The Future of Collaborative Culture?

wales3.jpgI just heard Jim­my Wales, founder of Wikipedia, speak­ing at Stan­ford Law School today. Wales is work­ing on some new projects that he hopes will har­ness the com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven col­lab­o­ra­tion of Wikipedia. He’s already had some suc­cess in branch­ing out from the ency­clo­pe­dia idea with Wikia, which is a “wiki farm” com­pil­ing infor­ma­tion on a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent sub­jects (some of the most suc­cess­ful so far relate to video games).

What Wales spoke about today, how­ev­er, is a new col­lab­o­ra­tive search project. The con­cept is still in its ear­ly stages, it seems, but the idea would be to har­ness the intel­li­gence and ded­i­ca­tion of human beings to pro­duce search results sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter than Google’s. This rais­es a few ques­tions:

Is Google bro­ken? It’s amaz­ing what Google pulls up, but maybe we’ve all got­ten so good at work­ing with an imper­fect sys­tem that we just tune out the spam and mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions that still crop up.

Is a col­lab­o­ra­tive social mod­el the appro­pri­ate solu­tion to this prob­lem? Peo­ple are good at com­pil­ing ency­clo­pe­dias, but they may not be good at emu­lat­ing search rank algo­rithms. Also, Google is pow­ered by mil­lions of servers in dozens of data cen­ters over the world man­ag­ing petabytes of infor­ma­tion. In oth­er words, this may be a technology+money busi­ness, not a people+transparency busi­ness.

These issues aside, Wikipedia is one of the most amaz­ing things to come out of the whole Inter­net exper­i­ment, so I’m excit­ed to see what Wales comes up with. Has search become a basic ser­vice? Would it work bet­ter as an open-source sys­tem?

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