Wikipedia: From Utopianism to Cynicism

Why are so many people determined to delete things from an online encyclopaedia?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

There’s another wave of rumbling discontent around the blogosphere about Wikipedia again. This seems to come around every few months as another group of people becomes aware of the running war between the inclusionists and deletionists when a page about something important to them is deleted.

The Telegraph‘s Shane Richmond catches the reaction of many who discover the activity of the deletionists rather nicely:

Deletionists are trapped with an outdated metaphor. They want to make a “quality encyclopaedia”. The notion of quality, like usefulness, is relative. Relevance is a much better measure.

The comments are worth reading, because at least one deletionist makes a reasonably robust defence of his position.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Carr does a little analysis on the New Scientist [Disclosure: I work for the magazine’s publisher] article about some research about Wikipedians:

The study is consistent with other research into the motivations underlying online social production. Last year, researchers at HP Labs undertook an extensive study of why people upload videos to YouTube. They found that contributors are primarily driven by a craving for attention. If the videos they upload aren’t clicked on, they tend to quickly exit the “community.” YouTubers view their contributions not as pieces of “a digital commons” but as “private goods” that are “paid for by attention.”

I find all this interesting, because YouTube and Wikipedia are, essentially, communities with very little, if any, organised management. Those rules that do exist are either self-created by users (like the deletionists) or imposed by external factors (like copyright holders getting people to pull things down from YouTube).



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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.