Does Wikipedia need a benevolent dictator?

… Well, not one, but many … that’s the gist of a proposal by the “a VC‘ (= venture capitalist) blog, who cites a column by the New York Times.
We’re citing the entry extensively as it goes to the heart of our interest in peer governance and their authority structures:

kids shouldn’t use Wikipedia to do their research because you can’t trust the information there“.

It really frosts me that the schools are taking this tack with Wikipedia, which to my mind is one of the all-time great innovations in the world of information, research, and fact finding. I totally buy into the idea that the aggregated knowledge of the entire world has to be better than the knowledge of a few “experts” who put together encyclopedias, which apparently the schools believe are trustworthy.

Now we all know that at any particular time, there can be some inaccurate stuff in Wikipedia and that’s certainly a problem, as I posted about in my prior wounding wikipedia post.

So I found the column by Randall Stross in today’s New York Times an interesting read. Randall suggests that Wikipedia needs to take one more page out of the open source playbook and give each page in Wikipedia an authoritative figure who has the power to decide what edits to allow and which to disallow.

Jeff Bates of the Open Source Technology Group (slashdot, sourcefourge, etc) is quoted in Randall’s column as saying:
In every open-source project, he said, there is “a benevolent dictator” who ultimately takes responsibility, even though the code is contributed by many. Good stuff results only if “someone puts their name on it.”

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