Wikipedia is giving raise to interesting copycats:
- Larousse, a French dictionary and Encyclopedia publisher, unveils a competitor to Wikipedia. The idea: presenting Larousse encyclopedia immutable content side-by-side with non-anonymous, private user contributions (others can annotate and vote but not modify)
- Google will soon make available to the public yet another Wikipedia rival called Knol. Knol is akin to Wikipdia but here too with non-anonymous authoritative contributors. Articles will be ranked using Google Pagerank.
Larousse and Google are both playing on the one thing that is known mattering to people even more than money: reputation.
Larousse uses it to foster a quality content that will attract people and expose its brand while Google is seeking to extend its commercial real-estate by providing Ad-sensible new quality content.
Both companies are betting on authority and competition to tap into the resources of the crowd. In short they are betting on competition against cooperation, on Digg against Wikipedia,
Argument of authority: If I'm an Ivy league professor, I might not be willing (or capable) to explain in simple terms the endeavors of my field and even if I am, I might represent only one chapel among many.
On the other side of the scale, many parents raising children with rare diseases or disabilities know infinitely more on the subject than most MDs. Yet, since we are all but social primates, the glory of degrees is going to outshine real life experiences every single time.
Darwinian selection: This is silly: I can already picture people voting or linking to popular pseudo-scientific theories. Competition is good but cooperation is even better. Want a proof?
A much better idea for an Encyclopedia would be to offer (in a wikipedia format) twice their content once to be displayed and once to be improved by the crowd just like Wikipedia.
Original articles would fade away over time but the original article would disappear when -and only when- its ranking is lower than that of the crowd article.
If on top of that the ranking is given by Google then I'm pretty sure it would be a killer. In addition, Google would benefit from having quality real-estate for their ads right from the beginning.
Maybe Google could bootstrap things by purchasing Britannica content from 10 years ago?