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Wikinomics 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the wikirrific dept.
peterwayner writes "If you're jazzed by the communitarian impulses driving Wikis, idea agora, Web 2.0 and other collaborative happenings, you'll be pleased to know that the new book Wikinomics is a great gift for that boss, spouse, or friend who doesn't quite grok it yet. The only logic bomb hidden in this statement is that much of what is wonderful in this book is wonderful because it's a book printed on pulp and written by two and only two authors. That is, the book is good because it's not a wiki." Read the rest of Peter's review.
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
author Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams
pages 320
publisher Penguin Group
rating 8
reviewer Peter Wayner
ISBN 1591841380
summary The pros and cons of wikis and their place in business


This statement isn't exactly true. The authors, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, have a wiki site at www.wikinomics.com devoted to the book. You can edit the wiki and have your say, but that's not what they're asking folks to buy. For the price of the book, you get a well-designed collection of thoughtful anecdotes stitched together by two talented business writers and polished by a good editor. They've made a good attempt to cover most aspects of the topic and they do an excellent job of explaining why the ideas are important for CEOs that are struggling to move their business forward. All of this is almost as portable as an iPod , dramatically less expensive and guaranteed never to need new batteries.

The tone of the book is bright and optimistic about how openness and wiki principles will help companies. We hear about how the wikipedia covered the London subway explosions, the way that Innocentive is opening up the R&D process for companies and the surprising inventiveness of Google maps users. The descriptions are thorough and well-researched, as far as they go, and when they're done going, the writers summarize them well. It's clear that the writers feel that the word "wikis" should be the new one word answer that CEOs should trot out when faced with the kind an impossible question, the kind of question that they the answered with "Internet" during the 1990s and "China" after the turn of the millenium.

The great advantages of the pulp-bound book become clear as you work your way through the text. In one section, for instance, Tapscott and Williams dismiss Jaron Lanier's worry that wikis can devolve when a smart mob develops the the same kind of "mass stupidity" that brought us Pol Pot or the Stalinist movement. "The winners will outnumber the losers", say the authors and conclude that Lanier "ran afoul". I don't really agree with the easy way that they dismissed the danger and if I had a wiki edit button in front of me, I would change the text to amplify Lanier's warnings. I've watched the mob rule delete perfectly good information from the wikipedia for no other reason than it wasn't "notable". The revision wars are legendary and any savvy wiki reader knows that skirmishes are more common than we would like. The well-meaning editors at the Wikipedia have probably destroyed more knowledge in the name of notability than the book burners of history. At least it's still there in the article history. But since Tapscott and Williams wrote a book that doesn't come with a wiki edit button, the text is better off because I didn't glue in my own divergent rant.

The optimism of the book is contagious and it would be a shame for it to be limited by a neutral point of view. Wikis organize casual information like how to install software, and this is the kind of job that is very important to business. Wikis may just be the wrong tool for, say, capturing political truthiness, but the book gives several good examples of how they energize corporations by making it easier for divisions, groups, and project teams to cooperate without going through traditional channels. If a business wants to formalize its collective intelligence, a wiki offers an ideal amount of flexibility.

If the book needs any editing, it would be to add more skepticism. At the beginning, they hint that they will address the kind of concerns that led Bill Gates to wonder about how society will pay for innovation if there's no profit incentive, but analyzing the limitations of the wikiworld isn't really their goal. There's little discussion of endeavors that have largely failed like Wikinews. That experiment with collaborative reporting had two articles on the day I wrote this and one article on the day before. (December 19 and 20th).

I've begun to feel lately that there is a real danger that free information will drive out paid information in much the same way that economists note that cheap money drives out the dear.

It's probably too early for us to have a firm grasp on the downsides to the wiki world and so it might be unfair to expect the book to be much of a buzz kill. One of the biggest logical problems I've found with the wikipedia is the inconsistent way that the movement treats traditional scholarship. On one hand, we're supposed to revel in the way that the wikipedia is often better than traditional mechanisms, but on the other hand the wikipedia gives more weight to outside sources. On the day I wrote this, the guide counseled, "Avoid weasel words such as, `Some people say ...' Instead, make your writing verifiable: find a specific person or group who holds that opinion and give a citation to a reputable publication in which they express that opinion." If the wikis become good enough to rival if not replace original sources, where will the wikis find the outside beacons of authority? Any strict logician will realize that there's a danger of proving 1=0 with this system, although I realize that all grown ups know that life is filled with logical inconsistencies like that.

