subversive gardening, or why wikis?

A metaphor for wiki understanding: the community garden. If you’vbe got a little time to do some reading today, I’d dive into Luke’s article about Ranganathan, gardening and Wikipedia.

…there is no monolithic point of view, there is no monopoly on truth. From a critical perspective, if the object lesson centers around a Wikipedia article as the participants negotiate and carefully choose language to approximate NPOV (the Wikipedian “neutral point of view”), it’s going to be a pretty effective lesson, which will teach above all that no source — not even Wikipedia — should be taken on its own in constructing meaning. If, on the other hand, the questioning student is handed a Britannica article — equally anonymous but somehow anointed with some magical pixie-dust librarians call “authority” but fail to satisfactorily explain to anyone outside the profession — the lesson will fail (again, from a critical pedagogical perspective, at least).

delightful wikipedia timewaster/tool

Steven points me to the live recent changes feed for Wikipedia. This is sort of a neat way to look at how dynamic the project it [good news and bad news to librarians, I know] but also to get a ton of examples, an overview if you will, of what a good update looks like, or what all these updates are doing. You see logged in users, annotated changes, links to more information, and nonsense pages deleted so fast it can make your head spin. Fascinating.

wikipedia for librarians

Jenny had a frustrating time recently trying to figure out why edits she made to the “anyone can edit it!” Wikipedia were speedily deleted. Since I had been around the Wikipedia block a bit, I understood both sides to the problem: community sites don’t behave like vendor/reference sites, and Wikipedia doesn’t have the most robust feedback loops for explaining their processes. If anyone has been following this specific issue [which was resolved later] or this issue generally, you might be interested in a Wikipedia Project which includes, Introduction to Wikipedia Culture for Librarians. It’s still very much in process, but note the focus on inclusivity and appeal over brute “this is how it is” FAQs.

Main point: we can’t expect anyone to be impressed by an approach that boils down to “stand back, I’m a librarian, I’m trained to handle this”. Our success will depend on our power to persuade, to come up with better ideas and to defend them.

[thanks sammy]

hi – 22apr

Hi and happy Earth Day. I’ll be heading down to Boston to speak at Simmons this Monday evening and then I think I’ll extend my stay to see Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikepedia, speak at Harvard Tuesday evening. I’ve been delving more and more into the Wikipedia world lately, lending a hand updating some of the Vermont town pages and uploading some public domain images to illustrate some of those pages.

The debate we’ve seen happening over the authority, or lack thereof, of collaborative information systems such as Wikipedia is just scratching the surface of the debates we’ll be seeing in the years to come. Librarians ignore Wikipedia, and by extension the new face of information, at their peril. Keep in mind I’m not saying that we all have to run to the Internet to answer our questions, just that if we fail to see the impact these systems are having, and the openness and transparency they bring with them, then we fail to learn something crucial about the downsides to the inflexible authority of print. Downsides that people have been living with and taking as a given all these years, and now may no longer have to.