19 December 2005

Will Wikipedia Fork?

That's the first thought that sprung to my mind when I read that something called rather grandly Digital Universe is to be launched early next year.

Digital Universe is of interest for two reasons. First, it seems to be a kind Wikipedia plus vetting - precisely the kind of thing many have been calling for in the wake of Wikipedia's recent contretemps. The other reason the move is worth noting is that one of the people behind Digital Universe is Larry Sanger, who is usually described as the co-founder of Wikipedia, though the other co-founder, Jimmy Wales, seems to dispute this.

Sanger left Wikipedia in part, apparently, because he was unhappy with the wiki way of working and its results. Digital Universe is not a wiki, so from next year it should be possible to compare two very different approaches to generating large-scale bodies of knowledge from public input.

This is what made me wonder about whether we might see some kind of Wikipedia fork - which is where software development splits into two camps that go their separate ways. There must be many within the Wikipedia community who would prefer something a little more structured than the current Wikipedia: the question is, Will they now jump ship and help build up Digital Universe, or will the latter simply recapitulate the history of Nupedia, Wikipedia's long-forgotten predecessor?


Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about a Wikipedia Fork recently.

Wikipedia is amazing, and i don't want to put down the project in any way.

But to me i don't understand why they havn't started recruiting editors for major articals.

There are plenty of people out there with masters and PHd's that i am sure would be willing to sign up for something like that.

My personal idea is to have a joint wikipedia/yahoo answers type thing.

You would have the normal artical, then a place to post questions that vetted people would then answer.

Oh well, i guess someone else beat me to the forking of wikipedia, maybe next time.

Glyn Moody said...

This seems to be a matter of culture: the main people behind Wikipedia believe strongly that it is better without editors.

But certainly, the experience of other open projects suggests a more hierarchical approach might help.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard of Digital Universe and thought for a moment that Sanger's Citizendium had been renamed.

Here's Andrew Orlowski at The Register on Citizendium as a Wikipedia fork and Clay Shirky had a couple of very interesting posts about the subject here and more in depth here.

(Corante is unfortunately down at the moment, but I'd highly recommend checking back. I think in the first article, Shirky points to a counterpoint by Sanger.)

Anonymous said...

Oops! This post showed up in my feed reader as a new post and I replied without noticing it is a year old. It seemed strange that you wouldn't have mentioned Citizendium and now I see why. I should realize you're more current than that!

In any case, if you haven't read the Shirky articles, I still highly recommend them. :-)

Glyn Moody said...

Sorry about the spring cleaning at Christmas....

Thanks for the links anyway.