The book, for instance, doesn't really question why the Wikipedia worked but the Wikinews didn't, something that no one may really know. The tone is closer to Ray Kinsella than Crash Davis. It celebrates Cory Doctorow, the famous editor of BoingBoing.net, a wonderful blog that I read daily. The authors explain how Doctorow gives away digital copies of his books because "his problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity."

Perhaps that's true, but a deeper question is how the wikis, mashups, and mixes will find their benchmarks of authority, their geodetic markers in memespace, their means of support. To test this danger, I wrote this greasemonkey script to count the words in a webpage between certain tags. On the day I wrote this, the admittedly imprecise script found 11788 words on the front page of Boing Boing, of which 6472 were between <blockquote> tags. That's about 50% borrowed text.

So far, this non-stop homage, this pantheon of fair use sells ads and seems to do quite well — Wikinomics suggests that BoingBoing's "readership now eclipses most mainstream media outlets." So why bother playing by the old school rules when you can just let others do the work while you push the boundaries of fair use and make money? There is a real danger that the original sources will find themselves starved for air as the Wikipedia and others fair use devotees suck up the top search rankings.

This may be why I think the book was right to bring these wiki worlds to the business community. At first I thought it was rather cynical to package up the wiki ideals into a neat bundle for the business leaders, but now I think that businesses are the ones who can really use and support the ideals. We now know that wikis can't be trusted for important, contentious areas of truthiness like politics, news, history, or any place where there's a difference of opinion about the facts, but it can still be ideal for semi-closed environments with outside means of support. I can imagine that wikis would be great for a corporation that needed to manage communication between the two divisions in different states. Openness gets rid of the natural inertia of bureaucracies. And it's clear that every company should have a wiki devoted to the user's guide so the customers can add what the manual writers never anticipated. Wikis allows one group to move ahead without asking another "mother may I". The umbrella business can pay the bills for keeping the lights on.

My guess is the folks in business who need to get things done may be the only ones who support the wikiconomy in the long term after the average joe gets a bit bored and tosses the wikis onto the pile of amusing distractions with the CB radios. The businesses are the ones with the real incentives to embrace the values of wikiness. And if you've spent a few years in the cubicle trenches, you know that words like "truthiness" have a certain ring to them.

Peter Wayner is the author of Translucent Databases and 12 other books.


You can purchase Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Wikinomics

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:36PM (#17449626) Homepage
    If you're jazzed by the communitarian impulses driving Wikis, idea agora, Web 2.0 and other collaborative happenings

    You know, in the 60s, they would have called it something different.
    • by GigsVT (208848)
      There's a vast difference between people voluntarily working together for a common cause, and wielding the violent force of government taxation and regulation to accomplish some social end.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JebusIsLord (566856)
        What is government though (in essence) if not people collaborating and sharing? That the people organizing this sharing organization often get corrupted by power is beside the point - the essence of communistm isn't "violent taxation", its sharing.
        • by GigsVT (208848)
          It's not collaboration and sharing if you can't "opt-out".
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The best part about government is that if you don't quite want to share as much as they want you to share, or if they plain don't like the expression on your face, you get the buttstock of a rifle planted between your eyes.

          Good ol collaborative sharing.
          • by Sinbios (852437)
            That's because the governments you are thinking of are authoritarian, not because they are communist.
        • "the essence of communistm isn't "violent taxation", its sharing."

          Exactly, and its a shame that idealogues never realize, that it's not the systems themselves that are the problems, but the actors and their capabilities, you can have a communist society, a capitalist society, a socialist society, or what have you, as long as you have people that 1) Are capable of maintaining that society 2) The principles by which the society operates are congruent with or incentivize action to maintain society and progress
  • by susano_otter (123650) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:40PM (#17449700) Homepage
    "If you're SLANG by the BUZZWORD BUZZWORD FAD, FAD, BUZZWORD and other BUZZWORD SLANG, you'll be pleased to know that the new book FADBUZZWORD is a great gift for that TOOL, DUPE, or IGNORAUMUS who doesn't quite TIRED CLICHE it yet. The only SLANG hidden in this statement is that much of what is wonderful in this book is wonderful because it's a book printed on pulp and written by two and only two authors. That is, the book is good because it's not a FAD."
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Otter (3800)
      Heh, yet again "susano otter" and I post similar sentiments almost simultaneously. I think we were somehow separated at birth.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by susano_otter (123650)
        Given your low user number, I'd suspect I'm simply a dim echo of your greatness. I shall now go and grok the fullness of your like-minded sentiments.
    • Wally: Bingo, sir.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RingDev (879105)
      As annoying as that summary was, I am somewhat interested in this book. I am attempted to motivate my management to look into some collaborative systems for documentation, and some mashup ideas I have for system integration. If this book provides anecdotal stories with factual backing (ie: costs, pros, cons, maintenance, motivation, etc...) then there may be something to it. Despite the summary's abusive use of buzzwords and slang.

