The ongoing almost finished debate about the deleted Enterprise 2.0 article in Wikipedia is quite educational, at least for someone like me, who uses Wikipedia a lot but don’t contribute myself. Not that we had that insight originally; the entry was first wiped out without a discussion and it took Ross Mayfield’s clout to resuscitate it for debate, albeit semi-sentenced for deletion.
The key learning for me is that Wikipedia is governed by far more rules than I would have expected. Like it or not, I can rationalize that any organization, organism, collective initiative..etc. of this magnitude will sooner or later develop self-defense mechanisms, and for Wikipedia these are the (sometimes rigid) rules and an army of Praetorians … I mean Deletionists.
The key arguments for deleting the Enterprise 2.0 article are that it’s not notable enough, is neologism , original research which is not verifiable by reading reliable sources. (links point to Wikipedia policies)
Notability is a rather dubious requirement – that is if we consider Wikipedia *The* encyclopedia, which is what I think it has become for millions of readers. The “Sum of Human Knowledge” (see ad on right) is constantly increasing, forcing paper-based encyclopedias to be selective/restrictive for obvious reasons. Wikipedia does not have such physical limits, and has an army of volunteer editors, so why be restrictive? “When in doubt – look it up” is still what I think encyclopedias are all about, and that approach is what propelled Wikipedia to the No. 1 spot leaving the Britannica in the dust.
“Neologism doesn’t belong in Wikipedia”: as several commenters pointed out, the term neologism itself is a neologism:-) But let’s get real: considering the body of knowledge already covered in Wikipedia, an increasing ratio of new articles will by definition be neologism. An overly exclusionary approach by Wikipedia administrators will relegate it from being *The* encyclopedia to being just one, in fact likely still #1 of many, giving way to the Refupedias so eloquently defined by my fellow Irregular (and I might add, subject matter expert on this debate) Niel Robertson.
While I question the principles behind the notability and no-neologism rule, I understand that the debate on deleting an actual submission is not the appropriate forum to discuss the validity of Wikipedia rules.
Yet I am surprised by the sharp contrast in the two side’s approach: defenders of the article, mostly domain experts in enterprise software but Wikipedia-newbies discuss the merits of the article itself, while the deletionist side avoids such conversation strictly focusing on adherence to policy only. In fact it’s this part of the discussion that convinced me we’re not seeing a constructive debate (side note: why isn’t there a Wikipedia entry on this?), instead the most active deletionists are pre-determined to kill the article, and are shutting down reasonable arguments / citations in a rather dogmatic manner.
The trio of no original research, verifiability and reliable sources should be more or less self-explanatory, and one would think references to “Enterprise 2.0″ in respected publications like MIT’s Sloan Management Review and Business Week certainly meet these requirements. Not really. Our Praetorian Deletionist discards both:
“The problem is only readers that have access to this journal can verify the information. It must be available to anyone (by heading to the library, searching online, or stopping by a book store)”
“Journals that the general public can not easily access are not valid sources. Period. That is wikipedia policy.”
Wow. Not accessible… well, I don’t see any restrictions on these subscription pages:
- Sloan Management Review: $89/ year
- Harvard Business Review: $99/ year , so indeed, they are generally accessible.
In fact the individual article is available for $6.50, but (don’t tell anyone!) it can also be found as a free PDF file on the web. Now, I am not claiming these publications have as wide circulation as the New York Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsweek – all papers that our gatekeeper finds acceptable – but why should they? We’re not talking about architecture, medicine or gardening – for the cross-section of business and technology it’s hard to find more authoritative source than the SMR or HBR.
All other citations the “defending team” comes up with are refused, for formal reasons, without looking at content.
Business Week: “the article itself is not about the term “Enterprise 2.0″, but about “Web 2.0″ “. In fact “Web 2.0 in the Enterprise” is what the entire article is about, and that is indeed Enterprise 2.0, but the Wikipedian here does not understand the content, he is just looking for a verbatim match.
ZDNet “Blogs” by Dan Farber or Dion Hinchcliffe are rejected for being blogs, and self-referencing, being about the deletion process, not the original term. Once again, this is a rigid, dogmatic argument: true, the deletion debate is referenced in the articles, but it was just the trigger, the authors (recognized subject matter experts) explicitly discuss the validity of Enterprise 2.0. Ross Mayfield then cites further articles, including one by Dion Hinchliffe, ZDNet specifically referencing Enterprise 2.0: “Fortunately, the title of McAfee’s piece says the important part” – and that title is: Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration . Not accepted, after all it’s just a blog.
