Trust in collaborative creation

Thursday, 2 Sep 2004

Ross Mayfield summarized some of the controversy about the trustworthiness of Wikipedia articles. After all, the opponents say, “anyone can change an article, so how could you possibly rely on that information?”

That argument sounds suspiciously like one of the commonplaces used by defendants of prioprietary software: “How can you trust free software? Anyone can introduce exploits!” Well, we know how that has worked out in practice: not as expected. The obvious objection to an open software development process is far too simpleminded. The system isn’t flawless, but the intuitively expected flaws don’t exist.

It is not going to be any different with an open content editing process. The model of hallowed experts building a masterpiece in seclusion (no, I don’t want to refer to it as the cathedral model) seems to be under attack in each and every field. Obviously, the scholars who are seeing their hopes dashed are kicking and screaming. Far more depressing to witness, though, is the dogmatic denial which many others are reacting with, even though their personal interests are not threatened, simply because they look up to those scholars and feel the shift endangers their world view.