miércoles, agosto 22, 2007

Una mirada crítica sobre Wikipedia

Navegando en enlaces de del.icio.us, encontré un comentario sobre Wikipedia de Jason Scott
Escrito por un colaborador de Wikipedia hace algún tiempo (noviembre de 2004), sus observaciones siguen siendo válidas. Wikipedia continúa, y probablemente continuará, pero lo que está en juego es la calidad de su contenido. Jason Scott propone algunas ideas sobre el control de la precisión de sus definiciones; algunas ya en curso. Particularmente certera es su afirmación de que el aumento explosivo de la participación no conduce a la mejora, sino a la degradación del material elaborado:

The Usenet FAQ was (and is) to me, one of the true great advantages and creations of the Internet age. Previously, it had always been the case that the same 5 or 10 questions plagued a subgroup, cultural icon, hobby or occupation. These questions, while quite valid, quite reasonable, would be asked so many times that it would eventually be the case that no-one was willing to step up for the thousandth time and explain them. This led, inevitably, to speculation, wrong information and misquoting that would come back to bite everyone later. For no good reason! But the Frequently Asked Questions list fixed that. It allowed all the common questions to be answered, and even for the common controversies to be addressed even if no firm conclusion had been reached. These things grew like crazy in the 1980s and there's massive collections of them out there, still with good information (as long as its a general subject, and not a pop star or the like), and the work of many people coming together to build something good. Like Wikipedia is supposed to be.

I would attest that the reason for the success of the FAQ was a lot of collaborators but a short list of people maintaining it. A very large amount of maintainers leads to infighting, procedural foolishness, and ultimately a very slow advancement schedule. There's an interesting book called The Mythical Man-Month that goes into this in some detail, but the basic idea is: the more people you slap into a project that's behind, the more the project will fall behind. Unintuitive, but true. Even in the case of raw horsepower, this becomes the case; you would think that if the basic job (photocopy this paper) was simple enough, the job would go faster with more people, but it doesn't. You end up with people photocopying stuff wrong, collating wrong, bending pages badly, skipping pages... and the errors increase as you smack more people on. And you fall behind.

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