Developing Sites & The Wikipedia Factor

While at work last week a co-worker and I were talking about testicular torsion and wondering what it was exactly and how it could happen. Two gals with inquiring minds. Don’t Ask.

She loaded a search engine page and start searching for answers. After watching her go through the first few results and getting some info, I asked her to type wikipedia.org and do a search for it within wikipedia.

We immediately found the exact result we wanted and with more information on that one page than we had clicking on a few results in Google. Bonus! We didn’t have to dodge popups or dig through mega blocks of adsense to get to the content :P.

A few years ago I helped develop the ‘use search engines for answers’ habit with my co-workers. Google for info and Yahoo for shopping. And now I’m helping them develop Wikipedia habits.

I’ve been thinking about that for a few days now. Years ago we trained ourselves to type Google.com or Yahoo.com in the address bar and look for answers to questions we had about anything and everything. Want a book? First bookcloseouts.com then Amazon.com. Used car part or out of print book? Ebay.com.

Would it be a safe bet to say in five years the majority of surfers will be typing Wikipedia.org in the address bar first when we want answers to questions or when we’re researching something? I think it’s very likely.

If I’m in the business of building affiliate websites to earn an income, I want to keep that in mind and not set myself up to compete with Wikipedia.

What won’t Wikipedia be able to take over or compete with? Some ideas:

  • Personalities/Personas/Identities (ie. Terry at SuperAff)
  • Social Interaction & Activity (ie. forums, blogs)
  • Personal Collections (ie. hockey cards, post cards, doilies, autographs)
  • Sharing Experiences (ie. diaries, weight loss journals, crochet pattern developments, travels)
  • Personal Creativity (ie. scripts writing, cooking experiments, poetry, artwork)
  • Politics, Religious Beliefs

Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Amazon, MSN, MySpace–they own search, information, shopping, socializing. But nothing can ever be engineered or developed that will replace a domain that’s firmly stamped with personal experience, opinions, ideas or personality.

Maybe that’s the secret sauce both MySpace and blogging are hinting at. Creating a space that large numbers of people (traffic) respond to or connect with on a personal level. The tricky part is monetizing that space in a way that converts well without being a turn off.

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I've been trying to find my way online for more years than I care to admit.

6 thoughts to “Developing Sites & The Wikipedia Factor”

  1. Unfortunately, the way Wiki works right now, if you get one person who’s really fanatical about a subject then they can rewrite/write the subject area to suit their perceptions. We, as acupuncturists, have found that in the acupuncture section. There is someone there who disagrees with the findings of the National Institutes of Health and with the World Health Organization findings on acupuncture and continually cuts the quotes and backs up what they believe with quotes from SkepDics (I think that’s the site.) As a result, there are those of us trying to promote our legitimate form of medicine and constantly have to re-insert our full original quote and then create new/more links to the medical sites that back up our statements. Since the overall fight, I won’t use Wiki because of the bias against alternative health in general (found some problems in other alternative health as well).

    There needs to be a better system of balances. The last time I went there, the last acupuncturist to clean it up had managed to get their comments to stay for awhile–I am not sure if they’ve cleaned up the problem of if the skeptic just hadn’t had a chance to go back. However, such blatant misinformation from a site that’s supposed to be a site to inform people frightens me.

  2. Well Bonnie, just think of it this way, once Wikipedia gets a bad rap (it already has on numerous issues) people will refuse to use it at all and avoid it like the plague. Soon people will see the wiki link in Google searches and just skip over them because they are too unreliable.

    Unfortunately all the good information will suffer as well, but if you’re going to allow too much bias or false information through unmonitored editing it causes the whole to become worthless.

    So I don’t really agree with Terry that Wiki will eventually make everything else worthless. Wiki is a Utopian ideal, like Communism, and we know how those pan out.

  3. Wikipedia has to work on its content control issues or it will wind up another stinker like DMOZ that human edited directory no one uses.

    Issues:

    * Too easy for competitors to delete reference links to external pages and replace with their own
    * Too harsh with site monetising, a banner or ads on every page will have sites removed by editors. Majority probably. Just like DMOZ, sites that provide the desired content will be shut out because of a banner ad.
    * Wikipedia downfall reason will mimick DMOZ it’s all about networking to get a link to stick

    I don’t see a bright future for wikipedia. I see a DMOZ repeat. Move along people. Nothing to be concerned with.

  4. Naturally, I can’t find it now, but I read that someone involved in making WP what it is today is trying to start a new service that will be more carefully cross-referenced by human beings than WP has been.

    So, whether it’s WP or something else, there are going to be plenty of resources for finding huge amounts of information. What SE’s and encyclopedia sites can’t compete with is the human factor – the subjective viewpoint.

  5. Actually I went back and rechecked Wiki on the things I didn’t like. They do seem to be getting better. However, I have to agree that the ease of deleting external links to good sources is a problem. However, who determines what a good source is and a biased one? That’s a tough call.

    It also makes me wonder who decided what went into the encyclopedias I used in school. How biased were they and I didn’t know enough to see it? Is Wiki really any worse.

  6. The webmaster/interested party in me totally agrees that Wikipedia fails in many ways. Competitor sabotage is just too easy (I experienced it personally with two websites).

    I believe Wikipedia’s original intent was to be authoritative. People are realizing it just won’t ever be because of the reasons listed above and more. But there’s no denying if someone was looking for a curiosity hop to see what something means/is/was/who/where/how — Wikipedia is ideal, at least as a starting point.

    I’m with Jenn though–if Wikipedia isn’t *IT*, at the very least it’s a warning shot of what’s to come.

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