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Steven Goodwin [opinions]

Wikipedia Vs Software [wikipedia]

So I, along with everyone else today, got forwarded this link which shows that Wikipedia has begun its journey from an edit-focused hive of activity, to read-only archive, as people stop editing the site.

As one of the larger “open” projects, it can point to possibilities in the future for other projects. It also mirrors smaller projects, and the history we discovered years ago. So, what does this tell us?

Perhaps it shows us that we haven’t got anything left to write about! Actually, maybe the opposite is true—there’s lots left to write about, but no one wants to do it. Maybe it’s similar to the situation when many people stopped writing kernels and operating system tools and moved onto desktop applications; they’d exhausted their interest in that area, and moved onto other problems to solve.

In the Wikipedia case, they’ve usually stopped because either:

  • They don’t know any other subjects
  • Someone will edit (or delete) their articles

Either way, it shows a limit that open developers reach within their community. In the first case, it demonstrates an ability plateau that while we’re very good at Monty Python quotes, we’re less forthcoming about our skills in medieval crochet!

The second case highlights a personality plateau where the editors, regulars, and die-hard Wikipedia fans have taken over the asylum. I’ve seen articles marked for deletion because they’re not in Google (have these people never ventured outside into the real world?) or because they don’t deem it important enough. For a site intended to contain all knowledge, I don’t see how either approach can be used to achieve this goal. And who are they to consider it important enough? The last example I saw (names excluded to protect the guilty half-wits involved) caused the deletion of an industry publication by someone with no knowledge of the industry in question. When the opinions of an industry insider are quashed by a 17 year old Wikicrat zealot with too much time on their hands, it degenerates in territorial pissing wars that turn away all the casual contributors.

If these attitudes were prevalent in software development, the code would have either got forked, re-written, or left to rot. When buzz of the original dies, everyone moves onto other things. Oh I forgot, that already does happen...

Hasn’t anyone learnt?

(And no, just don’t get me started on the amount plagiarized work present there...


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