Wikipedia No Longer Defines the Wiki

Part of the appeal of the Wikipedia phenomenon has been that in a group edited model, it is more likely that individual biases in writing can be removed through frequent editing.  Indeed, for many of the self appointed Wikipedians who guard the content of Wikipedia, their mission in life is to objectivize any entries that appear to be biased in any way.  This model has defined the Wiki – a group edited collection of entries largely based on fact and not biased in any way.  While there are a few noteworthy examples where bias may be impossible to avoid, Wikipedia largely does at least as good a job as any encyclopedia of maintaining neutrality.  But Wikis don’t just have to be standalone sources for fact based information.  Sites like Amazon.com and TripAdvisor.com are extending the definition by experimenting with using Wikis to complement their existing archives of (biased) online reviews and ratings.  This may seem like a strange match – but it’s actually a truly smart move that will most probably boost each site’s credibility.

Amazon’s ProductWiki is designed to provide a forum for users to share their knowledge and experience about products outside of good or bad reviews.  The key difference, it promises, is that this content is aggregated on one page rather than the multiple pages of reviews.  TripAdvisor Inside is a similar effort to balance the "rants and raves" of travellers reviewing specific hotels with more neutral consumer generated advice about all the things to do in a particular city.  What both of these companies intuitively understand is that the most trustworthy information comes from a combination of user contributed opinions and user edited knowledge/expertise.  Consumers are smart enough to decide for themselves what is trustworthy if they can be presented with information in a single location.  Give them company marketing language, Wiki-edited factual content, and reviews in a single location and they will form their own opinions about products, services, and destinations.  Smart tools like these will give consumers the control they want – and the sites that provide this will be the long term winners in any category.

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