      -Rick
      • I surely hope that this review will help you figure out whether or not this book suits your purposes.

        You'd probably be better off asking your management team to look into what the Wikipedia people have to say about their project directly. Cut out the middleman, so to speak, and get the actual experiences and lessons learned straight from the principals.
      • In which we learn that bad books drive out the good.
  • by homer_s (799572) * on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:40PM (#17449710)
    I've begun to feel lately that there is a real danger that free information will drive out paid information in much the same way that economists note that cheap money drives out the dear.

    Not the same thing.

    "cheap money drives out the dear" means that when you have counterfiet (or bebased/ inflated) coins/money in the market, people will hoard the genuine coins (thereby driving it out of the market). This is what happened to US silver coins and what is currently happening to nickels and dimes. [slashdot.org] In this case, the good money is driven out of the market because it is more precious and people prefer the good money to the bad.

    In the case of information, if free information 'drives out' paid information from the market, it will be because the people reject the paid information and prefer the 'free information'.

    So, good money and paid information are driven out of the market, they happen for different (and opposite) reasons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by peterwayner (266189) *
      You're right that the comparison is not exact-- that's why I said "in much the same way."

      In the free economy, time is the limiting factor. In an information economy, information is an asset. And so expensive information is information that takes a long time to create. Cheap information takes little. People share the cheap stuff and hoard the expensive stuff, if they have any expensive stuff at all. This is why most blogs concentrate on reacting to articles by the mainstream media. Original research is very
      • by homer_s (799572) *
        People share the cheap stuff and hoard the expensive stuff, if they have any expensive stuff at all.

        But why would it be because of free information? Wouldn't people hoard the expensive stuff anyway? You could argue that "because of the free information, some people cannot charge much for paid research (many websites which were subscription based in 2000 are now free) and have to lower their prices and hence, quality."

        But this is what happens in every other industry. Companies have to lower prices (or
        • I think I mean that hoarde=not produce. Or if they produce it, they don't bother to go through the trouble of marking it up in HTML and posting it on a website. For instance, I could have just watched TV instead of subjecting myself to the slings and arrows of Slashdot complaints about people who don't like the phrasing of some sentence. Luckily I've got a thick skin and while I do care about whether people like words like "memespace", I have no problem taking a word out for a spin. It's more fun to me than
          • by homer_s (799572) *
            I think I mean that hoarde=not produce.

            If companies/people stopped producing because of cheaper competition, you would not see any products on the market.
            Ferrari does not stop producing cars because of Toyota. Adobe does not stop producing because of GIMP. The only people who will stop producing are the ones whose products/information cannot compete with others and who cannot adjust quick enough.

            More / cheap (and free is just really cheap) competition is good for consumers in any industry.
            • Wait, you can't have it both ways. What if I like the products from the inefficient producers? What if there's some civic good in having a newspaper send an independent reporter to the city council meeting? If that reporter can't compete for ad dollars with, say, gossip about Britney or Tara, then who knows what could go on at that meeting.

              Consider this from another perspective. What if I said "government subsidized producers" instead of "free information producers"? Does this change the equation? Can you s
              • by homer_s (799572) *
                Wait, you can't have it both ways.

                I don't see where I wanted something both ways. Can you pls explain?

                What if I like the products from the inefficient producers?

                You buy that. You buy what you want - if it comes back to bite you, you learn and the next time buy the quality one. And you tell your friends about it.

