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Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Tricky Wiki

It's been a bit quiet here at the House of Commons recently. Housemates Ben and Abi are both away and I've been spending my days under piles of books and articles by Lessig, Benkler, Boyle and Samuelson, writing up my thesis. This means I've been dedicating a lot of time reading the ultimate public domain scholarship, "Tales from the Public Domain: BOUND BY LAW?" by Boyle, Aoki and Jenkins. Find it here...if you've never seen this before, it's definitely worth a look.

It's a given that any thesis on the commons has to mention Wikipedia, so I've been spending a lot of time there, too. So when UIP associate Roger Clarke sent through to us at the House of Commons an article asking whether 2007 was going to be the "year of the expert wiki", I had to take a look. Find it here.

The article's author, Nate Anderson, points out that there's been a lot of debate over the reliability of Wikipedia in recent months and two new projects, Citizendium and Scholarpedia, seek to combat any reliability controversy by using teams of experts to polish up content (although Citizendium is quick to state on it's main page that it's "expert-led", not "expert-only".) Some readers will be familiar with Roger Clarke's post on Citizendium vs. Wikipedia last year, and Larry Sanger's response. The main pages for both Citizendium and Scholarpedia are worth a look at and it becomes very apparent that there are some big differences between the two.

Anderson also briefly discusses WikiLeaks, which, if you are unfamiliar this wiki, aims to "develop an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leasing and analysis." A brief read of the WikiLeaks front page shows that this group means business. The WikiLeaks group will probably be following the pending Electronic Frontier Foundation/Eli Lilly litigation. The EFF is currently defending the "First Amendment rights of a citizen-journalist" who linked from a wiki to internal Eli Lilly company documents concering a prescription drug. (See more here and Lessig's brief post here.)

Update: See the Freedom to Differ post about Wikiseek, a new search engine company, here. I can't keep track of all this wiki news...

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