Do you know what a Wiki is? I suspect most people who read this drivel do, even if the majority of the general public don’t. But Wikis are, in theory, all about the general public: letting anyone edit a page of a website, on the basis that the wisdom of crowds will be greater than the wisdom of an individual.
To test this theory, a Wired News journalist put up an article on Wikis on a Wiki as an experiment to see how community participation could improve (or not) an article. He sums up the experience in The Wiki That Edited Me. Was it a success?
Is it a better story than the one that would have emerged after a Wired News editor worked with it?
I think not.
The edits over the week lack some of the narrative flow that a Wired News piece usually contains. The transitions seem a bit choppy, there are too many mentions of companies, and too much dry explication of how wikis work.
The conclusion – that Wikis are good tools for creating reference documents, but poor ones for creative the sort of narratives that journalism thrives on, isn’t really a surprise. The journalist’s job is just as much about shaping facts into a narrative as it is gathering those facts in the first place.