Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

10 May, 2007

The pitfalls of Web 2.0
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:23 PM

Okay, time to write something else besides just Weekend Design Challenges. Funny how you get less interested in writing stuff when you have actual, fulfilling work to do.

Anyway, I wanted to write about the brave new world of Web 2.0. This time, the world is going to change because people have harnessed the wisdom of crowds to create bold new content!

Those two lines should be worth about a million in funding in today’s investing climate! ;)

But, as wonderful as the whole Web 2.0 hype is, there are some problems with it. What happens when you rely on common people entirely for content? Well, you get content created by common people. That’s not always a good thing.

One of the darlings of Web 2.0 is Wikipedia. The premise of the site is both intriguing and shocking: allow everyone to come and edit a site that covers all sorts of topics. Want to learn the basics of some topic, such as fiat currency? Wikipedia is a generally a good place to go learn the basics of a topic.

But, the collaborative nature of Wikipedia is both its strength and its weakness. The theory is an economist can come along and edit an article on fiat currency to include links to information. Unfortunately, some conspiracy theorist can come along just as easily and post a rant about how leaving the gold standard let lizard people gain control of our vital assets in the U.S. In general, you have to take what you read with a grain of salt. So, it is usually a good idea to use Wikipedia as a starting point in your research, not as an authoritative source on information. (For a humorous take on this, see this story about Wikipedia Brown, a spoof on the old Encyclopedia Brown stories.)

Of course, the people in charge of Wikipedia have seen this problem, so they came up with some guidelines to define what Wikipedia is and how to judge contributions. As with most online communities, you can’t define strict rules and expect them to cover every situation; therefore, Wikipedia’s guidelines are not always strictly enforced because there are always exceptions. It’s been interesting to see how Wikipedia has put in more and more restrictions and guidelines as some issues have become threats to the site. Likewise, it is interesting to see how other sites have tried to replace Wikipedia but have failed.

However, these rules cause some problems. A friend and colleague of mine, Elonka Dunin contributes to Wikipedia regularly. She has told how she was the victim of internal politics when she was nominated as an administrator on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, you see competition and jockeying for position in almost any situation where you have a community of users. Online game developers know that some people are more interested in playing politics (and trying to drag the administrators into this game) rather than play the game provided. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is no different in that some people would rather engage in personal politics rather than try to contribute to the site.

As another example, take the article on DKP (Dragon Kill Points). Currently, the article is up for deletion (for the second time by the same person, you might notice). Despite the fact that the article is quite well-written and informative, it happens to potentially run afoul of a couple of Wikipedia’s guidelines in at least one person’s opinion. So, there’s a discussion about if the article should be deleted.

The primary accusation, according to the deletion discussion page, is that the page on DKP is full of “original research” because there are so few citations. Some believe this is sufficient reason for deleting the page from Wikipedia. As I mentioned in a comment on the deletion page, the problem is that references tend to be temporary because they’re hosted on guild websites. There are few references because the references tend to change (or sometimes even disappear) rapidly. If a guild page linked by the article changes to a different DKP system, does that invalidate the previous system since there is no longer a reliable page to link to? According to some of the rules sticklers on Wikipedia, it seems so. Yet, I’d argue that Wikipedia is an acceptable place for this type of information because it is likely to be more permanent than some guild webpage describing their DKP system. Most people reading this blog will understand the importance of a reasonably complete DKP discussion, but what about someone without a knowledge of MMORPGs?

Further, it’s interesting to take a look at the history of the person requesting the article’s deletion. It appears that this user is primarily interested in astronomy and information about a few U.S. states; so, what authority does this person wield to request the deletion of this type of article, besides being someone who can use Wikipedia? Further, the person seems more interested in trying to get articles deleted rather than contributing information to topics outside very narrow interests.

How does this affect me? Well, despite potentially being “original research”, this is one of the most complete descriptions of DKP available online. I wanted to share this information with some of the people I’m working with on my current project to give them an idea of some of the rules players come up with in other games. So, I was a bit shocked to see that the article was up for deletion. In my opinion, this article is one of the high points of Wikipedia. Yet, someone can come along and disrupt a useful article such as this one for whatever reason strikes their fancy.

So, count me as another person who is not endlessly optimistic about how Web 2.0 will necessarily change the world more significantly than Web 1.0 did.







