This is a sort-of half-baked notion that may have some flame war started somewhere on the net, but I can’t resist.
The combination of a noble call for better Wikipedia articles in a specific subject with a recent example of someone blogging to correct his own entry makes me fantasize: what if individuals wrote blog-like entries that were, in effect, articles like those on Wikipedia?
Why not just create an HTML page or contribute to Wikipedia? As far as contributing to Wikipedia, don’t get me wrong: I think that’s great. But as outlined in linked “noble call”, there are some legitimate issues–most notably that of authorship. Blogging allows one to retain authorship and control but, unlike HTML, it facilitates commenting and allows RSSee updates to interested readers and contributors.
In the second link, the creator of Bittorent is correcting his own Wikipedia entry. This makes sense at some level for the sake of clarification and posterity. There’s no guarantee that if he edits his own entry (say anonymously), the changes will persist, and it may not be appealing to constantly keep watch of minor changes to articles either.
In the days of web one point yore (say before Wikipedia and Wolfram’s Math/Physics pages), if I Googled “Maxwell’s equations”, any page put up by some schmuck like me would probably be dicey at best. But now, I can just feel lucky and get some pretty decent information from Wikipedia.
But due to the number of people editing the entry, there is a certain lack of authorship and potentially unwillingness to even contribute in the first place.
These days, we see lots of academic bloggers posting their lecture notes on specific topics online (some even making the lecture notes themselves posts rather than linking to PDFs), so parts of me feel like we’re already seeing this kind of behavior, though lectures tend to be less encyclopedic.
The thing I like about this approach is that it’s decentralized and personable in the sense that we can use the fact that we trust/value certain people’s discourse more than others to our advantage. Potential downsides: (1) we’re that much more reliant on a YourFavoriteArticleRank algorithm to rank the articles for us (for example, when you link to another article, do you link to your favorite one? the top-ranked one? eh hem, Wikipedia?), (2) more people/groups would need to get blogs, and (3) the notion of a “collaborative article” is substituted with a “first author” (the writer of the post) and “contributers” (commenters). But those concerns don’t seem that dire.