User:Qq/There is a deadline
|This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.|
Wikipedia is a tremendously successful project. But that does not mean that something better can't come along, if we delay too long in making changes needed to meet the marketplace's demands.
Nupedia is an example of an encyclopedia that took things too slow. They concentrated too much on making sure their articles were reliable from the get-go, rather than being open. After a few years, they had only a few dozen articles. Given unlimited time, it might have produced a comprehensive encyclopedia; but of course, people do not have unlimited time to wait. Eventually, it was supplanted by Wikipedia, which swallowed up those articles and went from there.
Wikis are generally designed with the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them. The partial adoption of this policy by Wikipedia makes it much more nimble than something like Nupedia, which had a seven-step editorial process. Yet, Wikipedia's shortcomings in the area of agility are becoming evident as well. Policy change moves at a glacial pace, and it has become apparent that the community is rather conservative about tinkering with it, or even trying new experiments.
One could easily argue that Wikipedia, while it has problems, is in much different circumstances than Nupedia. Wikipedia is one of the top ten websites; has millions of articles which are growing relatively fast; thousands of editors; and so on. Indeed, while there have been a few attempted forks, none of them have succeeded in becoming as comprehensive as Wikipedia. Certain factors related to Wikipedia's relative success also make the forking task relatively complex. For instance, the fork can have some articles that Wikipedia doesn't, but in order to be comprehensive, it will need to cover many major subjects also dealt with on Wikipedia. How does one prevent this parallel, and sometimes duplicative, effort from being wasted? So far, no one has successfully implemented a solution to this problem.
But don't bet on Wikipedia continuing on its current momentum alone. Just like the shift from Nupedia to Wikipedia, all it takes are some creative solutions to solve the problems associated with transition from Wikipedia to its successor, and the next project is ready to steal Wikipedia's thunder. Subversion branching, for instance, may hold some promise. In short, we can't afford to lollygag around forever, complacent about our position at the head of the pack of online encyclopedias. The longer we coast, the more people begin looking for an alternative. There is a deadline – we just don't know when it is yet, any more than the Nupedians knew when their time would come.