The wiki fallacy
Keen spends a great deal of time attacking Wikipedia, and its founder, Jimmy Wales. As Keen writes, "Wikipedia ... is almost single-handedly killing the traditional information business." (p127-8). I take it not even Wales would exaggerate the importance of Wikipedia like this. And again, implicit in Keen's argument is the efficiency fallacy mentioned above.
But the real error here is betrayed in the following:Since Wikipedia's birth, more than fifteen thousand contributors have created nearly three million entries in over a hundred different languages—none of them edited or vetted for accuracy (p4)."None of them edited or vetted for accuracy"? On one level, of course, this is absurdly false. Wikipedia is constantly edited, and attributions constantly vetted for accuracy. Indeed, for many of the articles, the level of editing and vetting is vastly greater than any article published in any encyclopedia ever.
But on a different level, what Keen must mean is that it is not "edited" or "vetted" by experts. Or exclusively by experts (for again, experts certainly participate in Wikipedia). This is related to Keen's obsession (indeed, I'm sure if he has one, his shrink must have a field day with this obsession) with "experts" and makers of "taste." So central is this to Keen's argument, it deserves its own heading.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Lessig on Wikipedia
This is an extract from Lawrence Lessig's blog. It's a defence against some of the claims made in Keen's book. I'm particularly interested in the section on Wikipedia which has a bad press in HE: