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This article was published on December 4, 2008


The End of Wikipedia

The End of Wikipedia
Ernst-Jan Pfauth
Story by

Ernst-Jan Pfauth

Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

250352~Apocalypse-Now-Posters.jpg (JPEG-afbeelding, 362x450 pixels)Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…strangers hand
In a…desperate land
Jim Morrison, 1967

Wikipedia received $890,000 from the Stanton Foundation in order to make the encyclopedia easier to use. A wiki edit page currently has too much knobs and twiddly bits for an average user. Three newly-hired developers will take these complex details away.

“Wikipedia attracts writers who have a moderate-to-high level of technical understanding, but it excludes lots of smart, knowledgeable people who are less tech-centric,” Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner said in a press release. “One of our key priorities is to attract those people and persuade them to help write and edit the encyclopedia.”

Will a lower barrier to edit mean the end of Wikipedia?

Making the crowd-sourced encyclopedia easier to edit will make it easier to abuse. The fact that there is a hurdle to overcome is what prevents Wikipedia from becoming a mess. Some even argue – Andrew Keen anyone? – that Wikipedia already is a mess. Just imagine what will happen if even Joe Sixpack starts editing pages about brain surgery.

Or will it make Wikipedia even more interesting?

“Ideally”, CNet writer Caroline McCarthy notes, “[Wikipedia’s] millions of articles will have a broader depth of coverage”.

I don’t know anyone who regularly edits Wikipedia pages. A few thousand attic room geeks decide what kind of information we get to see. So yes, it’s good to welcome some ordinary citizens to share their specific knowledge on hobby’s or their field of expertise.

It all comes down to…

Whether you believe in people are not. Are you an elitist, like Andrew Keen, who sees Web 2.0 users as an infinite amount of monkeys and therefore as a threat to our culture? Or are you the Jimmy Wales-kinda guy? When I asked him some tough Wikipedia questions during an interview in January, he replied: “It’s very difficult to fool a community”. Wales repeats the same mantra as eBay: “People are good”

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