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Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia

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How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique coll How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture. Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal Repository and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology—which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential. Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.


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How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique coll How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture. Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal Repository and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology—which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential. Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.

30 review for Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    If I was forming a Christian country rock band in 1972 I’m sure Good Faith Collaboration would have made the short list for possible band names. This book is about Wikipedia and is written in the crushingly dull style of the academic thesis. No jokes are allowed. If any elements of the author’s personality creep in, they are removed in the fourth draft. This makes it quite similar to the deliberately crushingly dull Wikipedia neutral-point-of-view style which is one of the holy trinity of Wiki r If I was forming a Christian country rock band in 1972 I’m sure Good Faith Collaboration would have made the short list for possible band names. This book is about Wikipedia and is written in the crushingly dull style of the academic thesis. No jokes are allowed. If any elements of the author’s personality creep in, they are removed in the fourth draft. This makes it quite similar to the deliberately crushingly dull Wikipedia neutral-point-of-view style which is one of the holy trinity of Wiki rules – the other two as you probably know are No Original Research and Verifiability, both of which might also be on the short list for Christian country rock band names in 1972. Five minutes of googling will provide you with several stories way more entertaining than anything in this book. For instance! In 2013 an editor created a sub-category of American Literature called American Female Novelists. The American female novelist Amanda Filipacchi quickly spotted this and saw that now there was one category called American Novelists and a sub-category called American Female Novelists. As there was no sub category called American Male Novelists, she concluded The intention seems to be to create a list of American Novelists on Wikipedia that is entirely made up of men The NY Times article about this was entitled Wikipedia’s Sexism Towards Female Novelists. Wikipedia editors read this attack on Wikipedia and engaged in a furious bout of “revenge editing” of Amanda Filipacchi’s own entry and also deleted entries on her novels, on the grounds that they were “overly self-promotional”. All edits, whether for revenge or not, are preserved in Wikipedia’s talk pages aspic forever, and these anti-Filipacchi edits could be seen as the work of one single editor. While Wiki articles themselves are allowed zero personality, the language used in the talk pages is anything but. When criticised, this revenge editor came back with Oh, by all means let’s be intimidated by the holy New York Times. Because when the New York Times tells you to shut up, you have to shut up. … she’s using this scandal in order to promote and revive her writing career, since she hasn’t been able to publish a book in eight years…. The bloody New York Times supposedly employs fact checkers but they have allowed this incompetent woman to libel Wikipedia not once but twice. They owe Wikipedia two separate retractions. … They are nothing better than a blog, a barrel of dog feces offered to the world as the “truth” He continued in this vein, saying that the NYT has a vested interest in undermining Wikipedia. After a couple of days this guy’s revenge editing had been reversed by other editors. This is very entertaining stuff, and it does illustrate why Good Faith Collaboration may be one of the dullest ever titles but it is the heart and soul of the Wiki project. Amanda Filipacchi assumed bad faith rather than idiocy when she saw female novelists being dumped into a sub-category. But it is true to say that in a very general cultural way, Wikipedia is actually biased. The editors are overwhelmingly the usual suspects – young white generally fairly geeky males. So they’re interested in what they’re interested in. Every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has its own entry. It’s just possible that the same amount of love and care isn’t lavished on African television shows. But I haven’t checked, that’s an assumption. Thinking about Wikipedia is thinking about thinking which is really hard. When you’re a kid you get a mirror and you stand in front of another mirror and you put the mirror you’re holding against your face and you see infinitely regressing images of yourself holding the mirror as each mirror mirrors the other mirror. It’s funny but also unnerving. Thinking about what is information, what is knowledge, what is true and why it’s true and why you believe this and not that is like infinitely regressing mirroring mirrors, but each one slightly distorting, and some mirrors distorting on purpose and others distorting because they didn’t realise they were doing it. During past conversations with my friend Aslam on the subject of evolution we quickly grind to a halt because although I completely accept Darwinian evolution I don’t know the first thing about the subject, and although he rejects evolution as regards human beings, he’s no Islamic scholar either, and all either of us can do is vaguely gesture towards a body of knowledge which we both have taken on good faith. What could possibly be so interesting about Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chunyang Ding

