Wikipedia is like “egalitarian chaos”. Recently for work I have been asked to help make an article and do some edits … it’s such a pain in the butt. Editing Wikipedia is such a totally different experience from reading it.
First, for editing there’s a whole another markup language you have to learn. It looks a lot like PhpBB code if you are familiar with that from earlier ages of the internet. At least simple Wikipedia edits can be done anonymously from anyone even without an account (they just record your IP address).
Creating a new article is a pain in the butt too … There’s a bunch of caveats to make sure everything is unbiased, super “free”, and fair use. I used the article wizard, but it took too long to read through. I just wanted to put up an article and see it there right away. But submitting took a long time and for a while I wasn’t quite sure whether I submitted it or not.
My guess is that Wikipedia decided not only to have massively distributed authors, but to extend the distributed mantra on a meta-level to include administration. So therefore every mildly-educated person has their own idea about what Wikipedia is or isn’t. My (decidedly uninformed) belief is that there is no central editor who decides the goal of Wikipedia. So therefore on a meta level the submission process along with the community gets laden down with everyone’s thoughts like an overloaded Christmas tree.
There is still a lot to be done on the PM/UI side to bring the article creation process up to Web 2.0 design standards and look as flush and beautiful as Google apps or Outlook Online. The way it is now it looks like a PM’s worst nightmare … most of the information I would reogranize and pare down to make it less cluttered.
WordPress has a very good interface on the backend … and isn’t Wikipedia just the same kind of thing, just a really big CMS??? I imagine that the parent Wikimedia foundation is too busy fighting legal battles, fundraising, or evangelizing their socialist-unbiased “open-source free software” agenda to worry about product development.
Reading wikipedia with different skins … only the ‘Vector’ skin looks pretty. Others look butt-ugly. I have never read it on a smart phone, but I imagine that the bare minimalist style on it looks good and functions well.
Reading Wikipedia it is easy enough. I always use it as a first resource when I am looking for something new. But now I’ve come to realize that it is only what people put in there. It can still be quite biased and incomplete on the edges.
It is somewhat surprising when you realize that the things you use everyday are not perfect … Wikipedia articles only show partial information, Google apps sometimes break (or you get mad at Google), or you can’t find that one piece of information about organic chem on the google search … so you have to visit a store, read the newspaper, find that textbook, or do more research on your own. With regards to search, people SEO their sites too — sometimes good, sometimes unethically. I mean, I knew beforehand that Wikipedia and Google were not perfect. But that was only a superficial level. Now I am slowly starting to realize that on a deeper level.
Actually I dread the day when my Google account gets hacked into. Or when gmail becomes “uncool” and I have to sign up for some other site or buy some other gadget.