“Scepticism about Wikipedia’s basic viability made some sense back in 2001; there was no way to predict, even with the first rush of articles, that the rate of creation and the average quality would both remain high, but today those objections have taken on the flavor of the apocryphal farmer beholding his first giraffe and exclaiming, ‘Ain’t no such animal!’ Wikipedia’s utility for millions of users has been settled; the interesting questions are elsewhere.”
– Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, p.117
In my work on crowdsourcing, my advisors warn me to be careful of how I speak about Wikipedia around academics, because scholars are still divided on it. Clay Shirky’s quote perfectly encapsulates the situation: if it is clear that it works and that it works well, the question shouldn’t be “does it work?” Rather, we should be asking why it works. Kevin Kelly suggests that Wikipedia is “impossible in theory, but possible in practice“: shouldn’t we be tweaking our theories then? Perhaps then, the issue is that if an expert were to praise Wikipedia as reliable, they undermine society’s need for experts. Larry Sanger, creator/co-founder or Wikipedia, says no, but it’s certainly food for thought.