Tag Archives: collaboration

Weekly Blog # 8 Wikipedia: Can we trust it when it comes to..

It is not a secret  for  anyone that Twitter has surpassed mainstream media as the place for discovering breaking news. But I was surprised when I heard during one of my classes in Social Media that Wikipedia, just like Twitter, has also been used by many as a primary source of breaking news.

For example, I looked at the article about the 2005 London bombings. It was pretty impressive that it had taken minutes after the event for a volunteer to start a page on the events. Many others followed suit shortly afterwords. For the next 24 hours, more than 70 people have reported on the event and it had the most comprehensive user-generated coverage available out there, one that a traditional media outlet could not possibly prepare for the same amount of time.

There are only so many places a reporter can be and so many people he can talk to. This example makes me realize the real power of crowdsourcing and collaborative action. As I expresses in my last post, to me the process of creating a page on Wikipedia resembles a  group of people playing with a puzzle, and putting together pieces of information from various locations in one place. Same thing with breaking news on Wikipedia. It’s also impressive that when somebody puts a piece of the puzzle on the wrong place, it is immediately corrected by another group member.   Intentionally or not, mistakes are made in any given entry, but they are immediately caught and repaired by others. This is especially true when it comes to events unfolding in real time when there are so many eyes on that particular entry.

The entries on so many other breaking news events prove this point, the last one being the bombings on the Moscow Metro a few days ago. On the day of the attacks more the page has been edited more than 250 times.

The speed with which articles on breaking news are created and developed is absolutely astonishing. I was also surprised to hear that there is a group of people, devoted so much to creating Wikipedia content, that probably at the moment big news breaks, they stop whatever they’re doing to start a project and maintain its quality, by that I mostly mean cases of vandalism and filtering of all the opinion out.

Traditional media also gets things wrong sometimes, but somehow it is more accepted when they do that than a Wikipedia page. We are more inclined to trust traditional media and blogs, rather than a carefully tailored Wikipedia article. This post, gives more reasons why we should trust Wikipedia.

Google’s vice president Marissa Mayer in her testimony to Congress in May, 2009 on the future of  journalism, argues that:

Today, in online news, publishers frequently publish several articles on the same topic, sometimes with identical or closely related content, each at their own URL. The result is parallel Web pages that compete against each other in terms of authority, and in terms of placement in links and search results.

Consider instead how the authoritativeness of news articles might grow if an evolving story were published under a permanent, single URL as a living, changing, updating entity. We see this practice today in Wikipedia’s entries and in the topic pages at NYTimes.com. The result is a single authoritative page with a consistent reference point that gains clout and a following of users over time.”

Having all the above in consideration, my previous position that Wikipedia can be a trusted source of information, has only been reaffirmed. Of course, one always has to leave a place for some doubt whatever he the source is, but I can just say that I will also head to Wikipedia next time when important news breaks.


Weekly Blog # 7: Who cares if an article on asphalt exists? Cdani does (Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody)

I will start with a quote by Jimmy Whales, the founder of Wikipedia, during a 2005 TED talk: “:The type of people who were drawn to write an encyclopedia for fun, tend to be some smart people” which in my opinion answers the question if we should trust Wikipedia.

Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has become one of the top 10 used websites, the content of which is viewed and enjoyed by all of us. It’s radical idea of collaboration, of course, is surrounded by lots of controversy. The most common questions asked is: Can we trust it and how much? Does it represent truth or truthiness?

Up to date, there is no philosophical agreement on what exactly constitutes truth and there are multiple theories that examine the concept. In this case, the most common concern is based on the assumption that “truth” in Wikipedia can be just a matter of personal opinion? And personal opinion and views do not determine reality. Therefore, the truth is Wikipedia is questionable.

In that note, I liked the comparison that Jimmy Whales and another classmate make with blogging. Blogs in comparison to journalism do not report, but represent the truth in subjective ways, through the eyes of the writer. Does this mean that we should not trust them at all?

I agree that we should not blindly trust Wikipedia’s entirely user-generated content, like in the case with John Seigenthaler, however we should not make extreme conclusions that it is not a reliable source of information. This study shows that Britanica and Wikipedia are almost equal in accuracy. After all, if Wikipedia was not volunteer-generated, it would not exist and serve us a as such a quick and convenient way of reference; Nupedia did not survive.

The other question that I think links to truthfulness, and what Jimmy Whales explains to control the quality and accuracy of information, is Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy which volunteers respect and stick to. It they do not, their edits will be deleted. It is the social concept of cooperation and impartiality that drives people to create content and put together the little pieces of an endless puzzle, which I find to be a very fascinating phenomenon. This is how it maintains objectivity. Not to mention the fact that the handful of people who constantly create and maintain Wikipedia’s content are experts in their own areas.

The idea of collaboration, brings me back to Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody” and the question he asks in it: “ Who cares if there is an article on asphalt? Cdani does” . The idea is that as long as there are people who care about a certain article, they will maintain its accuracy and protect it from vandalism, sticking to the idea of neutrality. Of course vandalism exists, but it does not last long due to Wikipedia’s self-healing nature.

This movie,  called “The Truth about Wikipedia” by dutch filmmaker, IJsbrand van Veelen, represents a different point of view which denies the trustworthiness of Wikipedia and argues that there should be gatekeepers of the truth.

Contraversy will always exist. I myself, do not trust Wikipedia entirely, but it is the source of information that is always handy and gives me knowledge on every single topic that I gave searched so far. For a deeper research however, of course, it will not be my primary source.

