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Friday, February 25, 2005

Wikis vs. blogs, two faces of citizen media

Cheers to Simon Waldman, Director of Digital Publishing at London's The Guardian, for tipping off the Wikinews debate on his personal blog. Waldman discusses a few of his qualms with the site, primarily arguing that Wikinews - a branch of Wikipedia - is not living up to the ambitions summarized in its mission statement and manifesto. Admiring Wikipedia, Waldman argues that the Wiki model works well for the citizens' encyclopedia, but not for the news member of the Wiki family. In his review, Waldman makes several suggestions, but ultimately concludes that the people at Wiki should "Stick to Wikipedia."

At the Editors Weblog, our opinion differs, especially because the wiki community is an aspect of citizens media that bloggers seem a bit eager to condemn before understanding its full potential. We don't understand their haste!

1) First of all, Wikipedia had the same problems at its launch, especially during the first six months, only achieving significant recognition after two or three years. Sure, at present, the difference between Wikinews' ambitions and the reality are quite significant. But like Wikipedia, Wikinews needs some more time to evolve.

2) In order to evolve, however, a few logistical problems must be worked out, mainly the site's user-friendliness. Here Waldman is totally right: it's not so easy to become a Wikinews provider! But again, that will come with time.

But, in fact, the real debate is more philosophical on what is news in the blogosphere and in the wikisphere:

3) It is obvious that Wikinews is making bloggers uneasy. They are on opposite ends of the information spectrum. Basically, blogs are defined by individual immediacy of emotion, with no fact-checking and no editor; simply read and react. The comments that follow a blog certainly add to the flavor, but do so in a manner that perpetuates opinion, thus resulting in a fragmented block of information. Wikis, on the other hand, provide for "collective intelligence", where the community fact-checks and corrects itself, and as Wales explained in the Editors Weblog last week, where "Every contributor can be an editor." The goal is to provide "neutral information", not biased personal opinion. This cooperative information gathering among a community results in one sole article, a combination of many writings into an integrated body. Just to say that the philosophy is different between wikis and postings!

4) We agree with Waldman when he says that Wikinews will never rival AP or Reuters, as loosely predicted in the project's mission statement. Maybe Wikinews will never evolve into an online newspaper (see Wales' interview), but surprisingly Wikinews works - or should work - as a real news organization. Wikinews acts as a kind of "virtual newsroom." In that sense, wiki journalism is closer to traditional journalism than blogs.

Wikinews presents the world with a new conception of information based on a noble principle that advances the cause of citizen journalism. We should be patient, allowing this principle time to take root and grow before suffocating it with criticism.

(a John and Bertrand wiki)

Source: SimonWaldman.net. See also a very good synthesis about Wikipedia in Wired

Posted by john burke on February 25, 2005 at 07:25 PM in a. Citizen journalism, c. Multimedia convergence, i. Future of print, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies | Permalink


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Unfortunately, I think WikiNews' problems are not so logistical as they are sociological.

If, for instance, there is a culture of "cyberautocracy" as characterised the IRC milieu in its days of decline, I believe it will end up driving away talented contributors (who are usually very pressed for time). On the net, it is often easy to forget that with or without the aid of technology, any the future of any organisation will be highly dependent upon human relations skills of its members. That includes admins, editors and users.

If I may be allowed to predict, I think this will be one of the major sources of concern for WikiNews.

Posted by: Hans at Jun 2, 2007 2:02:28 PM

"it's not so easy to become a Wikinews provider" - could you be more specific about the problems? I'm keen to make it as easy as possible - it's key to our success!

Posted by: Dan100 at Mar 5, 2005 11:16:59 AM

Thanks for your answer. Most of Simon post is relevant, though I fear it shows too much hastiness for a great concept... which needs to be slowly worked out. I tried to comment some of his suggestions (focus, editor in chief etc...) here : http://anthere.shaihome.net/index.php?p=51.

Still, my main argument in front of "but what is wikinews telling me that Reuters did not ?" is that Reuters (or google news or AFP etc...) does not give information in every language and with the same dedication for all cultures. The strength wikinews will show in the future (hopefully…) is that news will be in many languages, available to readers in their mother tongue, which they best understand.

The second strength of wikinews will be that news will not be written with a single cultural perspective, because participants are multicultural.

It seems to be frequent to fall in the trap to consider wikinews and wikipedia an english project written by english editors only. A trap Dan Pink also fell in in the last Wired article. I suggest providers of information should adopt a more global attitude.


Posted by: Florence Devouard at Mar 4, 2005 6:42:30 AM

Received today (on my mailbox) from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia:
"Wikinews is still supposed to have a beta logo, and I'm complaining constantly the last 12 hours that it does not. I expect the 'beta' logo to be reinstalled very soon.
This is a big problem, because it is *crucial* that people know that wikinews is not expected to be very good yet, not even by us."

Posted by: bertrand pecquerie at Mar 2, 2005 5:58:03 PM

I've also written a reply to Simon as part of my current "State of the Wiki" summary (click my name). Wikinews right now shows a potential more than a reality. But the potential is there.

Posted by: Erik Moeller at Feb 27, 2005 12:08:10 AM