Outcomes of Wikipedia Project

As an open source project, Jimmy Wales acquired the idea of creating a website where people could upload ‘reviewed information’ and let the peers gain free knowledge. Now most of the geeks didn’t have to pay for hefty priced softwares, as most of the credible information was gained online. Over the years, Wikipedia’s contribution ‘as a free knowledge source’ has been exemplary.

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

Citing his project as anti-creditionalist, in a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, Mr Wales argues that ‘people should know what they are talking about’. He often cites Austrian economist, Hayek’s work ‘The Use of Knowledge In The Society’ – a 1945 research work focusing on division of knowledge in the society, which provided him an intellectual platform for the practicality of his project.

Jimmy badly wanted his project to be among 100 most important things to have happened on the Internet. Wikipedia now stands as the fifth most influential website in the world. As more and more information is uploaded, it has both directly and indirectly raised questions on various mores ruling the social institutions prevalent in the societies all over the world. The tenets of democracy have been questioned. There is free access to political conventions and scores of controversial subjects that arouse attention. While many have tried to relate Wikipedia as a website which is not so authentic, the notion has attained negativity because it is constantly reviewed by volunteers all over the globe.

Recently, a San Francisco based conference related to open source technology happened, where its VP, Matt Asay pondered: “programmers relish taking credit for their contributions. That gives them credibility among other coders, makes them accountable when they produce something that doesn’t work, and maybe even helps them land a good job. The time frame might be different with different projects, but the system is basically the same: There are only small groups of submitters. And it all has to be filtered through captains or those who have final access to the code.”

When relating this to accountability and authenticity of Wikipedia, the number of volunteers serving and edits done every month serve as meaty reminders to critics who pan it as some propagandist evasion. On a general term, it is a definite knowledge sharing project benefiting millions of Internet users.

The reason why Wikipedia succeeded and other online encyclopedias failed is because there was an intensive usage of ‘ Common based peer production’ model – a  term coined by Harvard professor Yochai Benkler. This model of socio-economic production leverages creative energy of fairly large number of people into large meaningful projects without traditional hierarchical projects. The reason Wikipedia was successful over its other peers is that it had a universal approach to information. It had focused on substantive content development. All this points out the vision of Mr Wales in creating a widely popular base on the Internet due to his bold vision.

The foundation, to improve its equity, has now assigned itself to get writing material from top researchers, as it wants to increase the level of expert participation- ‘to improve the quality of pages, cover more scholarly, get  encyclopaedic knowledge, and increase the diversity of participants,’ says Taraborelli, a committee member with the foundation.

On a Harvard based journal, Benjamin Mako Hill presented his research on the success of Wikipedia fairly based on: a) low transaction cost to participation b)  de-emphasing the social ownership of the content. “Wikipedia’s authorless structure lowers the pressure some might feel to contribute something stellar. The pull of reputation can discourage contributions even as it can also encourage them. So Wikipedia “took advantage of marginal contributions,” Hill noted — “a sentence here, a graf there — which, added up, turned into articles. Which, added up, turned into an encyclopedia.”

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