Mary Beth sent me a link to a piece on NPR about wikis that aired on Monday. The commentary (by David Weinberger) was good and got to the heart of why wikis are so interesting. Here’s the blurb from the NPR site:
It might sound a little crazy, letting just anyone write whatever they want on your Web site. But that’s just what Wikis are designed for. Wikipedia.org, for example, lets the public collaborate to build a surprisingly accurate encyclopedia. Commentator David Weinberger says wikis are one example of “social software,” intended to allow people to work together with ease.
I wanted to blog the piece, but in situations like this I like to check blogdex and see if all the kids are doing the same thing. I’ll hesitate before I post something that absolutely everybody else is picking up on. For instance, if a big-name print journalist writes a disparaging piece about blogging, you can be sure that thousands of blogs will dissect it the next day. But I didn’t find any comments about the wiki commentary on blogdex. This is instructive in itself. Blogs are bound up with their owners’ egos, whereas wikis are anonymous averages of multiple viewpoints. People don’t get worked up about wiki press coverage the way they do about blog press coverage.
Matt pointed me to an excellent piece of some commentary on this very point by Clay Shirky at Corante (a recent discovery). The gist of it, as Shirky says, is this: “Though both weblogs and wikis support conversational patterns, weblogs are ‘conversation as published comments’ while wikis are ‘conversation as shared editing.’ Weblogs tend towards polarized or divergent views, while wikis tend towards convergent ones.”