Communications. PR crisis management. Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales. Durova 'bang bang' case at Wikipedia. Larry Sanger. Citizendium. Gay marketing. Wikipedia community struggles with implications of a secret cabal of users revealed in latest Wikipedia PR problems.
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Ian Johnson, Out Now
December 5, 2007
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TOPICS: Communications. Gay marketing. Lesbian and gay marketing. Public relations crisis management. Wikipedia. Citizendium. Durova case at Wikipedia causes Wikipedia community problems.
Regular readers will be aware that I am not entirely convinced of the merits of Wikipedia.
In my experience, articles there are subject to widely divergent quality control due to the 'anyone can edit' philosophy. I would say that the problem with Wikipedia is not that anyone can edit -- it is that they can do so anonymously.
People using pseudonyms have a bad tendency I think to sometimes let their worst tendencies ride free and feel liberated to act in ways they might never consider doing amongst polite and civil company.
The most recent example is in a PR problem being experienced by Wikipedia that involves two anonymous users as protagonists, Durova and (wait for this) !!.
I won't bore you with the details but the nub of what is turning into another PR communications problem for the Wikipedia crowd is that the case has revealed what has long been suspected about that encyclopedia -- there exists secret lists of users who can form into cabals (I would say 'gangs') for the purpose of exerting their will over others.
It is to me the communications equivalent of teenage graffiti gangs collaborating to spray their tag over the world's knowledge base. That would not bother me except that Wikipedia, in collaboration with Google, is increasingly relied upon by many in the world's media and communications industry for the asserting of basic facts about knowledge.
If such facts are totally pliable in the hands of a few self-appointed anonymous contributors, what does that say about the ongoing store of a reliable source of knowledge for society?
Well personally I have found the 'alternative universe' offered by the Citizendium project to be a much more plausible alternative. By way of disclosure, I am a Business Editor at Citizendium in relation to GLBT issues, but that fact does not alter my strong view of the fundamental strengths behind the way the Citizendium is being put together.
Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia with Jimbo Wales, has set up Citizendium in collaboration with others in a way that is designed to prevent the types of problems currently being experienced over at Wikipedia.
Contributors to Citizendium all use their real names, and 'anyone can edit' as well as enjoy expert-guided oversight by editors specialised in their field.
All in all it has proved to me to be a very satisfying knowledge based experience. My main gripe would be that my work schedule keeps me away from there too often.
If you want to discover the differences between the two projects, try comparing Gay marketing at Citizendium with the gay marketing article at Wikipedia. They change from time to time but the environment at Citizendium creates a much more collegial place to think and work. The current tagline for the project was one I even contributed -- A new knowledge society -- which could change if a better one is found, but which captures what I think that project is all about.
It is not about individual power trips. It is about the communication of knowledge. And that has got to be a good thing.
If you would like to learn more about the current PR communications crisis at Wikipedia check out this article in The Register.
I worry that Jimbo Wales does not adequately grasp the key elements of PR communications crisis management though. His response to all this? An extremely glib "I advise the world to relax a notch or two".
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