Thursday, February 10, 2005

Emergent or Structured Reputation: Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia

Jerry Michalski of Sociate shared a snippet from a presentation by Jimmy Wales at Standford this week:
"Among other things, he drew a great distinction between two ways of looking at what makes Wikipedia work.

* If it's an emergent phenomenon, merely the product of people trying to work together, none of whom are particularly significant, then it probably needs an explicit reputation system like eBay's.
* If it's a community at work, where some members are powerful and should be respected, then reputation is just a natural outcome of everyone's interactions and needs no explicit subsystem.

Jimmy believes the second perspective fits Wikipedia best."
Jerry agrees. I agree. How about you?


Blogger Edward Vielmetti said...

My use of Wikipedia is casual enough that I don't notice as much who the contributors are as much as whether the contributions are sensible. That would argue for a reputation system at the page-level, not at the line-edit level.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Bill Anderson said...

Power and respect are strong words, and perhaps are well chosen. But I worry about a community that characterizes itself as having "powerful" members that "should be respected." Are the other community members then weak, and not deserving of respect?

I know this isn't what is meant, but the concept of reputation, and how it works out in practice, isn't as clear cut as we often assume it to be. At least it isn't for me.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Paul B Hartzog said...

Jimmy's comments on this topic are the result of a conversation he and I had on February 9, before his Stanford lecture. As the co-designer of the class, I also gave a lecture there, and I maintain the class website at

I made the point to Jimmy that wikipedia could be improved by being able to rank the pages, contributors, etc. Jimmy seems to have misunderstood the concept.

Jimmy uses "reputation management" to refer specifically to rankings of people, not items. I was using the term to refer to ranking anything: pages, links, persons, etc.

Something as simple as page hits can be a ranking. Ranking systems allow for emergent properties: the popular stuff climbs to the top, the unpopular stuff sinks to the bottom. The advantage in a wiki with ranking systems is that you could rank what was "good" TO YOU as well as seeing what was considered "good" by other individuals or by the collective wisdom of the wiki.

8:11 PM  

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