Some key differences between Wikipedia and Brickipedia

Following the Aaron Swartz post, some of the comments and discussions I’ve seen on the web suggest that people think there is no real difference between Wikipedia and traditional encyclopedias, in terms of how they are produced.

This is wrong. And dangerous.

Three critical differences need to be preserved, they are key distinguishers of what makes social software “social”.

These are:

Contributor selection
Subject selection
Capacity to show dissent

In Brickipedia, the editors choose the contributors. In Wikipedia the contributors choose themselves. This is very powerful.

In Brickipedia, the editors frame and anchor the topics. In Wikipedia the contributors choose to write what they’re passionate about. Also very powerful.

In Brickipedia, there is no capacity to show dissent. In Wikipedia, dissent is visible. This is the most powerful differentiator.

Of course there is also a difference in the way Bricki and Wiki contributors get rewarded, but I feel that this is less important than the three I’ve mentioned above.

We must preserve this. Motivated people selecting themselves to write about things they feel passionate about, and able to show agreement and dissent as well.

Read Cass Sunstein on Democracy and Dissent if you’re interested, I am currently travelling and unable to point to the right references. I’m sure Google will oblige.

4 thoughts on “Some key differences between Wikipedia and Brickipedia”

  1. and equally exciting — wikipedia is about the here and the now, brickipedia is encased in mortar and cement.

  2. Hey Anant, good to see you here. You’re right, of course. One is readable and static. The other is writable and dynamic.

    Absolutely.

    I was looking at the contributor versus editor dynamic rather than the time aspect, but you’re spot on.

  3. JP, I like your analysis; but I would like to add another difference to the list that I believe is also critical. This one derives from that linguistic relationship between “author” and “authority” that I tried to explore when we were discussing gatekeepers:

    http://confusedofcalcutta.com/2006/08/28/more-on-gatekeepers-and-opensource/#comment-5912

    I did a little homework with my SHORTER OXFORD and discovered that PAIDEIA seems to have both Latin and Greek origins and means “general education.” Since we both share a passion for this topic, I would like to posit that any attempt at a “general education” ultimately reflects a world-view. Not all encyclopedias do this, but there are a few good examples. My favorite is probably the Diderot-d’Alembert project, which begins with a SYSTEM FIGURE DES CONNAISSANCES HUMAINES. I have probably spent more time with this “ontological tree” than I have with any entry in the encyclopedia itself! In a similar spirit one of Mortimer Adler’s last projects for BRITANNICA was the editing of the PROPAEDIA volume, which attempted to do for the encyclopedia what his Syntopicon did for the GREAT BOOKS series. (It is probably also the best instance of Aquinan thinking in our own time, and I say that without attempting to imply any value judgment!)

    Such a world-view is contrary to the Wikipedia philosophy. As a result the Wikipedia is more like the Boyg in Ibsen’s PEER GYNT (a major dramatic challenge since this character is supposed to be formless). Again, I do not wish to impose any value judgement on this observation. As Walter Cronkite used to say, “That’s the way it is.”

    As an aside, Wikipedia does not have an entry for “Boyg;” the curious may get a better sense of this character at:

    http://www.eoneill.com/library/contour/amateursend/jones.htm

    My point is that this distinction becomes important when the CUI BONO question arises: What is the benefit you want? Do you want a quick answer to a quick question? Wikipedia is probably preferable. Do you want a quick introduction to a new topic? If “quick” is important, Wikipedia will probably rise to the occasion. However, if you have more time and wish to understand the CONTEXT in which that topic is embedded, my personal feeling is that you will do better to consult a source with a consistent world-view, even if, at the end of the day, you find that you do not subscribe to that particular world-view.

  4. I’m an unabashed wiki fan. As I said earlier, for “the here and the now” of wikipedia. Other reasons? Navigability. One can go from John F Kennedy to Marilyn Monroe to Holloywood without having to walk to the bookshelf and searching for the relevant volume. And my Brickipedia will not take me to TODAY, it will stop short at six months of the publishing date. Any wiki entry has a zillion hyperlinks, and an average surfer would, NATURALLY, have gone to a number of them.
    How concerned am I about the authority of the writers? Not too much. Because I trust the wiki “system” to correct itself. And I believe its a matter of time before bricki “authorities” start enriching the wiki.
    As MTV says (at least in India): be there or be left out!

Let me know what you think

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