Wikipedia gives me a severe case of cognitive dissonance. It’s what happens when I see articles like the one posted to Slate last Friday: “The Wisdom of the Chaperones — Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy” (hat tip Mathew Ingram).
It was also my reaction to the comment I received on my last post on Wikipedia. Said Kelly Martin, whom I gather is a frequent contributor (an admin?), and so has that insider’s perspective that I lack:
I don’t think Wikipedia has been a wasted effort, but I do think that Wikipedia is approaching its useful endpoint and may have already reached it; that is, Wikipedia has created most of the value it can hope to create and will spend increasingly more of its effort merely staving off efforts to diminish that value, and will slowly decline as more and more of its committed volunteers become hopelessly mired in rearguard actions.
Wise words, yes, but….
… But, when I’m using Wikipedia, it usually seems like it’s OK.
Take for instance the entry for the Federal Identity Program – I happen to know a little about FIP from my day job at Industry Canada. And reading through the article at Wikipedia, I have to say they got it pretty much right: they’ve captured the essential elements of what FIP is about — the system of logos used to identify Canadian federal government buildings, publications and websites — and they’ve done it without adding too much detail. And there’s a high-quality image of the Canada wordmark and one that shows it in one of its most famous uses — on the Canadarm. It’s just like a “real” encyclopedia: a factual, high level summary of the topic.
So what’s the deal? Is Wikipedia dead? Is it useless? I don’t think so. But then I’m just looking at it as a typical user, not a contributor. Perspective is everything.