Wikipedia@HarvardBusinessReview.com

Karim Lakhani and Andrew McAfe, professors at the Harvard Business School, have put together a case study about the editorial processes at Wikipedia. It's freely available, which is a good thing, because more discussion is needed as Wikipedia grows and "reality becomes a commodity" that can be bought and sold Constant critical (and satirical) examination is Wikipedia's greatest asset.

Karim Lakhani and Andrew McAfe, professors at the Harvard Business School, have put together a case study about the editorial processes at Wikipedia. It's freely available, which is a good thing, because more discussion is needed as Wikipedia grows and "reality becomes a commodity" that can be bought and sold Constant critical (and satirical) examination is Wikipedia's greatest asset.through "wikilobbying," as Stephen Colbert put it earlier this week.

What's becoming clear to me as social media evolves is the primary challenge society has to grapple with will not be the technology, but human impulse control. It's incredibly easy to change a Wikipedia entry to reflect the fact that the elephant population has trebled in recent years due to the work of Stephen Colbert or, as Microsoft did recently, to offer money to people who change Wikipedia to present a more favorable view of the company. It's also easy to try shout down any views one disagrees with in a chat room, mailing list or blog. 

Wikipedia is just one of the most prominent social production experiments, not the be all and end all of socially produced knowledge. It's actually fortunate to have Mr. Colbert egging people on to commit the kind of ribald bad behavior Wikipedia's "five pillars" community guidelines invite through vague and largely negative language (you learn more about behavior Wikipedia members should avoid and what the site is not: "not a trivia collection, a soapbox, a vanity publisher, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, or a web directory.")

Good natured transgressions, like any good satire, also fuels reflection about the nature of social production and its weaknesses, especially the fact that people are involved. Constant critical (and satirical) examination is Wikipedia's greatest asset, because it will eventually produce the kind of voluntary behavior that makes the site a comprehensive record of human knowledge with more than one currently ascendant perspective.

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