Daily Archives: August 5, 2006

Wikipedia Discussion while Visiting W3C

Wikimania is this weekend and by chance I happened to meet Joseph Reagle on the way back from lunch yesterday with Philippe LeHegaret and Steve Bratt. Joseph used to work at W3C with Steve and Philippe and they were kind enough to introduce me.
On the way to D.C. Tuesday I had read the very interesting article in the New Yorker about Wikipedia. True to form, I suppose, the existence of this article has already been noted on the Wikipedia entry about The New Yorker.
The article made it sound as if Wikipedia was turning into a forum for endless arguments about who is right. The article noted the proportional increase in background chat about entry content compared to actual entry editing activity. Having worked in the technical community for longer than I like to remember, it is all too easy for me to believe this.
The main theme of the article, however, was about the potential for Wikipedia to replace the Encyclopaedia Britannica (or any other traditional encyclopaedia for that matter). The Britannica only has 120,000 entries while Wikipedia recently surpassed 1,00,000. One of the biggest question marks is how authoritative and objective can Wikipedia be if anyone can edit an entry, as opposed to selected expert or experts.
Joesph’s Wikimania talk is related to this point, and he seems to believe that Wikipedia is for the most part reliable. I don’t think he or Steve thought my characterization of the New Yorker article was particular apt – this would be I guess a little like saying that the whole thing is bad because there have been some problems, and criticizing the thing itself because of the discussion it creates.
The morning downpour had cleared and we were standing in front of the main entrance to the recently opened Stata Center, where the W3C now has its offices. It was pretty cool seeing it, and I wished I’d brought my camera. But of course there are already some photos online that are better than anything I could have captured just walking to and from.
I was there to continue the discussion on the “Web of Services,” and what, if anything, the W3C might be able to do to make it as successful as the “Web of Documents” – e.g. Wikipedia and the Stata Center photos.
It was a good meeting, and hopefully there will be some news very soon. Of course, any and all comments and suggestions are very welcome.