I can’t leave Wikipedia’s exclusion of blogs as reliable source without a comment. Tehcnorati is tracking over 50 million blogs, and we know it does not track everything, so who knows what the total number is: 70M? 100M? How can they all be lumped in one, “unreliable” category? As non-PC it may be, I have to side with Robert Scoble here, there is a slight difference between content-light (LiveJournal) diaries and professional blogs by industry experts. The ZDNet blogs mentioned above really shouldn’t be personal blogs, they are professional publications. And by whose standards should the HBS Faculty Blog, bearing the logo of Harvard Business School not be considered a reliable source, in fact an authority on matters of business and technology?
The concept of authority is not unknown to Wikipedia, just check the following excerpt from the guidelines on reliable sources:
“Advanced degrees give authority in the topic of the degree.”
“Use sources who have postgraduate degrees or demonstrable published expertise in the field they are discussing. The more reputable ones are affiliated with academic institutions.”
Guidelines or not, Mr. Deletionist has his own view about Harvard Prof. McAfee:
“While I respect your knowledge and status as an Associate Professor, I take a dim view of a person who coins a term also being the person that is the main editor and follower of that term’s wikipedia article.” (for the record Prof. McAfee did not edit the disputed Wikipedia article at all)
Oh, well… instead of talking about Wikipedia, let’s focus on why this whole debate is irrelevant. Because “Enterprise 2.0″ is really just a label. Opponents call it “marketing buzzword”. So what? Labels, Marketing buzzwords can be quite helpful:
- In the beginning of this post I spent 2 paragraphs detailing my point of view on Notability and Neologism, when I could ave simply referred to a “label”: I am an Inclusionalist. (I believe in editing rather than killing posts)
- In the very early 90′s I was implementing SAP systems (yes, guilty of being a domain expert). The concept of an integrated cross-functional enterprise system was rather unusual, it took lot of “evangelism” to spread the idea. A few years later Erik Keller and team at Gartner coined the term ERP, and it is the industry definition ever since.
- Here’s a fairly lengthy explanation of how a web application can look and feel like a desktop application. (alert: it’s a blog!). The post is from January 2005. A year later the term Ajax was coined, and now the author of this article could save half a page and just say: Ajax.
Perhaps the above examples make the point: in business and technology, marketing “labels” are typically coined to describe an already existing phenomenon. Enterprise 2.0 as a term my be relatively knew, but it’s not some theoretical concept a bored professor is trying to sell the world. It’s a disruptive change, a confluence of technological, social and business changes in how corporations conduct business using new IT tools. No Wikipedia gatekeepers can prevent this seismic shift. Let’s move on, do our work, and in less than 6 months Enterprise 2.0 will find its way back to Wikipedia.
Update (9/1): The debate is now closed, Enterprise 2.0 stays in wikipedia.
- Deletionists, Networkists and Blog Sourcing
- Deletionists and Networkists duel over ‘Enterprise 2.0′
- OMG! They Killed Enterprise 2.0! Those Bastards!
- Enterprise 2.0 vs. Wikipedia: The Sequel
- Enterprise 2.0 continues for now….
- The word “Enterprise”…the Rodney Dangerfield of the new media
- Enterprise 2.0 = Next Generation IT
- Top 10 Management Fears About Enterprise Web 2.0
- Meme-check – Enterprise & Web 2.0
- Enterprise 2.0, what is it?
- Enterprise 2.0 is same as Web 2.0
- The Bionic Enterprise Software 2.0
- OFB: Enterprise 2.0 and Wikipedia: Why all the fuss?
- Enterprise 2.0 gets caught in red-tape
(Note: this is just a partial list, pros and cons from domain experts – all this representing zero value, per wikipedia policy, since they are blog posts.)
Tags: wikipedia, enterprise+2.0, web+2.0, wikipedia+deletion, gatekeepers, wikipedians, deletionist, inclusionost, wikipedia+policy, neologism, encyclopedia, encyclopedia+britannica, wiki, collaboration, social+software, erp, enterprise+software, harvard, harvard+business+school, hbs, sloan+management+review, mit, refupedia, marketing, marketing+buzzword