Day 5 Predictions

From Cyberlaw: Difficult Issues Winter 2010
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Victoria: My prediction is that the speakers are going to be extolling the virtues of Wikipedia and explaining that although the site has gone under some transformations it is still a vibrant force. I would concede that I think it is. Most people I know still immediately turn to Wikipedia for a quick run down of a topic or an answer to a quick question. However, as time moves on the site is becoming less innovative and more standard. I would like to ask them about their understanding and personal experiences in trying to keep Wikipedia young. Moreover, having read that 85% of the contributors to Wikipedia are male I'd specifically love to ask Phoebe whether she feels that the articles are written from the male gaze and lack the other gender's perspective.

Sharona: Like Vickie, I was also struck by the statistics on the demographic breakdown, and I would love to hear their thoughts on whether they feel wikipedia really does represent a wide range of views, or more specifically (especially in the US) that of a white male. Another thing I think they will likely discuss - and probably not have a good answer for - is the question of privacy and defamation on wikipedia and other wikimedia projects. Can, or should, the website and/or its users or editors be held accountable if allegedly defamatory posts are not removed? Who makes that call? And what standards are used? It seems to me that there's no easy answer to this: while they may not run into strictly legal issues, it could definitely affect reader's trust in the information or fear that they too are vulnerable.
Ramesh: I was struck by the Economist's comparison of the number of articles about Pokemon and the Solidarity movement on English Wikipedia. I expect the Wikipedians will admit that they are disproportionately white, young, male, more interested in science fiction than what others might consider more interesting forms of culture, etc, and that's a problem, but that there's really no better solution. They may be right; is there a better internet resource in English on Solidarity than Wikipedia? Maybe when Google Books is fully up and running, it would be a better resource (or just co-opted and summarized by Wikipedia).

Bruno: I expect our guests to focus their comments on the strategies Wikipedia is adopting to address two of what seems to be the main problems of the project: (i) quality/accuracy of its articles, and (ii) issues concerning vandalism. After reading the materials, I was struck by the fact that Wikipedia doesn't seem to be worried about increasing its user base. The increasing amount of rules, the hostility of veteran users to newbies and the efforts to attract more scientists to participate in the project suggest that in fact they would be interested in less, but more qualified participation. Just like the attitude of our guest from CrowdFlower, perhaps a sort of procrastination to address a problem that is not yet so concrete might be operating here: with over 40 thousand contributors it's not clear when more means actually less.

Sheel: I'd be interested in hearing Wikimedia's reaction to this: what if people started using CrowdFlower or MechanicalTurk, if they don't already, to pay people 10 cents or so to go edit Wikipedia pages? I know they weren't okay with MyWikiBiz, but this is much more under the radar. Finally, I'd like to hear where the debate is on inclusionists v. exclusionists (meaning those who want to produce the 'integrity' of the encyclopedia and shy away from what may be deemed as frivolous by some portion of editors). My guess is that there is still no concrete answer---if enough editors are passionate about editing/creating a new page, then it'll stay.
Gregory: I just wanted to quickly respond, since my enterprise MyWikiBiz was mentioned. After about 26 months, Jimmy Wales did finally apologize rather clearly for his mistakes in handling the MyWikiBiz situation. But, of course, by then it was too late to repair the community's disarray over how to handle paid editing, even as the "Reward Board" remains active.
Andrew: I also hope to hear some discussion about the intersection between Wikipedia and paid crowdsourcing. The possibilities here aren't all nefarious (what about an mturk task to fix Wikitypos?)
I also would like to hear whether wikipedia would think of reconsidering their (business) model and e.g. use paid crowdsourcing or let people pay a small subscribtion fee to consult Wikipedia.

Daniel: In addition to the topics above, I expect a discussion about the possible increase in vulnerability Wikipedia faces at the content layer, on par with a less dynamic environment. Since most pages are already done, at least in the English version, editors may feel less motivated to monitor existing, but seldom edited pages which are not on the "watch list". As a consequence, they can be more easily twisted by outsiders. In connection with that issue, I guess that our guests will raise the question "how does it feel to be a Wikipedian?" - and try to describe the community feeling from the perspective of insiders, and the challenges to bring more people in.

Franny: Main problems within the wikipedia bubble are summarized well above - I think that we also need to examine the problem of how to improve/encourage the transfer of wikipedia's benefits (e.g. generativity and sense of community) outside of the wikipedia microcosm. To that end, I hope that our guests will discuss their experiences with similar applications and initiatives (e.g. citizendium, etc.), and provide their views of the successes or weaknesses.

