Patterico's Pontifications


Jarvis on the L.A. Times Wikitorials

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:20 am

Jeff Jarvis has some harsh words for L.A. Times editors regarding the wikitorial:

The LA Times didn’t understand what it was doing and made three criticial mistakes:

1. Collaboration vs. argument — I said this from the start: They didn’t get that wikis are a collaborative medium where, even when people disagree, they try to find common ground, knowing there can be only one outcome, or else the wiki will, by its very nature, fail. This is why I suggested having two wikis, instead — one pro, one con and let the best wiki win — and Jimbo Wales was starting to do that… but the trolls took over the forest first.

2. Care and feeding — All communities need attention. The Times should have gone to Jimbo and, he said today, he would have had a few good Wikipedians watch over their foray. You don’t build a town without cops. You don’t build a community site — a town online — without a clean-up crew, either. He also would have explained how to use wikis, since he knows. But the paper thought they knew best and this leads to be biggest mistake:

3. Newspaper ego — Here is the Times’ worst mistake and its most predictable: They think everything is about them. I’ve sat in meetings with newspaper editors who earnestly think that the best use of internet interactivity is to let the people talk about what they have written, to discuss them, to keep them in the spotlight they built for themselves. There is no bigger institutional ego than a newspaper’s. Presidents and popes get humbled more often than editors. Well, at least they used to.

No, guys, the best use of a wiki would have been to have the public create wikis to share their knowledge and viewpoints with you. I don’t know what the big issues are in LA, but here in New York, it might work better just to open the gates to watch people create pro and con wikis on the Olympics and a new Manhattan stadium and 10 ways to improve the schools….

Good points all. But I think Jarvis’s bottom line is still the same as mine — no matter the quibbles we may have with the way the paper chose to interact, this is still a positive first step that should continue:

Let me be clear: I hope the LA Times gets back on the bike and rides again. I salute them for the effort; the heart is in the right place. But I would hate to see one misstep cancel the race … for the LA Times and for other newspapers, all of whom need to learn how to listen.

I agree wholeheartedly.

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