                What if there's some civic good in having a newspaper send an independent reporter to the city council meeting? If that reporter can't compete for ad dollars with, say, gossip about Brit
                • Here's another way of looking at it. Certainly zero is just an epsilon away from .0001 cents and a bit more away from $10. But the world is often discontinuous. One of the bigger hurdles to micropayments on the Internet is the cost of a transaction.So this has stopped many experiments dead in their tracks. So free has a big advantage over 1 penny, one dime or even one quarter. It's fair to say that it's cheaper to give something away over the internet than to charge 10 to 25 cents. (Google Checkout's effe
                  • by homer_s (799572) *
                    Here's another way of looking at it. Certainly zero is just an epsilon away from .0001 cents and a bit more away from $10. But the world is often discontinuous. One of the bigger hurdles to micropayments on the Internet is the cost of a transaction

                    We are talking about principles here - not practicalities. Your principle is that 'free information has a 'dumping' effect and that is unfair'. My point was that free and cheap are the same - your principle becomes 'cheaper information has a dumping effect and
                    • Again, wrong according to whom? Do you see a pattern here? You are deciding what is 'good' and what is 'bad'. And guess what? These 'quasi-governments' exist at the mercy of the market - the real governments do not. Everyone here in Chicago thought Sears was king and no one could beat them - Walmart and Kmart gave ppl what they wanted and Sears is (almost) history. And if enough people feel that Walmart is evil and stop shopping there, they are gone. Would that happen with govt?

                      I never said that. I just s
                    • by homer_s (799572) *
                      I never said that.

                      Here is what you said:

                      One of the biggest problems with the libertarian embrace of the marketplace is that quasi-govenrments can evolve when marketplaces evolve in the wrong way.

                      My question was "wrong according to who?". I don't know what your answer means in this context.

                      I just said that the internet's bias toward free information makes it difficult for people to producers to collect from consumers. I never said anything about some central force controlling anything. It's alll
                    • My question was "wrong according to who?". I don't know what your answer means in this context.

                      I'm using the same weighted average of society to measure good as you are. I'm not assuming that there's some central force. That's just your assumption because I'm complaining about market failure.

                      Here's another way of articulating how the free economy is different from the micropayment. In other words, this is how a price of zero is different from epsilon pennies.

                      When an information producer creates and sells
                    • by homer_s (799572) *
                      I'm using the same weighted average of society to measure good as you are. I'm not assuming that there's some central force. That's just your assumption because I'm complaining about market failure.

                      The market *is* the avg weighted opinion of society.You will not have a situation where a product that is good (according to the avg opinion in the society) fails. Can you give me an example of a situation where a product was well liked by the public but was taken away from the market (aka "market failure")?

                      Th
                    • Can you give me an example of a situation where a product was well liked by the public but was taken away from the market (aka "market failure")?

                      There are many cases, but they're not the cases you want to hear about. Companies go out of business all of the time. They end product lines. In most of these cases, the companies have some customers, but usually they don't have enough customers to make it worth their while to continue or sell/give the business to someone else.

                      You're going to say something lik
                    • by homer_s (799572) *
                      You're going to say something like, "Oh but the consumers were able to make do with something else that was produced by another company more efficiently."

                      No, I won't say that. I can give you a personal example. I cannot get a decent LISP compiler/IDE anymore. It has gone out of the market. There are a few, but they are expensive, no libraries, etc. I hate Java and others. So, the free market has failed me. A good product has been driven out by inferior products and there is less choice for me.

                      Failure of t
      • by Anonymous Coward

        information is an asset

        No. You have gone far afield of the Slashdot opinion on information and I caution you to get back on the path or expect your next self-Slashvertisement to be rejected regardless of our need for Slashvertisement revenue.

        Information is not an asset because in order for an asset to be an asset it must be owned. Information cannot be owned and it is against the interests of society for it to be. All information, be it news or poetry or prose or music or video, all of it should be free for all to consume u

        • downloading my Free copy over my university's bandwidth that my parents pay for.

          Ah yes. DRM, but DRM by the bursar's office.
      • by jc42 (318812)
        People share the cheap stuff and hoard the expensive stuff, if they have any expensive stuff at all.

        Yep; this is the natural behavior of most humans. That's why it took us so long to drag ourselves out of the stone age. And the reason that science and mathematics have had such a spectacular success over the past couple centuries at improving the human condition is that they developed an ethic of sharing information. If you're a scientist or mathematician, you only get "paid" (i.e., honor and credit) for
    • I think the comparison is wrong for a slightly different reason.

      Money is necessarily scarce. Information is not.