Jason: Great point by Franny; I too hope they address how Wikipedia's success can to other initiatives. After all, I've been struck by just how sui generis Wikipedia seems to be, and now that we are in 2010, I think we need to start asking whether Wikipedia is an outlier or whether its principles of both creation and governance can really generalize to other projects. Of course, as I write that, I find myself wondering whether free and open source software is another example of the Wikipedia model. Further, I wonder what they think of as other really good candidates for adopting Wikipedia's new form of participatory self-government. For instance, some of us have been laughing about Stanford's new, fairly permissive policies when it comes to handing in papers at the end of the semester (you can still pass the . Could these new policies have been created by the Stanford community via wiki? What would the outcome have been?

Juan: I would like to hear their opinions on 1. How to deal with vandalism and spams while keeping the generativity of Wikipedia as much as possible. Now they've created several restrictions to lower of the possibility of attacks by vandals and spams, such as blocking IP addresses of repeat offenders, using full protection and semi-protection functions to restrict editing of certain pages. However, these restrictions limits free editability and thus seems jeopardize its generativity. 2. The prospect of wikipedia in China. How will it compete with its local counterpart Hudong. Unlike wikipedia, Hudong rewards top contributors with gifts ranging from post cards to MP3 players, and offers some features that complies with Chinese users' habits. Recently, it even launched it partnership with some popular overseas Chinese website, making its first steps to expand into overseas Chinese market. What is wikipedia's strategy facing this situation? Is there any possibility to establish some cooperation or strategic partnership between these two on-line encyclopedias? 3. Sustainable problem. Dedicated editor may leave because of life cycle change, motivation by other UGC websites, tire of anti-threat work, and etc. How will wikipedia attract new editors and keep them?

Ethan: In addition to all the issues mentioned above, I'd like to know how Wikipedia addresses censorship efforts from various governments. We talked about how the Chinese government forced Google to remove certain search results (e.g. falun gong) and I'm wondering if Wikipedia receives such requests. Censorship doesn't necessarily have to be so nefarious-- it's illegal to deny holocaust in 13 countries according to Wikipedia, truth is not an absolute defense to defamation in Korea, etc. How will Wikipedia abide by local laws when pressed?

Tyler: Check out this story for an actual example of this happening:

Elisabeth: I predict we'll hear that Wikipedia's editor corp is either growing or sufficiently large already. But I'd like to solicit some ideas on how active editors' time could be better leveraged if numbers do start dropping. Some of the articles we read suggested that editors spent a lot of time bickering over minor points--perfecting one page while ignoring a slew of others. Are there ways to eliminate the bureaucracy and consciously turn to a state that maximizes pages edited at least once vs. pages edited by 100 people? On the subject of growing pains more generally, can they point to examples of online communities that have overcome the problem they're having -- an influx of newcomers -- that inspire them? I'd also like to hear whether the donation strategy is feasible for funding Wikipedia long-term, or if they're planning on using other Wikimedia projects to fund some of it, or if there's some other theory.

Michael: I predict that (once we get past extolling the virtues of Wikipedia) one of the major problems Wikimedia will see in itself is a problem of Public Relations. While some studies have shown that Wikipedia is consistently as or more accurate than standard encyclopedias, the public perception of Wikipedia is as inaccurate and unreliable. Also, since Wikipedia's business model depends on the incentives for keeping Wikipedia clean outweighing the incentives for vandalizing it, I think Wikipedia may be worried that the incentives may change as the cost of vandalizing goes down with tools like Mechanical turk.

Hector: I strongly hope to hear some clarification between the goals of the project as the sum of all human knowledge or as an online encyclopedia/reference bookshelf. The differences between these two stated outcomes color how the content and editorial problems--and indeed whether some of the media's concerns are actually problems at all, in the view of Wikipedians. In several articles, Wikipedians will rebut complaints by saying something along the lines of "Wikipedia isn't about that in the first place!" I personally would agree but this approach can completely go against the portrait that Jimbo presents of the project at times.

Reuben: The battle for Wikipedia's soul is between the inclusionists and the deletionists. I'm interested to see how the people who run Wikipedia see its future.

Yosuke: I'm also interested in how to deal with vandalism and spams while keeping the generativity of Wikipedia as much as possible, as Juan stated.