Monday, April 21, 2008

quality open source threatens existing elites

sorry to harp on just a litle more. but last week there was some kind of media coverage in the netherlands on wikipedia. the strange thing was that it was largely negative publicity, allegedly stemming from questionable quality, as determined by `experts'.

i'm actually quite in favour of recognizing expertise. as a visual artist, i'm confronted an awful lot with people who do not recognize even the occasional need for expertise - let alone the expertise itself.

however, ever since i discovered wikipedia, i have been very enthusiastic about it (notwithstanding that in certain (limited!)areas of my own knowledge i can see it does leave room for improvement, but this is the case for any subject that one knows more than the superficial about).

one can look up all the arts and their artists - even contemporary-animals, history, science, well, actually it is staggering what wikipedia contains and it is MUCH more effective than the paper encyclopedias in terms of spreading of knowledge. it is open source, rendered freely by individuals who like to contribute to this spreading of knowledge.

in most (99%) cases i find the quality of the articles very very high. especially considering that anyone can change articles, so `vandalism' also has to be corrected. it proves to me that this community-like building does really work. rather than saying that therefore we don't need experts anylonger, i would think: experts, please join the effort and share your knowledge on wikipedia.

this can be difficult at times however, since how to recognize the expertise of the one and the non-expertise of the other? (this is a problem in all the sciences as well - usually resolved by peer reviews (of articles), which also mostly are anonymous, also for obvious reasons but since the authors of articles are not anonymous, this can give strange effects.)

so wikipedia struggles with the same problem that google struggles with, and the arts, and the sciences: quality. i remember from long ago that i was absolutely charmed by robert m pirsigs book zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. (please read these linked articles from .... wikipedia. isn't it absolutely marvelous that i can immediately refer you to a good source describing what i mean? i read the book three times, and reading the wikipedia article i see that it doesn't cover the book as well as it could, but it doesn't do it injustice either.)

robert m. pirsig, philosopher of quality

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
robert m. pirsig, zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance

however, i also remember finding pirsigs concept of quality ... vague in its definition. but the very fact that he devoted his thinking to its importance was what touched me and still touches me. stuff for the next post.

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