      It's not just that people will "reject" paid information (content, etc.) when free is available but that there is a growing recognition that information scarcity is artificial and increasingly antiquated.

      Yes, the purchase of shoe leather will have to come from different sources to fund expensive journalism in the future... just like the funding of production for software, music, movies, games, et
  • Reaganomics
  • Oh spare me (Score:4, Funny)

    by realmolo (574068) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:43PM (#17449756)
    "Communitarian"? "Idea agora"? "Collaborative happenings"?

    You need to cancel your subscription to "Wired" magazine, my friend. And then kill yourself.
  • Oh, boy... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:43PM (#17449768) Journal
    If you're jazzed...doesn't quite grok it yet. The only logic bomb...

    If you're rolling your eyes already, wait til you get to "geodetic markers in memespace"...

    Tapscott and Williams dismiss Jaron Lanier's worry that wikis can devolve when a smart mob develops the the same kind of "mass stupidity" that brought us Pol Pot or the Stalinist movement.

    The funny thing (besides the usual question of whether Jaron Lanier has ever actually done anything) is that there's actually a failure of imagination here, as online collaboration brings us entirely new forms of stupidity! For example, as giggling Colbert fans vandalize Wikipedia under the delusion that anything is somehow clever-funny when said with raised eyebrows.

    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      If you're rolling your eyes already, wait til you get to "geodetic markers in memespace"...

      AAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGHHHH!!!!! It burns! It burns!!

      Honestly, I pride myself on having a pretty voluminous vocabulary, but when I see stuff like that, I want to beat the author with a dictionary, preferably one covered in jagged spikes. It's bad enough the Internet is becoming polluted with mindless catchphrases, which the unenlightened throw around like candy at Halloween, but when tripe like that phrase starts being assembled, I'm thinking the invention of spoken language is going to turn out to b

      • Honestly, I pride myself on having a pretty voluminous vocabulary

        I prefer my vocabularies to be voluptuous.

        Now kneel before my dazzling cascade of delectable prose! KNEEL!

    • If you're rolling your eyes already, wait til you get to "geodetic markers in memespace".

      You are far braver than I. "Grok" was enough warning for me to turn away.
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      I found it funny that "logic bomb" is just a fancy word for unauthorized computer code triggered by a special system state.

      So it has nothing to do with his usage, and he's either just mocking with buzz words or more or less lost connection with reality. ;)
  • by Web-o-matic (246295) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:57PM (#17450020)
    It seems the quality of slashdot's editorial / review policy has declined over the years -- I remember, not that far back, when such blatant marketing-speak 'reviews' would've never made it.

    Data: the book's release date (to bookstores) was Jan 2. And now, on Jan 3, we have this blatant marketing-posing-as-review. That's pretty depressing - for slashdot.

    I used to trust this site for interestingly filtered material - somewhat eclectic, often varied, but typically filtered with intelligence and flair.

    I guess the good old days are over.

    And, moreover, the book just isn't that good -- or at least it isn't if the content of the book is anything like the series of pedestrian articles the authors have published in the Globe and Mail over the past few days. Most of this stuff will be old hat to any Slashdot reader. But more importantly, there is nothing in their analysis that goes anything beyond what you can read in existing published reports, blog sites, or research reports. It's just a compilation of other peoples' work - pulled into a neat package but lacking any insight or deep thinking you'd expect from an organization called "New Paradigm".

    So basically the same old paradigm -- repackage others ideas and resell.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by peterwayner (266189) *
      I think this comment is a perfect example of my point. I didn't get paid anything for this review, except perhaps for a quick link to one of my books at the bottom. Clearly the kind of writers that you like have found other things to do with their time than writing the kind of review that you want to read.
      If, as one commenter suggests, that Slashdot is in decline, then I think it's just a canary-in-the-coal-mine for the entire wiki world.

      The book was quite nice and there is nothing wrong with producing a
      • by Oriumpor (446718) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @06:00PM (#17451000) Homepage Journal
        Don't sugar coat it, don't hide behind semantics, don't use the clever writer's alegory... You wrote this as an attempt to drive business to your product. It's quite simple economics. Now then, if you happen to help a fellow writer, who you may (or may not) have a social relationship with hey all the better.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by peterwayner (266189) *
          First, I've never spoken to the two authors.

          Second, I know how much traffic the buried link will drive to my site. It's minimal.

