Or at least it used to be.

Though it's probably the quintessential example of internet-based crowd wisdom, the Wikipedia has hit on rather difficult times of late. Yes, Science magazine determined that its accuracy was on a par with that of the Britannica, but hacking articles seems to have become a pastime which few can resist, and that's taking its toll on the trustworthiness of the entire project. The Wikipedia's method of editing certainly seems commensurate with Surowiecki's four characteristics of smart crowds, which suggests that as more and more people become Wikipedians, the quality of its content will continue to improve. At the moment, however, this doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, the opportunity to hack seems a bit too inviting.

In a manner quite similar to how people relate to crowds as either smart or dumb, however, the debate on the desirability of the Wikipedia isn't based on its actual content. Anyone who follows the debate between the two camps on this issue quickly realizes that both the defenders and the detractors select the facts in order to support their point of view on the possibility of "the people" writing an encyclopedia. Perhaps it would be more proper to develop an opinion on the viability of a crowd-edited encyclopedia on the actual contents of the Wikipedia, but very few people seem to do that. If you like the idea of group editing, you find numerous examples of accurate reporting. If you think it's a foolish idea, you find countless shortcomings. (If you think that the public's comulative taste buds are more accurate than those of elite restaurant critics, then you'll think that the professional elite no longer has a monopoly on cultural criticism, and you'll probably tend to write in-your-face declarative sentences that read like manifestoes.) Either way, it should be clear that defenders and detractors don't do so on the basis of the actual content, but instead on their point of view regarding the idea of group editing.

Go to: Are crowds really that smart?