Wikipedia, Arrington and the Search for Accuracy

Mike Arrington has a post over at Techcrunch in which he talks about the launch of Wikipedia competitor, Citizendium.  In this post, he is critical of Wikipedia for all sorts of things: political edits, attacking people who correct mistakes and errors in the Techcrunch listing.  I don’t know if Mike’s criticisms are accurate or not, because he doesn’t cite one specific example.  Merely his conclusions, which may be spot on or which may be akin to his conclusion that Nick Carr is an asshole.

It’s a little unsatisfying for someone to complain about political editing policies and factual inaccuracies without footnoting a single point.  It’s like saying “trust me, they are wrong when they say to trust them.”  If there are problems, and if Wikipedia needs to be fixed (as opposed to the unavoidable hiccups that occur with all truly collaborative products), then isn’t it more productive to detail them so they can be addressed, as opposed to just cheering on the competition?

About the competition.  I’d love to hear Jimmy Wales‘ perspective on the reasons leading up to the pending launch of Citizendum.  Maybe it’s all about spreading knowledge.  Or maybe it’s about the exciting and innovative funding model referenced in the FAQ.  What I really want is the one thing I’ll probably never get: transparency in motives and collaboration without exploitation or opportunism.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not crapping on Citizendium.  At least not yet.  I don’t know enough about its origins, purposes and plans.

I am bothered by the idea that certain people will have greater control over topics, because that approach carries with it the prime question: who decides who decides.  Unless you can answer that question up-front and honestly, creating a hierarchy is merely replacing one problem with another one.  Only without the checks and balances that can mitigate the first problem.

Additionally, I know that when a collaborative process splits into parts, the sum of the parts is often less than a properly managed whole.  And I know that sometimes the split is about things other than a desire for harmony and accuracy.

Wikipedia is not perfect.  But it is probably the most useful of all of the Web 2.0 applications.  Rather than split into competing tribes, I wish all the chiefs could figure out a way to work for the greater good.

I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I have a hunch that’s not what’s happening here.

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