          I wrote the review to, as the open source world says, "scratch an itch." It's clear that the wonderful, eclectic folks who used to write reviews around here aren't feeling as itchy these days.
    • by Oriumpor (446718)
      Nah, the change isn't in the utter shite that's posted, as that's been the same crap different day as long as I've been reading /. It's the response and the metamoderation that goes on that's changed. There's bound to be a half dozen carpet-bagging grass roots shills posting any moment and a few dozen more metamods that disagree with your overly pessimistic "technical" evaluation of the obviously editorial article modding you "Over-rated."

      Businesses have embraced Forums, wikis and the rest that makes "web
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        The lack of attention to the moderation system is the surest sign that the people running slashdot give not one fuck about it any more as they are too busy lying back on sacks of money and counting the parts they're not laying on. Either that or they just got robbed and they spend the says debating whether to lift the gun to their temple or not, but I'm betting on the former. Slashdot has been broken by design longer than I've been here, but most of the problems didn't really rear their head until everyone
    • by nuzak (959558)
      > It seems the quality of slashdot's editorial / review policy has declined over the years

      You're new here, aren't you?
      • Actually kinda old (since the very first months of slashdot). But I know what you mean by you comment ;-)

    • by Tim Browse (9263)

      It seems the quality of slashdot's editorial / review policy has declined over the years -- I remember, not that far back, when such blatant marketing-speak 'reviews' would've never made it.

      The review scores have stayed the same, though - 8. Virtually every book review on slashdot I ever bother to read (or, increasingly, look at the score to bolster my pet theory) gets ~8/10.

      There's probably a lesson in there somewhere, but I can't be bothered to find it.

      • As someone who writes these reviews from time to time, I can tell you that it's all quite rational:

        * Books that get lower scores aren't worth reviewing.

        * Assigning higher scores opens yourself to criticism. Look at the folks who reflexively use "fanboi" if they see something positive.

        So that's the information economy at work.

        In Hollywood they pay interns $75-$100 to "cover" a script and provide an honest opinion. I'm sure they have more divergence in scores.

        This is another good example of the limitations o
        • I feel some of the same concern reappearing that I felt about the original review and/or the subject tome it discussed.

          The OldMedia empires are legendary for controlling the information *they* want distributed. Web 2.0 and higher has gotten past the BuyOurProduct crash of 2000, and now it's people posting snips of information for the rough-house good of all.

          What some people are reacting to is a semi-prohibition of "don't speak ill" of reviewed items, which is partly tangled up with problems of objectivity.
    • The comment does not really show a decline. The person posting the parent comment had obviously not read the interview to its finish, the review was quite negative toward the end. [The review falls into the same trap as many done by "professional" reviewers, namely to function as a soapbox for the reviewers opinion on the subject matter of the book, rather than on the book itself.] Not reading TFA before commenting has always been a hallmark of /., so no decline there.

      Of course, when I read the comment i
    • by Hatta (162192)
      I remember, not that far back, when such blatant marketing-speak 'reviews' would've never made it.

      Oh come on. I've been around here since '00 or so and even then people were saying the exact same thing. Same with every other site I've frequented for years. Things were always better back in the day.

      No they weren't, you were just a noob and everything seemed so shiny and wonderful. Now you've been around the block and you see the same patterns popping up again and again and wonder what the hell happened.
  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @05:06PM (#17450176) Journal
    I think you left out 3 or possibly 4 of the currently most overused buzzwords in your article summary. Please fix.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Rather surprisingly for slashdot, Ruby on Rails wasn't mentioned.
      • by syousef (465911)
        I know what Ruby on Rails is of course, but that doesn't stop me picturing an 80 year old drunk rotten-toothed grandmother ("Ruby") on a wheelchair on tracks shouting "yippppeeeee" as she goes past.

        As for the real RoR, I started reading about Ruby and stopped within about half an hour. I couldn't help but think "Cowboy coder's dream".
        • by tehcyder (746570)
          I know what Ruby on Rails is of course, but that doesn't stop me picturing an 80 year old drunk rotten-toothed grandmother ("Ruby") on a wheelchair on tracks shouting "yippppeeeee" as she goes past.

          As for the real RoR, I started reading about Ruby and stopped within about half an hour. I couldn't help but think "Cowboy coder's dream".

          Combine the two and have the granny waving a stetson and going "yee-hah!"
  • I've begun to feel lately that there is a real danger that free information will drive out paid information in much the same way that economists note that cheap money drives out the dear.

