07 September 2006

Would you let the world edit your copy?

Journalists hate it when people they are writing about ask to see their copy before it appears in print. They only put up with editors and subeditors because that is a part of the deal. So Ryan Singel must have had qualms when he posted a story he was working on for Wired so that the world could intervene and Wiki" it.

He recounts the result of the exercise in Wired News: The Wiki That Edited Me. It is an interesting account of how the story changed.

There may be little surprise in his conclusion that the exercise did little to improve the story. But his explanation of why this was so strikes home. "The edits over the week lack some of the narrative flow that a Wired News piece usually contains. The transitions seem a bit choppy, there are too many mentions of companies, and too much dry explication of how wikis work."

One bit that caught the eye was his observation that most of the edits merely made the story longer, until someone stepped in and did a proper edit of the piece. This is something that should happen to most of the material that appears in Wikipedia.

No matter how good the information there, it is often let down by lack of any editing to make it readable. But that's what you'd expect of something cooked up by experts. A bit like the result of Ryan Singel's experiment.

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