Part of the charm of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. If it were too stringent about who is an expert and who isn’t it wouldn’t be a completely collaborative effort. In Wikinomics we learned that the “experts” don’t always have all of the answers. Some unlikely sources can have the most knowledge. In The Wisdom of Crowds we also learn that crowds are more intelligent than the individuals in the group. If we narrow down who can edit a wiki we make the group smaller and potentially less intelligent. No one wants a dumb down.


Also, who decides what makes an expert? Would it be the cofounder, Jimmy Wales, who just broke up with his girlfriend on the site? Now that makes me feel less than confident about his decision making abilities. Can we trust a site that was created by someone who would mistreat it or did this just prove that collaboration works because he was called on it.


This brings us to another point. Which is more trustworthy Wikipedia or an expert based encyclopedia. This is a tough one. My first thought is the hard copy is the best way to go. I mean I grew up with rows of encyclopedias. I was a crazy hard copy researcher. The library was my home away from home. It’s hard to break an old habit. Now, I don’t think anyone is sneaking in snarky comments in one of these expensive tombs. On the other hand since they’re updated in order to get the new information you need to keep spending money to be in the know. This would become a very expensive proposition.


Wikipedia, on the other hand is updated constantly. The updated version of the site is still free. Making it more cost effective. It also has the potential of being much more up to date than the hard copy since it can be changed so quickly. No printing presses needed here. Yes, people can be mean and spiteful in what they write but when other eyes are looking over your shoulder it becomes more difficult to make it stick. Again the beauty and safety of Wikipedia comes from its numbers. Fewer people, experts only, would mean there would be more chance of problems. I just don’t know. If all of the theories are correct the choice should be Wikipedia but I just can’t make that commitment. So I’ll have to wait and see how I feel after we discuss it in class.