Wikipedia is in the process of changing how it works. Instead of everybody being able to make changes to pages as and when they want to, you will have to be part of an inner circle for your content to appear without first being checked. For the rest of us, the great un-trusted, our content will be reviewed by trusted editors prior to being published.

Is this an inevitable outcome from growth? Whilst human-based systems often start out as social networks, it seems that hierarchies will always form sooner or later…

Regardless of whether or not the Wikipedia changes are a good or bad thing, (Nick Carr was predicting its demise over a year ago), observing what happens could provide useful lessons for any organisation wanting to use new technologies like wikis, blogs and social networking sites, to increase knowledge sharing. Of the various customers I have worked with who are considering the use of wikis for collaborative publishing of content, many are reluctant to make it a complete free-for-all. But the minute you start enforcing a hierarchy, you risk demotivating those not selected to be within that inner-circle. Wikipedia appears to be attempting to be democratic about who is or isn’t a trusted advisor – anyone can become one, you just have to show enough commtiment to author and review articles… and that will lead to the second challenge. Now that the hierarchy is in place, it risks becoming a bottleneck if those trusted editors don’t keep on top of the articles awaiting their review. It will be an interesting experiment, particularly given Wikipedia operates on such a large scale, to observe.

The New Scientist magazine (20 Sept 2007) has a good article describing the changes underway at Wikipedia: Wikipedia 2.0 – now with added trust (available online at time of writing)

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Technorati tags: Wikipedia, Wiki, Web 2.0

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