27 Comments »

  1. So, basically, because an article that you happen to like is being deleted, you’re pissed at Tim O’Reilly for inventing Web 2.0? You could have made a good case, Brian, but this is just a rant.

    Never, ever, use an encyclopedia as the end all, be all of a topic. That’s a mistake. You should never use Britannica that way. Simply because it happens to be true for Wikipedia as well doesn’t take away from its significance: that ordinary people with practically no visible motivation are contributing to a resource that, on average, yields reasonably equivalent information to a guided effort with monetary compensation.

    That said, thanks for pointing to the article. My handle on Wikipedia is Saraid. I dropped in some stuff for them to chew on. Wish I had more time to actually make significant contributions on there, but, c’est la vie. Gotta change the world, get a job, the usual.

    Comment by Michael Chui — 10 May, 2007 @ 10:48 PM

  2. Michael Chui wrote:
    So, basically, because an article that you happen to like is being deleted, you’re pissed at Tim O’Reilly for inventing Web 2.0?

    Not quite. I’m pointing out the flaws in the Web 2.0 “community collaboration” model. (Or, if I want to go full-on snark, the “we’ll let the users do the work for us” model.) My point was that although Wikipedia is pointed out as an exceptional success in this area (and often rightfully so), it still has some problems. The biggest core issue is that there is still a community there, and therefore all the issues you have with community: egos, politics, and all the other stuff we hire community managers to handle in our games.

    The specific issues relating to the article on DKP shows the larger symptoms. As you point out in your comment on the page discussing deletion, the restrictions on “original research” isn’t intended to stop articles of this nature. Yet, this doesn’t stop someone with very little knowledge on the subject from proposing that the article be deleted based on a different interpretation of the guidelines, or getting a lot of people agreeing with this interpretation to the detriment of the site as a whole. (In fact, I found the whole concept of “Deletionism”, something the person proposing the deletion proudly subscribes to, as being a bit mind-boggling.)

    You could have made a good case, Brian, but this is just a rant.

    You must be new here. (Yeah, I know you’re not. You should know better than to expect better! :P)

    Never, ever, use an encyclopedia as the end all, be all of a topic.

    And, you might notice that I don’t advocate this. I was very careful to state that you shouldn’t use it as your only research. It’s often a good starting point, or a way to get basic information on the subject. Giving a co-worker a pointer to an article on Wikipedia gives some good information, but it doesn’t cover all the information, nor does it cover everything I want to discuss. Our game project won’t have dragons to kill or raids to go on, so the traditional use of DKP is pointless. But, it’s a useful concept to discuss and I will be able to use some shorthand when discussing the concept with someone who has read that article.

    Some clarification,

    Comment by Psychochild — 10 May, 2007 @ 11:45 PM

  3. I have had numerous uses of the Wikipedia DKP article at work, that some dork would want to remove it is annoying.

    Comment by Wolfe — 11 May, 2007 @ 12:36 AM

  4. Tim 2.0′Reilly really should wake up a little. I can think of at least one site which has been running on user-generated content since 1999, and doubtless there are many more. Is Amazon a Web 2.0 site because of user reviews? Is IMDB? Both are at least 8 years old.

    Comment by Rich Bryant — 11 May, 2007 @ 1:03 AM

  5. Ohmygods, people are still dying, this whacky, newfangled “medicine” will never work.

    Comment by Mikyo — 11 May, 2007 @ 3:56 AM

  6. For a preview of how ‘user made content’ will evolve, study Dungeons & Dragons. Once upon a time, it was the world’s only role playing game. The owners were often jokingly referred to as “They Sue Regularly.” They even tried to trademark the words “Nazi,” and “Hobbit.”

    Comment by Mikyo — 11 May, 2007 @ 4:47 AM

  7. As Sturgeon’s Law dictates, ninety percent of their imitators produced only crap. But the other ten percent created a whole new industry.

    Comment by Mikyo — 11 May, 2007 @ 4:51 AM

  8. I’ve also noticed this flaw with Wikipedia. It has grown to the size that the rule-trolls are beginning to tear it down from the inside.

    Ironically, the thing Wikipedia is best at accurately documenting, the internet, is the one thing the official policies of Wikipedia render impossible to document. “Original Research” is only the first prong of the attack. Even if you had a bunch of stable websites which had a coherent DKP description to act as reference, Reliable Sources (WP:RS for those insiders) would come into play and it would once again be subject to deletion. Since nothing on a website or Usenet is reliable, there is no DKP in the Wikipedia world. You must wait until an academic journal has published some article (no doubt by copying verbatim from said websites), then you may document it.

