Right after the launch of this blog, we published an interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Though this interview concerned the launch of Wikia Search, we also talked a bit about his claim to fame. “People would have questions about users doing bad things on Wikipedia. Well, it’s very difficult to fool a community.” So Wales believes in the power of his immense community. Of course he does, it’s his baby after all. But do WE really know what we’re using?
Director IJsbrand van Veelen – famous for his Google documentary – goes looking for the truth behind Wikipedia. Only five people are employed by the company, and all its activities are financed by donations and subsidies. The online encyclopedia that everyone can contribute to and revise is now even bigger than the illustrious Encyclopedia Britannica. He tries to answer several questions:
- Does this spell the end for traditional institutions of knowledge such as Britannica?
- And should we applaud this development as progress or mourn it as a loss?
- How reliable is Wikipedia?
- Do “the people” really hold the lease on wisdom?
- And since when do we believe that information should be free for all?
Van Veelen managed to get some interesting and authoritative people for his camera. Of course the before mentioned Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger (the since-fired co-founder of Wikipedia, now head of Wiki spin-off Citizendium), the infamous Andrew Keen (author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy), Phoebe Ayers (a Wikipedian in California), Ndesanjo Macha (Swahili Wikipedia, digital activist), Tim O’Reilly (CEO of O’Reilly Media, the “inventor” of Web 2.0), Charles Leadbeater (philosopher and author of We Think, about crowdsourcing), and Robert McHenry (former editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Britannica).
The questions surrounding Wikipedia lead to a bigger discussion of Web 2.0. You know, the Andrew Keen debate: 2.0 sites would appear to provide new freedom and opportunities for undiscovered talent and unheard voices, but just where does the boundary lie between expert and amateur? Who will survive according to the laws of this new “digital Darwinism”? Are equality and truth really reconcilable ideals? And most importantly, has the Internet brought us wisdom and truth, or is it high time for a cultural counterrevolution?