    Get over the pulp publishing model. People published books before there was a buck to be made and they will publish even if the worst of your fears come true.

    How can I say that? Easy, the information is already "free" at the library and book publishers and book stores thrive anyway. It can be argued that it'

  • Wikis are so over (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @05:38PM (#17450656) Homepage

    Wikipedia is drowning under the incoming dreck. Here are the last ten new articles on Wikipedia today:

    1. "Minnesota School of Cosmetology" ("The Minnesota School of Cosmetology is a private, for-profit, cosmetology school") -- Spam.
    2. "DiveBuddy" (a social network site for SCUBA divers.) -- Spam, deleted.
    3. "George and Carol Olmsted Foundation" ("The Olmsted Scholar Program was established by General George Olmsted.") -- Copied from web site, tagged as copyvio, deleted.
    4. Axxess2 ("Axxess2: Your special service provider for tailor made turn key solutions that guarantee you and your clients secure and successful access.") -- Spam, deleted.
    5. "Mormons for justice" ("Morons Of Justice") -- Attack article, deleted.
    6. "Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival study" (Medical article, no references) -- Might be valid, but can't tell. Tagged with "Verify".
    7. "Geraldine Santiago", created by user "Geraldinesantiago" ('Geraldine Santiago, published author and licensed realtor") - Spam, deleted.
    8. CoWare ("CoWare, Inc is the leading supplier of platform-driven electronic system level (ESL) design software and services.") - ad.
    9. "Ellis Industries" ("A very elite, botique booking agency for some of the hottest bands in today's modern hardcore/pop/punk rock scene...") -- Spam, deleted.
    10. "Dustin Thornton", created by user "dustin" - D'oh. Challenged as non-notable.

    Net new encyclopedic content added: zero. That's Wikipedia today. It takes an army of hard working editors to fight off all the obvious dreck, and they're falling behind.

    • This is a good illustration of the problem. Many of the people who put time and energy into the wikipedia are the people like "dustin" who are probably writing about themselves. They have an incentive and a self-interest. The selfless editors are volunteers and I wouldn't be surprised if they get more and more tired of the sheer cost of success. It will be fascinating to watch this evolve because it will probably be a good example of a "tipping point" in action. If humanity has a certain amount of selflessn
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If humanity is basically self-interested, it will devolve into ads that are thinly veiled at best.

        Or - and let's face it, this is a good idea - the most contested articles will have to end up restricted to people with a certain editing "score" - meaning that their revisions are not regularly deemed to be bullshit, and they must have a history (of whatever length, depending on the content) to make an edit.

        I know all the reasons this isn't done today. Perhaps it's worth it not to do it today. I underst

        • This is a good idea, but it only changes the speed not the overall dynamics. If there aren't enough people out there willing to earn the good editor score, the overall percentage of dreck will explode.
        • by Animats (122034)

          Or - and let's face it, this is a good idea - the most contested articles will have to end up restricted to people with a certain editing "score".

          Doesn't help. The people who add good content typically don't make large numbers of edits, or add large numbers of articles. They write a good article or two on something they really know something about, and leave. The people who have huge edit counts are typically deleting material, not adding it. There's no obvious way to identify the good writers pro

          • by drinkypoo (153816)
            Well, I'm not just proposing that it be based on volume of edits, but also quality of edit. That would have to be calculated from how resistant the edit is to being removed, the scores of people who remove it, the scores of people who restore it, et cetera. I'm sure it would be an enormously complex computation... but if the alternative to spending CPU time on the problem is to have Wikipedia become useless, I know which I'll choose. I'd even donate some CPU time, if it would help :)
        • by HobophobE (101209)
          My solution was a little different. I think they should go with versioning the articles rather than restricting the editorship. Really, there's nothing wrong with letting a billion people edit the articles, just with the noise control involved. So, for example, once they reach the 1.0 mark on a cannon of articles those articles would be viewable at a 1.0 threshold if the reader wishes. That would ensure a fairly accurate, static copy of the information. Of course, viewing the diff to the most recent would s
    • by massysett (910130)
      You only looked at new articles. That will pull a vastly disproportionate amount of dreck. Almost any useful topic will already have a Wikipedia article, so lots of new articles will be dreck. It would be more interesting to look at the most recent edits to all Wikipedia articles, and then I bet you'd see that there is useful content being added to Wikipedia every minute.
    • Hi,

