Amy Alexander on Sun, 21 May 2000 18:20:06 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> RE: nupedia encyclopaedia

On Thu, 18 May 2000, flw wrote:

	(citing jose...):
>    the web should allow for a more plural, less
>    hierarchical approach, without so many editors, staff, supervisors,
>    phd's and so on, a new kind of rizhomatic knowledge-archive.
> and yes, i agree with you, jose, why is it the same old story with
> well-qualified writers, editors, and peer reviewers (...)  about three
> dozen Ph.D.'s, M.D.'s, and otherhighly-trained
> professionals who will produce this knowledge container?
Yes, and, not only the web, but "open source."

>From the original post:
	Nupedia will be
	"open content" in the same way that Linux and the Open Directory
	Project ( are "open source."  As has been the case with
	those projects, we plan to attract a huge body of talented

The thing that concerns me about Nupedia, as with many non-software
projects using terms like "open source," is that they really don't
seem to embrace the "two-way communication" philosophy of open source
software. The open source software model generally means, not only, "anyone
can do whatever they want with this content", but also, "anyone
can contribute to this package." True, there is always some hierarchy
"at the top" of an open source software project that approves what
additions go into the public releases. But the premise is, *anyone*
can submit features/improvements, which are accepted on the basis
of their finished quality. Unless I'm misunderstanding 
the original post, the model Nupedia, and certainly others i've seen, 
seem to use, is that you apply to be part of the team in advance, 
based on your perceived prior qualifications. *Then* you are allowed 
to submit content. That is not the same thing. True, under Nupedia's
model, I could make a "Modified Nupedia Encyclopedia" and distribute
that myself, certainly a Worthwhile Thing, but apparently, if
I haven't been accepted onto the Nupedia Team based on certain
credentials, I can't just submit an article on a topic of  interest to me
and expect to have it included. (That's my reading of the post, anyway...)

I can't complain about Nupedia because they used/(coined?) the term
"open content", not "open source", and then they explained what
they meant by that. But it brings up something I've seen a lot
in the past year or so - projects/discussions of "open source" philosophy
applied in new (non-software-development) areas, but which seem
to miss the "upload as well as download" part of open source philosophy. 

Maybe that concept just doesn't apply very well outside software development? 
In that case, maybe Nupedia's "open content" model is a more appropriate
one for arts, humanities, etc., to consider than "open source"? 
Or, maybe there's more that can be done in these areas to encourage
models for more distributed content development? ... (you know,
models like mailing lists.. ;-)  ) 

And yes,  for the reasons others have pointed out, an Encyclodpedia 
is an ironic project to think of in an "open source" context. (But
again, Nupedia said, "open content", not "open source"... ) Could
be quite a lot of fun to try to do one of those, though... :-) (no, I *don't*
volunteer to head that project up! :-) )


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: