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Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 3 months ago

Weaknesses of wiki journalism


Richmond identifies two obstacles that could slow down the adoption of wikis: inaccuracy and vandalism, "Particularly in the UK, where one libellous remark could lead to the publisher of the wiki being sued, rather than the author of the libel. Meanwhile, the question of authority is the biggest obstacle to acceptance by a mainstream audience" (2007a).


Writing in 2004 Lih also identified authority as an issue for Wikipedia: "While Wikipedia has recorded impressive accomplishments in three years, its articles have a mixed degree of quality because they are, by design, always in flux, and always editable. That reason alone makes people wary of its content" (2004b).


Vandalism, a problem known as "trolling", is a recurring issue in wiki technology. Wikis such as Wikipedia have generally taken a "soft security" approach, making damage easy to undo rather than attempting to prevent its occurence in the first place:

"When vandals learn than someone will repair their damage within minutes, and therefore prevent the damage from being visible to the world, the bad guys tend to give up and move along to more vulnerable places." (Gillmor, 2004: 149)


‘Edit wars’ are a related problem, where contributors continually overwrite each other’s contributions due to a difference of opinion. The worst cases may require intervention by other community members to help mediate and arbitrate (Lih, 2004b).


Attempts to address the security issue vary. Wikipedia’s own entry on wikis explains:

"For instance, some wikis allow unregistered users known as "IP addresses" to edit content, whilst others limit this function to just registered users. What most wikis do is allow IP editing, but privilege registered users with some extra functions to lend them a hand in editing; on most wikis, becoming a registered user is very simple and can be done in seconds, but detains the user from using the new editing functions until either some time passes, as in the English Wikipedia, where registered users must wait for three days after creating an account in order to gain access to the new tool, or until several constructive edits have been made in order to prove the user´s trustworthiness and usefulness on the system, as in the Portuguese Wikipedia, where users require at least 15 constructive edits before authorization to use the added tools. Basically, "closed up" wikis are more secure and reliable but grow slowly, whilst more open wikis grow at a steady rate but result in being an easy target for vandalism."


Walsh (2007) argues that "Even if you don’t plan on moderating a community, it’s a good idea to have an editorial presence, to pop in and respond to users’ questions and complaints. Apart from giving users the sense that they matter – and they really should – it also means that if you do have to take drastic measures and curtail (or even remove) a discussion or thread, it won’t seem quite so much like the egregious action of some deus ex machina."


The author of the Wired experiment also feels there is a need for an editorial presence, but for narrative reasons: "in storytelling, there's still a place for a mediator who knows when to subsume a detail for the sake of the story, and is accustomed to balancing the competing claims and interests of companies and people represented in a story." (Singel, 2006a).


A further complication for news organisations used to the deadlines and production cycles of print and broadcast is the long timescales involved in building a successful wiki and the communities needed to maintain it. Wikinews contributor Erik Moll notes the reduced incentive for readers to contribute to articles with a short shelf life: "Wikinews articles are short-lived, so there is a reduced feeling of contributing to a knowledge base that will last a lifetime" (Weiss, 2005).


Issues around authorship and remuneration also need addressing:

"In open source, at least, there exists a well-defined system of licenses which determine how authors are to be acknowledged, and what (if any) commercial use may be made of their work without remunerating them. [...] In collaborative and open news sites, however, only basic disclaimers tend to exist; these are often placed on the site more in an effort to ward off potential legal action against site owners for questionable content than in order to acknowledge the contributors' ownership of their content." (Bruns, 2005: 299)


Bruns notes, however, that while there is no well-defined system as yet, models do exist, including the Creative Commons initiative, and the system used by OhMyNews, which shares copyright and insists contributors disclose bank account details for payment.


Finally, one of the biggest disadvantages may be readers’ lack of awareness of what a wiki even is: only 2% of Internet users even know what a wiki is, according to Harris Interactive (Francisco, 2006), although similar statistics were once applicable to blogs.

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