      Just did a quick survey of new entries into the wikipedia. Found one that was up for speedy deletion and a couple that will probably remain, including ones on:
      = Chzech female serial killer
      - Hawaian football team
      - small lake somewhere in nowheresville, US
      - somewhere, smalltown USA

      And ofcourse a gazillion edits to a gazillion pages, some big some minor, most probably leading to a better text. So yes you found the bad ones. But unfortunately you disqualified yourself right away by only listing the bad ones
  • Wikipedia "development" is like the mailing lists of a certain unnamed Linux distro. Thank goodness true direct democracy doesn't exist outside of a few online communities. Because experience shows that it is the opposite of meritocracy. Meritocracy is wherethe best and the brightest quietly run things. Online "communocracy" is where the worst and loudest idiots scream through their petty issues.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      Communism ensures that the undeserving are rewarded as well as the deserving. This is why I write on everything2 and not on wikipedia. I don't want some asshat editing what I write if they're wrong. If I'm wrong, someone can either supersede my writeup with a correct one, or inform me and I can update it. If I could count on Wikipedia users being a group of people who wouldn't fuck it all up for fun, well, I'd change my mind. When Wikipedia gets some editing restriction, I'll start writing there. Eventually
      • Except that communism doesn't work. If you try you just end up with a massive totalitarian state that cannot wither away. Far far better to stop trying to make other people jump through your ideological hoops, and just let volunteerism work. Sure, you might end up with one person having two cows while another has only one, but it beats the pants off of gulags and killing fields.
  • I don't really agree with the easy way that they dismissed the danger and if I had a wiki edit button in front of me, I would change the text to amplify Lanier's warnings.

    And then I would revert it, because you have provided no evidence for this beyond your own opinion (which is original research).

    Really, this "review" is a bit too much about the reviewers own impressions of the social trends the book describes, than about the book itself.
    • What sort of evidence would be sufficient?

      And is it even worth gathering to bolster the point? As you say, it's just an opinion, but any long-term participant with the wiki process should know it's true. It's just some folks see the destruction of information as a social good. It provides clarity and editing. Others don't.

      Look, for instance, at the article on Dustin Thorton held up for ridicule on Slashdot. Perhaps it's not valuable to 99.9999% of the world, something that may make it non-notable to you a
  • I've run a fairly popular independent news site for several years and I have experience with the Indymedia network. I also participate on Wikipedia. When Wikinews launched, I could see right away that the Wikipedia project was getting in over their collective heads. It's one thing to luanch successful reference tool projects such as Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, and so on, quite another thing to get into the news business. If you are familiar with how the news media works and how the new forms of onli
  • One of the biggest logical problems I've found with the wikipedia is the inconsistent way that the movement treats traditional scholarship. On one hand, we're supposed to revel in the way that the wikipedia is often better than traditional mechanisms, but on the other hand the wikipedia gives more weight to outside sources. [...] If the wikis become good enough to rival if not replace original sources, where will the wikis find the outside beacons of authority? Any strict logician will realize that there's

    • You're missing my point. While the Wikipedia may position itself as a tertiary source and enforce a policy of NOR, but the rest of the world doesn't pick up on this. Nor does the Wikipedia push this effort outside of internal discussion boards. In the famous comparison with Encyclopedia Britanica, the Wikipedia folks seemed pretty happy to be placed on par with the famous rival. There was little public correction saying, "No. We're not in Britannica's league. We don't allow experts to synthesize information
      • by stevenj (9583)

        First, Britannica is also a tertiary source, just like Wikipedia aims to be; just because they employ experts doesn't mean that they publish any new results or interpretations. (Don't confuse a summary, which simply repeats known information in a condensed form, with a novel synthesis, which combines information in order to draw new conclusions and reveal new relationships. Tertiary sources like Wikipedia and Britannica do the former but not the latter.)

        Second, regardless of how Wikipedia is perceived b

        • Does Britannica think of itself as a secondary source or a tertiary source? Perhaps both. Employing experts for their expertise with primary (and secondary materials) makes it seem more like a secondary source to me. This is all rather nebulous and not worth debating because most papers are a mixture. Many scientific papers in referreed journals are primary sources and only refer to other works to put their original work in context. But then they switch over to secondary for sections and even become tert

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