    The annoying thing is that I know exactly why those rules were created: they are hammers for bludgeoning conspiracy theorists with. The trouble is the Bike-Shedders (Cf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_of_the_bikeshed) who know nothing about DKP but everything about WP:ABC get to feel like real important contributors by wasting everyone’s time with rule-wrangling. This leaves me concerned for the long term health of wikipedia as the actual authors that want to contribute constructively to DKP style articles will likely start abandoning wikipedia when it becomes too much effort to fight the rule trolls, leaving us with something that is merely equivalent to Encyclopedia Britannica.

    I also don’t see why people are concerned about Wikipedia being used as a one-stop reference by the lazy. What would you prefer, that they just use the first hit on Google as their one-stop reference? At least Wikipedia tends to weasel-worded milk-water statements rather than the extreme hyperbole favoured by most of the ‘net.

    Comment by Brask Mumei — 11 May, 2007 @ 6:49 AM

  9. “I also don’t see why people are concerned about Wikipedia being used as a one-stop reference by the lazy.”

    You would if you were a professor. I won’t say my students are lazy; let’s call them ‘time optimizers’ instead.

    Comment by JuJutsu — 11 May, 2007 @ 7:24 AM

  10. Nice post. The real flaw to web 2.0 is the same as it’s greatest asset: ‘The common man’ so to speak. You just can’t predict what people are going to try and do.

    Comment by Jpoku — 11 May, 2007 @ 7:24 AM

  11. So you’d rather your students just hit “I’m feeling lucky” in google and regurgitate that?

    And is it even accuracy you care about? If the time-optimizers had instead spent a one-time cost to torrent the Encyclopedia Britannica and then proceeded to use that as a one stop reference, I think you would be equally upset.

    My point, I guess, is that the problem you have isn’t that people are using Wikipedia as their one-stop-shop, it is that they are doing a one-stop-shop on a subject that they are supposed to delve deeper on.

    Comment by Brask Mumei — 11 May, 2007 @ 8:51 AM

  12. Mikyo wrote:
    For a preview of how ‘user made content’ will evolve, study Dungeons & Dragons.

    As an avid paper RPGer, I agree that “user-created content” is what made D&D great. But, there are some important differences between D&D and Web 2.0.

    The main difference is that D&D’s content was mostly restricted to small groups. For example, I might change the rule for how to roll initiative for my group, but that doesn’t affect your group. The deletion of a Wikipedia article such as the DKP one I reference above affects everyone equally. Now, some inventive people did publish some of their own rules to share with others, but it was still optional and TSR did sometimes get a little, overprotective of their IP, you could say.

    But, the small group focus did not diminish D&D. In fact, one of the great things about it is that I can sit down with my friends and we can chat about our old adventures that mean a lot to us personally. In fact, these stories often are not as interesting for other people; is there anything more horrifying than hearing someone drone on about his favorite 35th level Paladin/Monk/Wizard/Demigod? (I can imagine the groans and rolling of eyes as people will read that line. ;)

    The rest of your post didn’t cover much about the topic at hand, but I thought I would clear up some misconceptions.

    Once upon a time, it was the world’s only role playing game.

    Actually, this is not true. There were role-playing games before D&D. At Gen Con a few years ago I attended a talk by David Wesely, who talked about the origins of roleplaying games. Dave Arneson credits David Wesely with creating RPGs, actually, because he developed some small games that involved role-playing before D&D (and even before Chainmail). His game was called “Braunstein” and involved different people in different positions trying to control a city. Roles included the mayor, the city treasurer, the city’s captain, etc. He also ran a banana republic version which sounded fascinating, especially due to the actions of a young Dave Arneson who was leader of the socialist university student’s group.

    The owners were often jokingly referred to as “They Sue Regularly.” They even tried to trademark the words “Nazi,” and “Hobbit.”

    Yes, this was one of the unfortunate aspects of TSR when they lost the crown and tried to remain on top despite it all. But, the fact that they tried to trademark “Nazi” is actually an urban legend. The trademark was actually for the picture of the Nazi on the game piece, and was actually asserted by LucasArts (it was for an Indiana Jones game).

