Avoiding Tragedy in the Wiki-Commons
23 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2007
Date Written: March 19, 2007
For some reason, thousands of volunteers contribute to Wikipedia, with no expectation of remuneration or direct credit, with the constant risk of their work being altered. As a voluntary public good, it seems that Wikipedia ought to face a problem of non-contribution. Yet, this Article argues that like much of the Open Source Movement, Wikipedia overcomes this problem by locking-in a core group of dedicated volunteers who are motivated by a desire to join and gain status within the Wikipedia community.
Yet, undesirable contribution is just as significant a risk to Wikipedia as under-contribution. Bad informational inputs, including vandalism and anti-intellectualism, put the project at risk, because Wikipedia requires a degree of credibility to maintain its lock-in effect. At the same time, Wikipedia is so dependent on the work of its core community, that governance strategies to exclude bad inputs must be delicately undertaken. Therefore, this Article argues that to maximize useful participation, Wikipedia must carefully combat harmful inputs while preserving the zeal of its core-community, as failure to do either may result in tragedy.
Keywords: Wikipedia, public good, volunteer
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