I must be Confused. I’ve never been tempted to give my bank account details to strangers telling me they will pay me gazillions to help them embezzle whole countries. I’ve never thought that I could win lotteries without buying tickets, particularly lotteries from countries I’d never heard of. I haven’t fallen for the rest of the Fear and Greed plays that make up most of the spam I get, I am not interested in artificial aids to improve who I am and what I am.
And I am not unusual. I don’t actually know a single person who has fallen for the Nigerian letter scam or sent off for spurious lottery wins.
Spam is an irritant. Not a terminal toxin.Â What’s all this to do with Citizendium or with Wikipedia? Let me take you on a little trip into a land of fairy tales.
Imagine someone coming to you and saying “You know what? We’re going to solve your spam problem for you. What we’re going to do, we’re going to set up this small committee that looks into every e-mail you get, and we’re only going to send you the ones we think are OK. Oh, and by the way, don’t worry about who’s going to be on this committee and how they get there. After all, we know best.”
Imagine someone coming to you and saying “You know what? We’re sick and tired of all the mistakes we see in the news you read. You never know where the news has been, who else has used it. So we’re going to help you. We’re going to set up this small committee, you see, and we’re going to go through all the bits of news that might ever get to you. And we’re only going to let you see the bits we think are OK. Oh, and by the way….. After all, we know best.”
Imagine someone coming to you and saying “You know what? She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy; I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera. We’re really worried about all the blogs you read, all the feeds you get, all the sites you visit. So we’re going to help you…..After all, we know best.”
Imagine someone coming to you and saying “You know what? You have no idea what you might find when you go searching. Ooh baby baby it’s a wild world …. just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware…You need your searching filtered. So we’re going to help you…..After all, we know best.”
After all, we know best. Trust me, I’m a doctor. Would I lie to you? Where is my second-hand furniture salesman when I need one?
There are many things that are wrong with Wikipedia, many things that we can make better. And there are many people out there who know a lot more than I do about this, so I’ll let them speak.
I know one thing. I’m a lot more worried about The Cult of The Expert than I am about The Cult Of The Amateur.
We’ve had the Cult Of The Expert for centuries now. And we’ve seen how and why it breaks down, why it fails. Small groups of experts can be “gamed”, often without realising it. Experts can be bought, often just for the price of a little ego-stroking. Experts don’t like admitting they’re wrong. The worst kind of groupthink is when a bunch of experts get together. Experts have more to lose, like their status. Which is why they fight so hard to retain it.
Of course this is not true of all experts. There is much to be said for expertise. But there is also much to be said for amateurs. Passionate, unbiased, unbuyable. Willing to admit to their errors. Less prone to ego. Less hung up about losing. Or winning.
Linus’s Law is a very powerful thing. Given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow. When we see things that are wrong with Wikipedia, the solution is to fix it, not to create a new form of corruption.
I could be wrong. Citizendium may become the most wonderful thing since sliced bread. [I shall resist the temptation to say: For people who like being told which side of their bread is buttered, by people who like deciding which side of the bread should be buttered.]
After all, they know best.Â
As for me, I like my inputs unfiltered. I like choosing whose opinion I will listen to, whose recommendations matter to me. I like my facts and my history and my news and my feeds and my searches and my music and my literature and my films and my everything to come to be like a river, as I think Dave Winer first suggested.
And when I have this river firehose elephantine thingie coming at me, I will use friends and their recommendations and their comments and their opinions to cut out the stuff I don’t want and to point to the stuff I do want. Collaborative filtering is a beautiful thing.
And if that looking glass gets broke, Papa’s gonna buy me a billy goat. A billy goat called tagging and folksonomies.
I don’t think this way because I have a hang-up about experts. It’s something more basic than that. My nose twitches. I get goosebumps and collywobbles. I start saying to myself, beware the Jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.
As I said earlier, there’s a lot to be said for experts and for expertise. You may think I’m being unfair to experts in general, and you’d be right.
Let me put it this way: We have a choice of being unfair to experts or unfair to amateurs. From what I can see, the experts have had their turn and it didn’t work. So now maybe it’s the amateurs’ turn.
But what do I know? After all, I am Confused.
[My next post in this series is going to be about Citizendium, Wikipedia and Vendor Relationship Management (VRM). Or, more particularly, why the Cult Of The Expert militates against VRM, and why it was responsible for giving us that appalling concoction CRM in the first place. You have been warned. Do adjust your sets.]