Chris (and Doc) may be on to something about observing the correlation between F500 blogging and stock performance. But at the least, this can serve as a renewable resource for informing social software adoption.
Unfortunately a journalist from the Times Online in the UK took a comment off of Mark Pincus' blog that was full of hate speech on the Tookie Termination and attributed it to him. I really feel for Mark. It's not just bad journalism or understanding the difference between a blog post and a comment. They should know that Mark is against capital punishment -- and rarely capitalizes his posts.
Recent events may provide cause for setting the differences, or lack thereof, between Wikipedia and Brittanica as well as Wikipedia and Open Source. A peer review of 42 articles in Wikipedia and Brittannica shows equal serious errors and a minor difference in minor errors:
Yet Nature's investigation suggests that
Britannica's advantage may not be great, at least when it comes to
science entries. In the study, entries were chosen from the websites of
Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica on a broad range of scientific
disciplines and sent to a relevant expert for peer review. Each
reviewer examined the entry on a single subject from the two
encyclopaedias; they were not told which article came from which
encyclopaedia. A total of 42 usable reviews were returned out of 50
sent out, and were then examined by Nature's news team.
eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts,
were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each
encyclopaedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions
or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica,
A key difference is the speed of update for Wikipedia not only helps for correction, but means it is some thinig different -- something that doesn't presently claim authoritativeness:
But Michael Twidale, an information scientist at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that Wikipedia's strongest suit is
the speed at which it can updated, a factor not considered by Nature's reviewers.
"People will find it shocking to see how many errors there are in
Britannica," Twidale adds. "Print encyclopaedias are often set up as
the gold standards of information quality against which the failings of
faster or cheaper resources can be compared. These findings remind us
that we have an 18-carat standard, not a 24-carat one."
The dynamic nature of Wikipedia does present challenges for participants and results in a different product. There are plans to create a stable branch (basically tagging a revision as reviewed, although review processes are still experimental, while letting users continue to edit new revisions), which would result in a truely comparable product and support print versions.
My hope is the Nature article provides a proof point to at least simplify the neverending debate of quality in Wikipedia. But before taking a break (the interesting stuff isn't metaphysical debates, but understanding the social practices that make Wikipedia work) from the disconnected-meta excersize of blogging about Wikipedia (albeit a hair above the disconnect of criticizing an Article without submitting changes), let me take on one last issue.
The model of a stable branch is an approach borrowed from open source software development. Recently, Cnet posted a News Analysis in search of a problem that came across as an opinion piece by the author. The premise was that Wikipedia is often labeled as open source and the label was factually innacurate. Open source practices have project managers as gatekeepers for quality, while Wikipedia offloads this responsibility to an open group. A bunch of open source experts were rounded up to explain that, some speculated in agreement with the author that this may be the cause of quality issues in Wikipedia. While the piece is an interesting read, as the CEO of a commercial open source wiki company (more critically, I am a student of the topic), I can point out some significant flaws:
Wikis do not require centralized project management because the work product is different. Coding software is an act of vertical information assembly, marked by the dependencies of contributions. By contrast, Wikipedia is horizontal information assembly without dependencies. It should be celebrated that the lack of central project management is a cause for the growth and success of the project.
Having a central project manager for Wikipedia would also be complicated because of the lack of objective measures. From the article: "With software, you get the benefit of there being some objective
measure of a change," said Brian Behlendorf, co-founder of the Apache
Software Project. "It's not a question of aesthetics. Does this fix the
bug people have noticed? Does it speed up performance?"
Wikis and Open Source share the critical attribute of The Right to Fork
Wikis and Open Source enable anyone to contribute, but with implicit reputation giving greater weight to different contributions. Even in Wikipedia, there is authority of participants.
Wikis and Open Source share a common model of Commons-based Peer Production.
The definition of what is Open Source is often debated and is more likely to be settled on a wiki page than here or in the News Analysis. Here is an unpublished chapter in wiki format on Open Source Dynamics of Wiki Practices if you would like to learn, and possibly contribute, more.
Akimbo is an IPTV service for video and subscription on demand that is as simple to use as Tivo. To get content to your couch, you use your existing broadband connection (I plugged in a WiFi USB keychain and was downloading in minutes) and take advantage of 150 hours of storage. You can manage downloads with a Tivo-like interface as well as a web-browser (can't watch your content over the web, yet).
VoD has been a dream of the cable TV industry for years, and it just happened without them, almost. Akimbo is a relatively new network that has to contend with IP regimes that have vertically integrated. Content is relatively sparse with about 400 channels (RSS feed for what's new) -- with two notable exceptions.
Porn. Like all great new communications technologies, porn portends future. In this case, there are gobs of it, perhaps more than any content type -- but it does come with parental controls. My wife and I jokingly call it the Abimbo.
Video Blogs. Okay, this is where it gets interesting. Today there are only four video blogs on Akimbo, but Rocketboom and Clint Sharp are pretty cool. Subscribing to them are dead simple -- and video is still best watched on the couch. When I started seeing my friends on some of Clint's episodes I think I saw the future. With great independent content today, the launch of the video iPod with iTunes and new Flickr-for-video startups -- there will be a wealth of video blog content next year (more on that later). Akimbo is about to open the network -- Video bloggers will be able to submit a registered RSS feed with enclosures to get their clips on the network -- which will blow the doors wide open.
Until this happens, the utility is limited and you could end up with a big bill for premium downloads (not just porn). It does provide a good entertainment alternative, but they are stuck playing MPAA wargames. But the enticement today is a holiday special for $69 for the player (normally $199). The subscription service runs on the player or the Windows Media Center for $9.99 monthly or $199 lifetime. Full disclosure: I got a player and one year subscription for free as part of the Silicon Valley 100.
While researching the nature of evil, I came across this:
126.96.36.199: "Are you evil?" Jimbo Wales: "Indeed." 188.8.131.52: "Is Wikipedia evil?" Jimbo Wales: "It should go without saying." 184.108.40.206: "Is Wikimedia Foundation evil?" Jimbo Wales: "Worse than that, actually." 220.127.116.11: "Are you a Todo?" Jimbo Wales: "Only on Tuesdays."
There you have it.
However, the one thing I do know about being evil is that you can't simply be evil, people need to believe you are evil. And odds are, beliefs about what is evil will change. Therefore, Larry and Sergey's credo of "don't be evil" may be less about being bad and more about being static. It's not a self-fulfilling prophecy, unless you believe that religion is marketing.
Structured Blogging is described by Marc Canter as a way to gain structure without people having to look at XML. Today at Syndicate they released an open source component to structure as microformats in microcontent within social software apps. It currently works with Wordpress and Moveable Type.
Socialtext is supporting this ad hoc standards effort alongside 40 or so great companies. These collaborative initiatives, harkening back to the social software alliance, are perhaps the greatest reason for innovation in social software.
My personal take is this bottom-up approach won't degrade into Semantic Fuzz. But only a subset of users will fill in forms to contribute metadata (readers are better at it than writers, and they are better at writing in an unstructured way and freeform tagging than the constraints of a form). The real test is if new innovations provide a strong enough incentive for user contributions at the cost of a form.
I'm playing booth babe today at the Syndicate conference in San Francisco. Here's the wiki, naturally. Doc blogged his keynote here. Quote of the day so far was from Liz Lawley: "I'm headed upstairs to help my kids level up."