Should Everything be easy enough for a Caveman?

Do you really want just “anybody” contributing your crowd-sourced FACT based repository of Knowledge?  I know it’s a bit out of fashion these days, but when I was growing up, it was okay to differentiate between folks who were a little bit smarter than other folks.  We had “Gifted & Talented” programs in public schools (horror!) and we played soccer matches where ONLY THE WINNERS got Medals.  Such programs are now referred to as Elitist, which is true, they seek to identify the Elite, which in my day was something you wanted to be.  I remember winning a speech at the Rotary Club on the topic: “Expect the Best, Be the Best”.  When I won, I felt Elite, and it was a good feeling.  Anyway, that’s another story.



I recently saw a piece about Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales.  The piece was about how Wikipedia was struggling to retain users, and Jimmy was musing on how to make contributing easier.  The part that struck me was this quote from the piece:


Over the years, Wikipedia has often been criticized for having a very convoluted and technically complex way of editing articles that doesn’t just involve learning the arcane markup language the site uses, but also navigating the politics of editing on the site. For beginners, this is a very high barrier of entry that some earlier projects were supposed to fix 

What????  So wait, I know I’m techincal, but look, it’s GOOD that some things are difficult.  If Heart Surgery was easy, then just Anybody with no real discipline, no significant intelligence, or worse, no commitment to quality, and effort could become a Heart Surgeon.  Do you want your Heart to be operated on by the same quality of person who is mostly qualified to be a ditch digger?  If you do, that’s good for you.  But I prefer my Martini’s to be made by someone who knows how to make one, and I prefer my community sourced Encyclopedia of Facts to be written by people who can at least spend 15 minutes to learn: ==Section headings== or ”italicize text”, or ”’bold the text”’. 

I’m saying that a standard that requires contributors to understand that entries need citations, or that “opinions” are only allowed when referencing a controversy and only then by citing an establsihed source?  That’s not too high a requirement, that’s just enough.  How is this any harder than expecting high school student to learn the 5 paragraph 3 topic essay format?  If they can’t do that, I’d prefer they don’t contribute to WIkipedia.

Making Wikipedia as easy to post to as Facebook is, that’s a recipie for WikiSpringer.