Wikipedia, an encyclopedia created and operated by volunteers, is one of the most fascinating developments of the Digital Age. In just over three years of existence, it has become a valuable resource and an example of how the grass roots in today’s interconnected world can do extraordinary things.
Wikipedia is based on a kind of software called Wiki. A Wiki allows any user to edit any page. It keeps track of every change. Anyone can follow the changes in detail.
A Wiki engenders a community when it works correctly. And a community that has the right tools can take care of itself.
The Wikipedia articles tend to be neutral in tone, and when the topic is controversial, they will explain the varying viewpoints in addition to offering the basic facts. When anyone can edit what you’ve just posted, such fairness becomes essential.
a Wiki draws strength from its volunteers who catch and fix every act of online vandalism. When the bad guys learn that someone will repair their damage within minutes, and therefore prevent the damage from being visible to the world, they tend to give up and move along to more vulnerable places.
I still marvel at how these wide-open Wiki communities, which seem at first glance to be so open to abuse, turn out to be so resilient. They work because everyone can do his or her part. The model won’t work in every endeavor, but it succeeds brilliantly in this case, at least so far.
One lesson is deceptively simple. When you remove the barriers to changing things, you also remove the barriers to fixing what’s broken.