Isn’t the internet just great. It really is a power-to-the-people tool that allows Joe Soap to get a word in edgeways.
The so-called web 2.0 tools are easy to use and often free meaning that anyone with a laptop and a web connection can partake, and partake we do. A side-effect is that big corporate institutions don’t hold as much sway as they used to. Now we en-masse have the tools to say ‘hang on a minute…’.
A number of years when I was first introduced to Wikis, I thought they were a great idea in theory but too clumsy and awkward to use to take off. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Here’s an example…
At the end of January, the UK Gov published “Digital Britain“, a plan of how they are going to ensure that the UK is a big player in the global digital economy. Fair enough.
However many people weren’t so keen on it and figured they could do a better job themselves. In the offline world this would have required an investment of time devoted to sheer logistics and phone calls as well as the putting together of their actual report. But a Wiki allows them to do it much more easily and effectively. Their work in progress can be found here.
Not being a Brit I wouldn’t feel right doing a compare and contrast. I just want to say that this is a really great example of what Wikis can be used for as well as allowing citizens a say in Digital Britain. Curious that there is a Gov-run forum inviting any interested and individuals to discuss the issues relating to Digital Britain. I wonder how many of the Wiki people joined in.
… join ’em.
And that’s what Encyclopaedia Britannica have done – sort of.
The competition in the form of Wikipedia have had much success (yes, I know, I remember the sabotage examples too – but they seem to have overcome them) and has people flocking to their site in droves. Ask any 20-year old what Encyclopedia Britannica is and you very well might get blank stares. Wikipedia allows Joe Soap to contribute to it, and so Joe Soap knows all about it and its among his first choices when looking for information on whatever topic.
Britannica aren’t quite going the Wikipedia way of embracing the crowd for its contents. They are retaining the emphasis on the domain experts (ok, there is some UGC but it seems to be downplayed). One wonders how much an Encyclopedia Britannica expert gets paid. The cost adds to the cost of the final product. Wikipedia have discovered that people are more than willing to give away their expertise for free. This has a double plus – allowing the end product to be freely available and so more accessible to the those who want to peruse it. Also, there is the the associated status. Having contributed to a working and accepting page of a well-travelled site is a badge of merit worn with pride – and we all know how pervasive online viral marketing can be.
I am curious about the “web-based tools that visitors can use to put together their own reference materials”. That might be interesting. Interesting enough to pay for….. perhaps, or perhaps not.