First, of all, the answer is “no”.
The question is what Will at Work Learning poses in Are Wiki’s Inherently Flawed?. While it provides a provoacative blog post title, the question is aimed wrong, and not really even answered.
The underlying belief about wikis is that “all of us are smarter than a few of us.” This is comforting illusion in theory, but is just plain wrong in practice. The mediocre don’t always understand enough to judge an expert’s pronouncements. Groups of people often tend toward groupthink or mob psychosis. Powerful interests often control the public conversation and thus become the final arbiters of what is fact. Conspiracy theories often have ninety-nine lives.
Hmmm, big, strong words, but what data, evidence is this assertion based upon? CogDogBlog’s rule is to be skeptical of any sweeping generalization made about something on the internet, because it is too vast, to deep, to broad, to frigging complex for any person to be that certain.
Yes, let us bow down to experts, because us, the unwashed mediocre, are not worthy. Is Howard Rheingold among the mediocre?
So it is time to for people to be lining up to take potshots at wikis and Wikipedia. Bad wiki, bad, bad, bad.
But is the wiki technology itself “inherently flawed” because of less than ethical activities of a some of the people who have used it malevolently? The wiki part of wikipedia is inherently unflawed, because it performed exactly as designed. It is the process, the people, their actions that ought to be slapped with the “f” word.
Then isn’t email “inherently flawed” because of spam and phishing? Is the web “inherently flawed” because of porn, ugly web sites, broken web sites, and rip off schemes? Is free speech “inherently flawed” because some people use it to for propagating hate?
I am tired of the WikiPedia flogging going on- yes the issue is worth discourse, but it seems to be the only conversation now, and what is being lost in the wash, is the un-heralded, social software fueled human explosion that pushed WikiPedia out there, that created an explosion of information. So is only important thing to be “right”, “factual”, “trusted” as opposed to having a voice in the conversation?
The whole current discussion seems flawed in being polarized; it seems unwise to gloss glowingly on WikiPedia without acknowledging the flaws and inherent issues of mass written content, but it also seems unwise to dismiss the whole process because a smaller number of &$^%ing idiots are pissing in the well.
In the end, though, Will gets around to some salient and worthy suggestions to keep the wiki-thusiasm in check:
* Consider who will be able to add and/or edit the information. The higher the percentage of expertise in your population, the better. The lower the opportunities for personal gain, the less likely you’ll get intentionally troublesome information.
* Build in some validation methods. Build in some skepticism.
* Consider not letting anyone post anonymously.
* Consider forgoing the goal of knowledge creation or learning, and instead focusing on creating hypotheses and generating ideas for future consideration and judgment, networking to increase informal-learning connections.
* Consider building in some sort of assessment system on the value of entries, whether through community scoring, expert scoring, or openness about a person’s posting history and background.
* Insist that each posting include a section entitled, “Why should anyone listen to me about this topic,” or some such addendum.
So if you take all of this to heart, the wiki you use is no different than before; and it is not inherently flawed.
We are. Our human nature is showing.