April 27, 2006
Mitch Kapor: Learning from the Wikipedia
Second keynote of Thursday morning (last day) at MySQL UC 2006 is Mitch Kapor talking about the Wikipedia. Mitch starts with a survey of the crowd. Most people in the crowd use the wikipedia, 15% of the crowd edits the wikipedia.
The typical response from a person that doesn't know about the wikipedia says "The Wikipedia can't possibly work..."
but it does
The mainstream media is very skeptical. Anyone can edit any article at any time. This radical openness is more open than open source projects. There is no review and anyone can post. The radical openness provides opportunities that have never been tried before.
Ideas that are challeneged by the Wikipedia:
- someone has to be in charge - even the sysadmins are volunteer and do not keep a schedule
- without the experts, how can you trust the information - the experts aren't always the best to answer questions (think of GWB and WMD, which were never found).
Mitch talks about study that compared the Wikipedia and Britannica. The problems that were brought to light were fixed the next day in the Wikipedia which is a testament to the culture and purpose of the wikipedia. Not the only case where this has happened. Katrina hurricane coverage was astounding.
Is Wikipedia the next big thing?
In 1978 Mitch had an Apple II. You have to look beyond the technology to the individual. It's hard to remember how radical the idea of a personal computer was. People laughed at Mitch when he was at MIT looking at huge, room-size computers and mentioned the personal computer. Lotus was the Google of it's time in 1982. In 1992 UUNET started making internet connections available, before the web. Mitch tried to get venture folks involved in looking at a larger distribution of internet connections and couldn't even get a meeting with VCs, the idea was too radical.
Wikipedia is fundamentally a community project, not a technical project. It's a social arrangement. People are there because they want to be there.
Values of the community
- be nice - be respectful - make your opponents case for him or her (find the things about your opponents arguments and put them in along with your article)
- NPOV (neutral point of view) - a criteria of the contributors
- Don't criticize, improve - don't complain, do what you can do to make it better
- Real-time peer review - a feed of all changes goes out and there are many volunteers that watch it
The challenge of alien invaders is something that takes effort to monitor. They found that with some politicians that their staff was coming in and creating spin on the article. Tracked down by IP addresses.
The core engine of the Wikipedia is going to become a problem if it doesn't impove. Wikipedia runs on Mediawiki.
Posted by mike at April 27, 2006 12:19 PM