Very, very entertaining debate over at the WSJ between Jimbo (Jimmy Wales), the found of the wikipeida, and the editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
It’s clear to anyone reading the debate that Jimbo has the highground because the wikipedia process of creating entries is more transparent and open than the process of creating EB entries. Dale can argue all he wants that their “fact checking” first process is better than the RTFC (real-time fact checking) process of the Wikipedia, but the fact is that Wikipedia is *already* a better product on all levels than the EB–and the Wikipedia is a baby.
The big issue is that there is a generation growing up now who expect transparency and participation as the default. Let’s call them Gen-P (as in participation) for the purpose of these discussions.
Gen-p simply doesn’t buy into or trust any system they can’t see, understand, and participate in. For example:
- They understand the process of how Firefox is made, and even though they maybe never write a line of code they feel more comfortable with Firefox than Microsoft’s IE because they know they *can* look under the hood.
- They prefer to start their news collection process at social news sites like digg, Netscape, and reddit because even though they may never add a story or control the home page they know that if they really wanted to they could (or at least have an impact).
- They prefer open formats for their media because even if they never have to move them off of their DRM device they like to know they can.
- They prefer to blog about their feelings and thoughts rather than send them in letters to the editor for the slim chance of having their voice heard.
The fundamental shift is based on participation, transparency, and freedom.
Companies like Encyclopaedia Britanniaca, Microsoft, or the New York Times, that operate out of control, secrecy, and opaqueness are suffering–and will suffer more–because they are losing the trust of Gen-p.
Are these bad companies or products? No.
Will these product go away? No.
Will these products fall behind the open products in the marketplace if they don’t become transparent? Yes.
The NYT needs to open up their news gather process, Microsoft needs to open up their source code, and Britanniaca needs to open up their entry-building process. If they don’t they will fall behind–it’s that simple.
Dale Hoiberg comes across as a steward of truth to old people and as the last of dying breed/paradigm to young people. Old people die, young people get old and paradigm shifts. My guess is Dale will not be charge of Britanniaca for much longer and they will replace him with someone who understands the new paradigm. My guess is that in 10 years Wikipeda has a much higher Q rating than EB–it already gets more usage.
It like they say, paradigms don’t die–people do.
Note: JJ has some thoughts on the subject as well.
Update2: Dave says there is room for both. I agree, “real-time” and “store and publish” models can work side-by-side and provide value. Of course, a tipping point is coming where folks will use Wikipedia 99.999% of the time and EB .001% of the time–in fact for some folks that time is now (when was the last time you picked up EB Dave? When was the last time you used Wikipedia?).
Update3: Riffing off Dave’s thoughts, I couldn’t help but think that the EB team should use the wikipedia for thier articles and do fact-check for the wikipedia. Folks working on the EB must already being doing this right? If the EB was smart they would put at the very least expose their article creation process in real-time. That would be amazing… watching the “experts” at EB work in real time.