Religion is troubling the land of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia anyone can edit. Jossi Fresco, a Wiki-administrator, was blasted in a recent news story for prettying-up Wiki entries about his guru, “Lord of the Universe” Prem Rawat. The developing Lord-gate is a study of the new rules for collecting and distributing religious knowledge—web 2.0 style.
The web 2.0 world is one in which the faithful support collective knowledge sharing. They do not abide vandalizing public information by individuals like Fresco who continue to distribute knowledge according to an outdated model born of hierarchy and censorship. Web 2.0, in short, is here masterfully summarized:
“It’s a damn website that any schmuck can modify.” A web 2.0 community is only as useful as users make it. Trust is key.
User corruption erodes these communities. Revolts ensue. Users flee. Lament is widespread, however not for the vandalism endured by the compromised piece of information but instead for the vandalism of an ideal: collaborative knowledge is pure.
Collaborative knowledge should be a land of milk honey. At the end of the day a web 2.0 community is, for better or worse, a body-public that knows more than when it began. This is possible only through voluntary transparency. Users collectively agree information is a community resource over which no one individual will hold power to declare what is or is not ultimate truth.
Yes, web 2.0 communities can experience (elephant-sized) loopholes. Yes, loopholes may favor those who participate most. Yet these loopholes close themselves because the web 2.0 faithful are a group that operates as a function of the ideal it supports, most importantly and distinct from, the religious faithful who place primacy on personal belief.
Jossi Fresco, accused guru-“stooge,” embodies the personal believer. He denies the censorship charges against him, yet in other places on the Wiki he functions as a one-man snapdragon for Prem Rawat. By contrast consider the handling of favoritism charges at Digg, a Web site where articles rocket to the top of a list in proportion to the number of user recommends, or “diggs,” received.
The new rules for collecting and distributing knowledge in the world of web 2.0 are pointing to an intersection of public idealism and personal belief. But who is the public and who is the believer? In the world of web 2.0 you will meet longterm devotees, advocates for equality, selfless volunteers, and outspoken evangelists. Does that sound vaguely religious to you? If so, hit the Wikipedia because it’s time to make an edit to what we know.