    Good Faith Collaboration is incredibly mediocre. A PhD thesis masquerading as a book, this dry tome doesn't provide much insight other than the basic ethnography that it claims to be. There is no life in the writing, and even the most interesting sections on the origin of open source and good faith are buried under mountains of rule minutia and interviews. I wanted to enjoy this book, but could not find the author's writing to match my interest in the topic. My main gripe with this manuscript is Good Faith Collaboration is incredibly mediocre. A PhD thesis masquerading as a book, this dry tome doesn't provide much insight other than the basic ethnography that it claims to be. There is no life in the writing, and even the most interesting sections on the origin of open source and good faith are buried under mountains of rule minutia and interviews. I wanted to enjoy this book, but could not find the author's writing to match my interest in the topic. My main gripe with this manuscript is not even particularly in its scope or style. Instead, the book itself doesn't seem to contribute any new knowledge in the way that it organizes information. Reagle seems to primarily rely on its sources - the Wikipedia policies, interviews, and timelines - to create knowledge, rather than organizing it into a cohesive narrative. Perhaps this was done to satisfy WP:NPOV, but it makes for a very bland book to digest. It seems like more than half of the book is describing what Wikipedia is, in terms of specific rules, policies, and norms of the group, without a real investigation for the effects of that culture. While Reagle includes many vignettes of individual wiki edit wars, they each stand in isolation, creating a disjointedness to the long book. Despite all this, I do admit that the book is a useful one. It presents quite a bit of information about the founding of Wikipedia, as well as some of its earlier arguments, that I had not understood before. It just feels like this could have been done so much more elegantly. Alas, beggars should not be choosers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric Phetteplace

    A good introduction to the issues surrounding Wikipedia backed by numerous citations to discussion on the wiki and a solid understanding of its historical context. As a librarian, I appreciated the references to precursors like Vannevar Bush and Paul Otlet. It's also amusing that famed curmudgeon (and former ALA president) Michael Gorman appears repeatedly as an antagonist. My biggest disappointment was that I was expecting some more quantitatively rigorous analysis; too many passages are backed A good introduction to the issues surrounding Wikipedia backed by numerous citations to discussion on the wiki and a solid understanding of its historical context. As a librarian, I appreciated the references to precursors like Vannevar Bush and Paul Otlet. It's also amusing that famed curmudgeon (and former ALA president) Michael Gorman appears repeatedly as an antagonist. My biggest disappointment was that I was expecting some more quantitatively rigorous analysis; too many passages are backed by cherry-picked quotes from Talk pages, not any statistically significant investigation into Wikipedia's culture. It's also worth noting that the book is almost exclusively about the English Wikipedia.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Seriously, this guy sounds like a raving fan-girl of all things Wiki. But for the most part, it was an interesting read. I had to read it for class, and was thankful I didn't get stuck reading a worse book. It was an easy read despite the fan-girl moments. Seriously, this guy sounds like a raving fan-girl of all things Wiki. But for the most part, it was an interesting read. I had to read it for class, and was thankful I didn't get stuck reading a worse book. It was an easy read despite the fan-girl moments.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Virtual ethnography of Wikipedia, enough said.

  6. 5 out of 5

    G

    Legal research doesn't count as reading. Good read, though! Legal research doesn't count as reading. Good read, though!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Davie

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  10. 4 out of 5

    Harriet M.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Renninger

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paolo Cordone

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Long

  14. 4 out of 5

    Parag Agrawal

  15. 4 out of 5

    Harald Groven

  16. 5 out of 5

    lizbeth galan gomez

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jonkerz

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doreva

  19. 5 out of 5

    cchan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  21. 5 out of 5

    paola benitez

  22. 4 out of 5

    Herdi Sularko

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Kim

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fari

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christian Lund

  26. 4 out of 5

    Zev Mydlarz

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pyang

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karyn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Miletus

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

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