be glad you have a way of documenting history yourself and be glad you don't have to wait and hope that some third party organization sees things the way you do.

Anyway, isn't Wikipedia really about sharing knowledge? Isn't it about society educating itself? Collecting mankind's knowledge for all to share is probably one of the most noble things we could do with the internet (infinitely more noble than podcasting). Is it imperfect? Of course it is. The textbooks (history or otherwise) that I read throughout my education were not all accurate either. Were they still useful to me? Of course.

It is not just interesting but absolutely vital that this warehouse of knowledge be flexible. That's it's power. Hindsight is 20/20. So lets have a system that lets us use this fact to our advantage.
Let's not think of Wikipedia as a chronicler of recent history (that's what bloggers do effectively already), but as a tool for people to educate themselves collectively.

To devalue 1.5 million articles in one fell swoop because of a debate about personal recognition is not only shallow, it's just plain dumb.

Oh, and a note to Adam Curry in his suggestion of a definitive history of podcasting. Do you really think that a two year old technology really deserves a definitive history already?