    As for “Hobbit”, I think you have it backwards. The early D&D products has “Hobbits” as a race, but due to legal threats from the Tolkien estate about ownership of that trademark, they changed that to “halfling” in later editions.

    Not to say TSR wasn’t rather sleazy at some points, but these two specific instances are not quite accurate.

    Brask Mumei wrote:
    Ironically, the thing Wikipedia is best at accurately documenting, the internet, is the one thing the official policies of Wikipedia render impossible to document. “Original Research” is only the first prong of the attack. Even if you had a bunch of stable websites which had a coherent DKP description to act as reference, Reliable Sources (WP:RS for those insiders) would come into play and it would once again be subject to deletion. Since nothing on a website or Usenet is reliable, there is no DKP in the Wikipedia world. You must wait until an academic journal has published some article (no doubt by copying verbatim from said websites), then you may document it.

    And, this is the core of my post above, restated with more inside knowledge of how Wikipedia works. If anything, I think Wikipedia’s strength is in documenting the internet, but the “rule-trolls”, as Brask puts it, seem to be tearing things down for the sake of tearing them down.

    Bike-Shedders

    I had not heard of this term previously, but now that I have it makes a lot of sense!

    My thoughts,

    Comment by Psychochild — 11 May, 2007 @ 10:40 AM

  13. Nice bit of history. Thanks. Now I don’t feel quite so ancient. Pass me the Geritol?

    Comment by Mikyo — 11 May, 2007 @ 11:40 AM

  14. Since the caveman first started scribbling on walls, there has been no shortage of people who make shitty content.

    The difference is that “Web 2.0″ gives shitty content makers a global canvas which allows their shitty content to obscure the quality stuff.

    This brave new world means getting quality content in front of a mass audience is harder, not easier.

    But because the vast majority of content makers create shitty content, this is most often seen as a wonderful thing. It isn’t.

    (And to be clear, “content” can mean anything, from peanut butter cookie recipes to TV shows to paintings.)

    Comment by Moorgard — 11 May, 2007 @ 2:26 PM

  15. Moorgard 2.0

    [...] Taking a break from tricking his readers into doing all the design work on his next MMO for him (I’m on to you, Green!), Psychochild spent the day musing on the pitfalls of Web 2.0. As this echoes some of my recent prattle on content creation and responsibility for it, I provided a rather grouchy reply that makes me sound even more jaded than I really am. [...]

    Pingback by Moorgard.com — 11 May, 2007 @ 2:43 PM

  16. I wouldn’t call the “trademarking Nazi” story an urban legend. They actually did slap a TM after the word Nazi on a playing piece in their Indiana Jones RPG (I owned the game, I speak from first-hand experience). That’s pretty damn silly and was appropriately mocked.

    It’s splitting hairs to blame it on LucasArts. The story actually got its legs from the “Murphy’s Rules” cartoon in Spacegamer magazine which made fun of TSR’s use of a TM on Nazi.

    Comment by Brent Michael Krupp — 11 May, 2007 @ 2:54 PM

  17. FYI, Brian, I archived a copy of the page just in case. Feel free to point people here. Warn them not to look at my user page. ^_^

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Saraid/DKP

    It seemed to me that the argument had shifted away from “original research”, which it’s not, to “non-notable”, which I can’t argue against by the rules. Since I can understand their passionate need to be Britannica, I suggested a merge instead and saved it just in case.

    This is ominous. I might actually start getting involved in Wikipedia at this rate. =/

    Comment by Michael Chui — 11 May, 2007 @ 11:42 PM

  18. Quest to Delete DKP from Wikipedia…

    Psychochild wrote up a nice article on one of the problems with Wikipedia, referencing a (current as of this listing) debate going on as to whether the article on DKP (Dragon Kill Points) should be removed from Wikipedia. As almost anyone who has play…

    Trackback by GuildCafe Favorites — 12 May, 2007 @ 6:59 AM

  19. Ominous might not be the word I was looking for, Mike. More like, dealing with ignorant trolls in that place. I feel like I just stooped to their lifeless level getting involved in this. I understand how you feel — it’s like needing a shower now. ha! Playing in the mud. FUN!

