Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dilution of Critical Mass

This post combines two of my passions, wikis and the LEGO hobby. But not exactly in a complimentary way. :)

"Everyone knows" that Wikipedia is a huge success, and one of the reasons commonly given is due to the large body of articles there, and the large community of interested editors. But it doesn't always come out that way.

LEGO is a natural topic area for a wiki, or so many believe, as there is a lot of information out there to share. (consider the vast number of topics discussed at LUGNET, and the 7000+ set listings available at Peeron.com) And yet, there isn't one wiki to discuss and share information the wiki way about this rich field.

Instead, there are many. Most, but not all, use MediaWiki software

  • Brickwiki, around since 2005 (full disclosure, I'm an admin there)
  • Brickipedia which is a Wikia wiki and seems to have been active since January 2006
  • Brickiwiki (note the one character name difference from Brickwiki, appears to have been started later, and uses Wetpaint wiki software)
These are all general interest. There are specialty wikis such as the LEGO Star Wars wiki (another Wikia wiki) as well.

Why so many? If you look at these wikis, you will find coverage gaps, topics that none of them adequately cover, as well as coverage overlaps, topics that have essentially the same material. None of them, apparently, have the critical mass to ensure vibrant growth. Some of these wikis have went days or even weeks between successive edits, not exactly what one would look for in an active wiki.

So wouldn't it make sense to combine forces? From the outside the answer would seem yes. And, it has been suggested. (as early as late 2005, in fact, and perhaps earlier) But nothing has ever come of it.

The answer why presumably can be found within human nature.
  • Better is the enemy of Good Enough. There is little or no incentive to change things if what you have works. And each of these wikis does have useful content and does have editors and does have readers. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • Actually combining these wikis would be a lot of work. Even the ones that are hosted on MediaWiki would require a lot more than just a dump and reenter, redundancies would need to be sorted, and categories reorganised, and so forth. Just tinkering around the edges is almost as satisfying, and far easier. And we're all too busy for such a large, focused task.
  • Big frog, little pond. Without casting aspersions on the founders/leaders of these wikis, who would be "in charge" after the merger? That seems an easy question but it has stood in the way of many larger and more critical mergers in the past.
So, probably, things will muddle along as they have. Too bad, really, because none of these wikis has critical mass. Me? I'm too busy too. Carping from the edges is about the best I can manage. Besides, there's all the Jimbo/Rachael Marsden drama to read about (or worse, get involved) in... (or whatever the current drama happens to be when you, dear reader, stumble on this)


Ted Godwin said...

Actually the real reason is ego. No one is willing to "concede" by seeing "their" wiki absorbed by another. The only way to do it would be to start fresh so that nobody "wins".

Lar said...

Perhaps. The issue of course is that Brickipedia is hosted on Wikia, which is a very reliable place to host wikis. A fresh start should also be on Wikia I suspect. Once you come to that conclusion it's hard to see why just changing Brickipedia might not seem attractive. I myself don't know what the proper thing to do is.

Lar said...

See also this blog

Adrian said...

Considering that BrickWiki is now dead, I'd say that Brickipedia has "won". That isn't important though, but what does annoy me is that the larger LEGO community seems unwilling to consider Brickipedia one of the fansites, like they did with BrickWiki. With over 14,000 pages and 100 active users, Brickipedia is one of the best reference sites for LEGO out there. Though, I am of course biased in saying this.