This is a comment on the articles by Gorman and Shirky on the Brittanica blog and Many2Many. Major issue to me on this discussion is the consequences of the change we are making from the traditional publishing of information, including the accompanying business model, to the electronic publishing with the “free business model”. In this discussion a comparison is made with the Luddites, 19th century weavers and knitters who fought against the use of textile machines because it threatened their business.
But isn’t there a big difference with he Luddites. The Luddites complained that new technology was making them unemployed, which true but happened in a fair market. Machine fabricated and hand woven competed and the first won.
I think at this moment the case is different. Look at the way everybody is quoting the Luddites. Reading the articles it is my well educated guess that most people are retrieving what they know about the Luddites from … Wikipedia (King Ludd ..). Interesting.
But where do we think that the original knowledge of Luddites is coming from. Again my educated guess would be that sometime somewhere someone copied (rephrased) an encyclopedia.
The new competition for the Luddites did not use work from the Luddites to compete. They had their own full business model. Wikipedia can only be free since most of the original research was done by people that make a business by doing research and whose business model rely on getting paid for it. Who will do our future (original) research. My guess is not the current people filling wikipedia.
Also, at this moment we are all quoting from Wikipedia about Ludd and his companions. I am afraid if it would turn out that the Wikipedia page would be wrong we would all be parotting each other like it would be the truth. That in itself would even make it seem more truthful. Scary when you think of it.