    I probably wouldn’t have, except for the fact that I posted information here when I read it, but this blog never printed the results. ::mad::

    Just be glad those idiots aren’t your neighbors. ;)

    Comment by Kaylena — 13 May, 2007 @ 8:39 AM

  20. This a discussion going around in the Web2.0 circles as well… most vocally with Andrew Keen slamming on Wikipedia.

    I was going to write a rebuttal — but I think Jeff Jarvis does a better job.

    Comment by Nabeel Hyatt — 14 May, 2007 @ 8:15 AM

  21. Psycho, just in case this entry doesn’t take my links again, I emailed you the particulars. This recap is for the others.

    I also gave Thott the link to this blog entry.

    As you can see in the entry, he has replied to them, but now they’re just denying they ever questioned the source.

    We’re not contesting the validity of their claims – because they don’t make any. Nowhere on that “source” linked do they claim to have invented DKP. That means it’s not an adequare reliable source.” – Hameo

    So yeah, they contested the source and that wasn’t the only time. Now that Thott has authenticated himself personally (thanks again, Thott!), I’d like to see how far they intend on pushing it further. Supposedly it’s “notability” they are finding issues with. I can’t see any problem with why the entry requires it’s own section as it cross-platforms with too many MMORPGs and would be a disservice to only include it as a reference within a game title.

    They seem to use AR: AO: NO: like a waffle machine. How do you make sense of all that ridiculous mumbo-jumbo? Or is the intent to purposely use it when they don’t like an entry?

    Ah, they’ll probably ban me anyway. Jadess has gone too far and it’s all Psycho’s fault! ;) (I’m kidding!) I think it’s amusing how this is making the protestors absolutely nuts. Talk about picking your battles. GEEZ!

    Comment by Kaylena — 14 May, 2007 @ 7:08 PM

  22. Fascinating article on raid point systems… and as typical some jackasses are busy trying to get it deleted. The primary problem with wikipedia is people are too busy playing the stupid metagames (enforcing the ‘rules’ and so on) instead of just improving the content. Every time I see some useful, well written article being pushed for deletion I remember that wikipedia has individual articles for all 400-500 pokemon and sigh.

    Comment by Brian — 14 May, 2007 @ 8:05 PM

  23. I think the metagame comparison is apt. The problem with Wikipedia of today is not the collaborative aspect, which I believe can lead to continuous improvement of individual articles. I’m not one of the people feels that Wikipedia is full of junk or bad articles; I think there’s great content there that’s constantly improved by the community. The creative aspect of WP is great. It’s the destructive aspect which is growing out of control.

    Within WP there’s an elitocracy that surrounds various factionalist camps regarding what WP can or should become.. The cultlike use of policy “scripture” is creates an environment hostile to newcomers who simply want to improve content. Noobs are also put off when they feel that their content can be destroyed by a heavy-handed administrator. Some of the admins (not all, as I’ve met some great ones!) would do well to learn about the social dynamics involved in the rise and fall of virtual worlds.

    Comment by Jon Radoff (Tarinth) — 16 May, 2007 @ 3:45 PM

  24. And less than a month after the AfD failed to delete the article, an editor with a chip on his shoulder filed another AfD without notifying any previous participants, and the DKP article was deleted. I really have to question whether Wikipedia is at all relevant anymore. What’s its purpose if its simply a lower-quality rehash of Britannica? In my mind, the only use for WP is for articles like DKP, which are not well documented elsewhere.

    Comment by Jon — 19 June, 2007 @ 3:55 AM

  25. Grr! Jon is right. *sigh* Eternal vigilance and all that.

    Here’s the link to the deletion request: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/DKP_%283rd_nomination%29

    I agree completely that this is what Wikipedia should be all about. But, as I posted above, relying on users for your content always brings some problems.

    Comment by Psychochild — 19 June, 2007 @ 9:12 PM

  26. I think the bigger issue here is that this clearly establishes Wikipedia as an also ran. If they hold up as their highest standard that “someone else said it first,” then they can never really be a full blown encyclopedia. Sometimes a synthesis of sources is needed and clearly DKP is one of these cases. It is a real thing, with interesting implications to gaming, economics, social interaction, etc. Wikipedia could have *been the source* instead of being an “me too”.

    Comment by Stephen — 4 August, 2007 @ 4:02 PM

  27. Here’s an interesting article about preserving online games that references this post: http://gambit.mit.edu/updates/2009/03/games_social_history.php

    Comment by Psychochild — 30 March, 2009 @ 11:54 AM

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