Wikipedia Issues

While law professors debate the appropriate uses of Wikipedia output, prompted by Dan Solove’s post at Concurring Opinions [and see Brian Leiter, and see Paul Caron], Harvard Business School professors Karim Lakhani and Andrew McAfee have posted a case study suitable for analyzing how Wikipedia gets that way. In an appropriate 21st century spin, the case study is subject to a GNU Free Documentation License. McAfee’s blog posts about the case study are here and here. Laktani’s post is here. I’d love to convene an imaginary HBS classroom of law faculty bloggers willing to set aside knee-jerk formalism and various articles of faith — what should and should not be subject to footnoting; what “is” and “is not” “proper” authority; the “wisdom” of “crowds,” and so on — and to invest some time exploring Wikipedia’s governance structures via the case study. Would the experience change anyone’s mind? I have no idea. But their opinions would be more authoritative, at least to me.

[Via Nicholas Carr]

[Updated 2/6: See also Michael Dorf, Dorf again, Jeff Lipshaw and Mary Dudziak.  I think that Dudziak (why cite to any encyclopedia, anyway?) and Dorf (test how Wikipedia works) both make good points.  Much of the debate, however, continues to remind me of the response that the senior partners at my first law firm gave to my request that they consider allowing junior associates to have PCs (real PCs, from IBM) in their offices.  Direct access to computers would only lead to mischief; that Dictaphone in the desk drawer would serve me just fine.]