Weekly Blog#4:Photography and Social Networking

A field that I am very interested in but haven’t quite fully explored is photography. I got into it a couple of years ago and I started building a collection of hard cover photography compilations such as the National Geographic’s and LIFE Magazine’s series, as well all sorts of photography guides for digital, black and white photography, portrait photography, etc. Last summer, right before my trip to Europe, I bought a new digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera. I was thrilled and already thinking about all the cool shots I was going to take. The challenging part was learning to use the camera properly and that wasn’t a one day process, but rather a serious time commitment and a lot, a lot of practice and experimentation. Digital cameras are sophisticated bits of technology. I read the manual on the plane but ended up using the AUTO feature in most cases..

 Recently, I decided to take a step further and explore some social networking sites with a focus on photography. I wanted to find out what kind of information they can give to their members in terms of advice, experience, and guidance. Flickr is the most popular photo-sharing social network after Facebook and was the first one I started exploring.  It  is an amazing social platform allowing collaboration between professional photographers, amateurs, and people who are just willing to share moments with the people who matter for them. 

 Until recently, I have only used Flickr as an observer, periodically performing searches and checking out good shots. This time I decided to join a couple of Flickr groups. It was hard to choose from all the 14 000 groups that came out as a result when I typed the words “Nikon Digital” in the search box.  I narrowed down my search by typing the camera’s model – more than 9000 groups came up. My final attempt to narrow down the results was to type my location –  I still had a choice from over a thousand groups. I was really impressed by number and diversity of all these groups. You could chose from more general categories such as black & white photography and portrait photography, to very specific ones, such as photos taken at live concerts, or photos of street clocks. I already spoke about the Long Tail in a previous post and think that this is yet another perfect example of such…The niche groups that serve very specific interests, and therefore have less members, comprise the biggest percentage of all existing groups. And vice-versa, the more general categories such as landscapes, for example, have much more members but at the same time make up a small percentage of all existing groups.

 Finally, I chose a group: “Nikon Shooters for All Levels”. 


I was impressed by the level of collaboration by its members. The vision of the group’s creator was that we can all learn from each other no matter our level of proficiency. This is exactly where I wanted to belong – a small group (300 members), but closely tied together.  I already learned how certain photos were taken and how certain effects were achieved. And as a matter of fact, I just heard back from another group whose work I really enjoyed looking at, and who ironically, as myself, has also mastered in public relations.  I am going to share some of his photos  here. The following photos are taken by Etaway  (Flickr username):









       National Geographic’s My Shot is another leading photo-sharing social platform. In a way it is quite similar to Flickr, but in addition to the features they have in common, My Shot has ready to download wallpapers, puzzles, and games.  National Geographic has found creative way to engage with its audiences and by that demonstrates that it understands and implies the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto, aka “Markets are Conversations”.  

 None of these conversations and collaboration would exist in a pre-web era. I wouldn’t know things that I know now and keep learning by being a member of these communities. We would all still wait to get  printed copies of the photos taken at the party, and in fact we wouldn’t see them ever.

Personal Blog #2 Social Marketing, Social Media and Social Change

Social marketing is an area I became interested in during the course of my master’s program, and more so after completing a class with a concentration on the effective use of communications for development. A significant part of it was dedicated to analyzing and creating cogent strategies for behavior change, capacity building, and raising awareness regarding social, economic, and political issues. Although social marketing, communications for development, and advocacy communications differ from each other, but at the same time often hard for many to tell apart, they are united by a common objective, that is social change.

In this regard, my interest expands to using social media for social impact. Social media is a powerful, what Chris Anderson refers to, “democratization” of tools which encouraged the use of more sophisticated and participatory approaches by businesses, non-profits, commercial and social marketers. It has  given the crowd precious platforms to exercise its power: in this context, everyone working towards the goal of making the world a better place.

Collective action has formulations and theories in many areas of the social sciences. In this note I must say that, I really enjoyed reading the book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky which is a deep and engaging insight of how technology bolsters collaboration and crowd-souring.
The two examples that stood out the most for me are: the Belorussian protesters using LiveJournal to organize flash mobs to boycott Lukashenko’s government, and Wikipedia which Chris Anderson compares to a “live organism having the ability to heal itself”, thus referring to the collaborator’s immediate actions towards any form of vandalism. Besides these examples, I wanted to give a couple more on how technology has allowed other great projects to become reality due to a group’s collective activism.

One definitely worth mentioning is TED and its ambitious initiative to translate TEDTalks into different languages. TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading ideas globally, its logo – “Ideas Worth Spreading”. From its beginning as a conference in 1984 it invites the world’s most influential thinkers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). Later TED made all these talks available on Ted.com, making it a powerful platform for collaboration and sharing ideas to a global audience. They cover multiple topics from science technology, food, poetry to origami. TED’s Open-Translation Project launched with 300 translations in 40 languages and 200 volunteer translators. In the beginning, talks were translated professionally into 20 languages, but going on and up to this date, the project is completely reliant on volunteers who were able to do it themselves using the open-source platform they were provided. At the moment the talks are available on 70 Languages, with 2050 translators involved, and 4994 translations. Through the lens of the Long Tail one can argue that TED has one, too. The top left part being the hit talks (Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, etc.), and on the bottom right – niche interests such as bacteria, submarines, and apes.

Another great example of civil action is Earthtour.org which using social media encouraged close to 5000 cities in 88 countries in 2009 to participate in the Earth Hour which is ten times more the number of participants in 2008. Earthhour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change.

For more examples, you can check out the Blueprints report available on thinksocial.org which highlights the most innovative and effective use of social media and the public interest.