From a business plan I am writing for one of the Agency’s clients:
Wikipedia, in the last 7 years, has racked up nearly 2.3 million English-written entries. There are over 300,000 entries each in German, Spanish, Italian and French and a 100,000 in Finnish, Romanian and Turkish. When you include sub-pages, user profiles, templates, tutorials and discussions the number rockets to nearly a 100 million aggregate pages. And the average article is essentially indistinguishable in terms of accuracy when compared to any for-profit publication. This seems overwhelming, if not impossible to replicate when you imagine that they were written by amateurs sitting in their living rooms. What this ignores is that as its base Wikipedia rests on the bedrock of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, which fell into the public domain and was absorbed into the site. Also incorporated is the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, W.W. Rouse Ball’s Short Account of the History of Mathematics and Chamber’s Cyclopedia, among many others. Wikipedia was seeded by professionals.
Communities cannot be willed into existence. Communities need more of a reason to form than superior technology. Almost every massively successful community can be traced back, not to the owner, the technology or the genre, but to a group of incredibly passionate users at the core of it.
Businesses almost always have that. They sit dormant in cubicles or overwhelmed with soul-crushing office politics. And the only reason they fail in the transition to the web is that they cannot unleash those assets. Remember, corporations are incapable of love but individuals are full it. Top down businesses continually stagnate on the internet because no one is willing (or allowed) to get down and dirty and do the work.
So what if someone took the pro’s and had them start at the bottom just like everyone else? What if you had the ‘best in the world‘ as your 1911 Britannica? That’s what I’m trying to figure out now – I was at YouTube on Monday and with a band that’s sold over 50 million records on Tuesday – and I think what we’re on to is game changing.
One thing I try to catch and remind myself of (but often fail) is how conveniently my principles seem to fit with my natural disposition. And that it would not only be unfair, but dishonest to pretend otherwise.