So the other day while I was posting about my experience setting up SlimRio I found myself referencing Wikipedia as I often do while blogging. I’ve always felt that Wikipedia is a great resource, but I had never really bought into the culture or gotten overly excited about its existance and what it represents. At IBM’s Impact 2008 conference one of the ‘keynote’ speakers was Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales, and one of my coworkers who was also there was very excited about being able to hear Jimbo talk about his part in helping create Wikipedia. His talk was interesting, but it didn’t change my thinking about Wikipedia.
The event that did changed my thinking about Wikipedia, was my first attempt to edit and update a page. I had noticed that the Rio Receiver page is tagged as an orphan – it only has 1 link and requires at least 3 incoming links to change this status. After my edit to the SqueezeCenter page to add a reference about SlimRIO it now has 2 links. I had assumed I’d need to register and all of that nonsense, but Wikipedia allow for completely anonymous edits so I was done in a matter of minutes.
We often forget the web is a scary place. If you find it on the web news it must be true, like the recent United Airlines share plunge triggered by bad reporting. Wikipedia does invest in preventing and reporting abuse, however the sense of responsibility when making an edit is still quite something. Giving back to the community is one of the reasons I have this blog, Wikipedia is another outlet to do the same. Where the two activities differ is in the scope. A blog is effectively an indepedent news source, whereas Wikipedia is a community effort.
I think I finally “get it” about Wikipedia. It has me thinking more about crowd sourcing and Amazon’s mechanical turk – I don’t think we’ve tapped the full potential of this idea yet.