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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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« Two seconds | Main | Let me see »

Wikipedia gets fictional

The biography of George Costanza is five times as long as that of Tim O'Reilly.

As Wikipedia matures, there are hard decisions to be made about depth and breadth. Shouldn't Tim's entry be many pages long? He's one of the great thinkers of our time. If IBM and Jones Soda get entries, why not your brand (or my old summer camp, which was ruthlessly deleted)?

Most serious web users realize that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. Above the echelon of casual editors are more serious volunteers who set standards, delete articles and argue with each other about what belongs and what doesn't. There's an entire cadre of deletionists who want fewer articles of higher quality, while there are others that would choose to embrace the long tail and create a freeer environment. The seeswaw arguments make for entertaining discussion but it can be hard to predict what will happen on any given day.

SEO rewards Wikipedia, and well it should. Most searchers who end up there are pretty happy with that result. But as we get further and further into Googleworld, who decides what's worthy?

A consistent rule on Wikipedia has been to rely on edited print publications (the mainstream media) as well as physical or unchanging materials (like the DVD of a TV show). This made sense five years ago, but as the world abandons print reference (which Wikipedia largely relies on for verification), are we biasing the entries in favor of Abraham Lincoln (plenty of printed facts available) and TV series characters (we can prove that George worked for Vandalay Industries)?

Another rule has been a taboo on self-promotion (which is smart), but it runs headlong into the issue of completeness and relevance. If you know or like Tim (or me or your company), you're more likely to invest the effort to write about him. And you're certainly more likely to have access to the interesting and relevant facts. This rule gets bent all the time, but again, it's rarely made crystal clear.

There's no right answer, of course. But "no answer" isn't an answer either. Not for a site with this much power and this much potential. [I re-edited this post for clarity].

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