The Problem with Wikis is People

Recently I had a conversation with a respected technologist about Web Strategy. We hammered in on wikis, as I said they were great for “Community Knowledge”.

There, that’s my definition: Wikis are great for Community Knowledge

He said wikis are broken. A few days ago, The Scoble Show Wiki on WetPaint kept on getting vandalized by some jerko. After I launched the Data Storage Industry wiki it kept on getting vandelized. Same thing for Wikipedia.

Also, some people have a hard time describing wikis. (By the way, it’s not about ‘collaboration’ that’s just part of the process to obtain community knowledge)

The problem with wikis is that people suck, and it takes just one person to damage the collective knowledge. It seems a little unbalanced that just one person could delete or alter nearly all of the content. Granted, one could revert the content, then the vandal will do it again, and again. It never ends until you clamp the community.

In my opinion, wikis only work when you have trusted members of your commnity (Likely they are already public or have an online reputation to uphold or want to earn) to manage content on a wiki.

In the case of Wikipedia, I believe there’s a large editorial force that self-policies the content, this is an example of one group representing the others for the collective.

Wikis will work when you:

  • Define a community and a limited content scope
  • Find trusted members and empower them to edit, or provide permissions.

Wikis will only work when it becomes a representative democracy.