Decline of Wikipedia / Goodreads & Book sellers playing the Moral Police

The Decline of Wikipedia By Tom Simonite on October 22, 2013


Very interesting article. If I think of other sites that are built on the backs of volunteers, like Goodreads, I see some interesting correlations. For instance, their volunteer workforce is also shrinking - at least for the moment. Keeping a database of books up to date, with so many new ones published daily, is a huge undertaking. Paying people to do that would quickly become very expensive. When I think of the people who built that database on their personal time, but then (I assume) never received any compensation from Otis after he got his multi-million dollar payout, I get sick to my stomach. I'm sure new librarians will step to replace those that have left. But I doubt the site will return to the amazing place it once was. More changes are coming in my opinion that will continue to restrict the reviewer.


Unfortunately, there aren't enough volunteers at Booklikes, which becomes obvious each time I look for a book I just read.  But I really have no desire to spend countless hours building the database over here.  I keep posting tweets and Facebook updates begging authors to please add their own books. (Hint Hint - spread the word please.)


I then started thinking about the issue of Amazon (and others) starting to remove or not accept books that they feel have unacceptable content.  Apparently, they have decided that they know what's good for us and want to "protect" us. This is wrong on so many levels. They are also a bunch of hypocrites. They have no issue selling sex. You can still get Playboy/Playgirl magazine there. They don't have an issue with objectifying people in that fashion. They also sell movies filled with sex and violence. But they are stopping authors from writing erotica that we enjoy reading. Why? If the material was so offensive, people wouldn't buy it. But if somebody writes a story, and somebody else wants to buy and read it, so be it. I hope the sites that don't play this censorship game grow substantially. Authors need sites that they can count on.


The article is very long, but here are some of the comments I found interesting. Spoilered to shorten.



I thought Goodreads could learn something from this:


"In their paper on those findings, the researchers suggest updating Wikipedia’s motto, “The encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” Their version reads: “The encyclopedia that anyone who understands the norms, socializes him or herself, dodges the impersonal wall of semi-automated rejection and still wants to voluntarily contribute his or her time and energy can edit.”"


The problem when too few run the show and they are close-minded.


"Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy."


"The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage."



More warnings for Goodreads and other sites that go down that road.  We can only hope that Booklikes never takes the same turn for the worst.


The project’s most active volunteers introduced a raft of new editing tools and bureaucratic procedures intended to combat the bad edits. They created software that allowed fellow editors to quickly survey recent changes and reject them or admonish their authors with a single mouse click. They set loose automated “bots” that could reverse any incorrectly formatted changes or those that were likely to be vandalism and dispatch warning messages to the offending editors.


The tough new measures worked. Vandalism was brought under control, and hoaxes and scandals became less common. Newly stabilized, and still growing in scope and quality, the encyclopedia became embedded in the firmament of the Web. Today the English Wikipedia has 4.4 million articles; there are 23.1 million more in 286 other languages. But those tougher rules and the more suspicious atmosphere that came along with them had an unintended consequence. Newcomers to Wikipedia making their first, tentative edits—and the inevitable mistakes—became less likely to stick around. Being steamrollered by the newly efficient, impersonal editing machine was no fun. The number of active editors on the English-language Wikipedia peaked in 2007 at more than 51,000 and has been declining ever since as the supply of new ones got choked off. This past summer only 31,000 people could be considered active editors.

(show spoiler)