Wikimania 2007 Taipei :: a Globe in Accord
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Important note: you can find an updated table and open research process here
(this page in the Wikimania 2007 site is not updated anymore)- --Esenabre 13:46, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

One of the main aspects of my investigation about Wikipedia as an emergent system consists in detecting the parallelisms between its wiki peer-production model and the way developers and software interact and evolve in collaborative Open Source environments.

If we consider, for example, that the first Wiki Wiki was conceived by an expert in extreme programming (and not for creating an encyclopaedia, but a repository for programming design patterns), we could begin to wonder until what extent is that tool determined by some kind of hacker’s philosophy (still 12 years after being appropriated and adapted for collaborative work in many different informational contexts). In fact, Jimmy Wales himself recognizes some Eric Raymond’s The cathedral and the bazaar influence.

With this aim, I’m creating the following table in order to detect and validate similar features, routines, proceedings and characterists between Wikipedia and some OS projects:

Similarities in philosophy and evolution of projects
OS projects
What do you think?
Task specialization Users with different responsibilities: administrators, bureaucrats, stewards, Mediation Committee members, Arbitration Committee members and other “hybrid” users (from programming and tech issues to generating content, translating, spell-checking or wikification). Developer, committer, project management committee member, ASF member or ASF board member status in the Apache Software Foundation. In this and many other OS projects there is also participants committed to documentation, translation or testing, for example. No feedback from the audience, so I take it as they agree (but also due to my very poor manners as a speaker! :)
Meritocracy as a Decision-Making system

Although not officially enumerated, for being electable as an admin different merits are needed (a record of article edits, help to other users, maintenance tasks, mediation, discussion of rules), otherwise nominations could not succeed.

The ASF and its govern based in merit. "When the group felt that the person had 'earned' the merit to be part of the development community, they granted direct access to the code repository". Someone from the audience said that the comparison is ok but (because of time) maybe Wikipedia is a less developed project, since some OS projects don't have already to do with merits at all (like the ones with private companies behind it).
Content and process transparency Discussions about every individual category, in talk pages or others. Or a detailed record of bot edits. Possibility of accessing the source code for modifying it, like in the case of the Linux kernel.
Release early, release often In Wikipedia (and wikis in general) the editing philosophy is about publishing frequently and without waiting for the complete development of articles: a matter of intention. Like a work in progress, that dynamizes the elaboration of content according to another OS leit motifs: "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" (Linus law). A practical example of that philosophy of production is Freshmeat’s list of projects by its vitality, based in a calculation about the antiquity of the project, its number of announcements, and the date of its last release. No feedback from the audience, but from the facial expressions of some people I think they agree also...
Development’ parallel comments (asynchronous awareness) Talk pages, a meta level for opinions, questions, planning, debating, etc. around articles but also users, categories, portals, special pages. Sysops noticeboard as another example. Between programmers is usual to leave comments within pieces of code, making it easier to install but also to understand programs (even for oneself). Another good example could be specific forums for each project at SourceForge. Bastique explains how commenting is very useful in Wikipedia when it comes to check starnge things/contents in articles. Someone from the audience thinks that this is a difficult comparison, because there are more details and types of comments in Wikipedia. My answer/opinion then is that code is more neutral/objective than language (personal/subjective) contents, and that could lead to more room for types of discussion in Wikipedia.
Benevolent dictatorship For example Jimmy Wales, being (or rather ‘not needing to be’, usually :) the maximum (and recognized) authority in case of polemics between Mediation and Arbitration Committees. For example Linus Torvalds or Larry Wall  
Possibility of forking

Depending on the level, it could be a page forking (with subpages linked or disambiguation needed) or parallel projects derived from Wikipedia, like the Spanish Enciclopedia Libre.

See Fear of Forking, an essay that gives account of some famous forks, in projects like Unix, emac or BSD, and where forking is considered a non negative possibility in decentralized programming.  
GNU License In Wikipedia, the GNU license could be considered a clear appropriation of OS (guaranteeing the same replicability and scalability of contents that programs or distributions have). What's GNU? Gnu's Not Unix! "The golden rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it."  
Social filtering (against attacks and vandalism) Due to the high amount of vandalism acts (and other types of intentional damage or disruption), blocking users is sometimes a necessity. Trust metrics like in Advogato, for validating accounts but also reducing the impact of attackers, spammers or trolls. Someone in the audience considered that vandalism is less harmfull for Wikipedia than attacks to OS projects could be, but agreed to the comparison in terms of its role streghting community ties and probably the system itself. My question about it, while writing this: is that due to different "expertise" of attackers in each of the systems? Or maybe to the wiki as a very well developed and standard platform, compared to the radical openess of code in OS projects.
Platforms for nesting projects For example the Wikimedia Foundation projects, although at a lower level each different language Wikipedia or specific portal could bee understood as a platform for nesting projects. For example SourceForge’ most active projects, but also sites like Advocato, that centralize projects and participants’ identities while maintaining the forges outside.  
Reusing of sources Is common practice (specially in non English Wikipedias) to begin articles with translations form the English one (that later on could begin to acquire its own local or cultural perspective). Recycling code is an usual practice, based in the principle that nobody should solve the same problem twice.  
Netiquette As a good manners guideline, for avoiding personal attacks or edit wars, the Wikiquette is a good example. How to ask questions the smart way is nowadays a classic reference for understanding communication between hackers and programmers, informal but seriously ritualized.  
Common "enemies" (+ community cohesion) In the genesis of Wikipedia there is already a certain critic to Britannica’s or Encarta’s knowledge production model, and maybe even more after Nature’s study (see this table as example). There is a shared culture of opposition to Microsoft’s hegemonic model, also applied to proprietary software and to the conceptual split between "free software" and "open source" movements. I did'n comment this one directly but the comparison merged from the vandalism one, and I also think by some of the audience non verbal expressions there was also some agreement.
Stigmergic tracks Special pages like recent changes or most wanted articles constitute a temporal track for attracting participants to active focal points of information (tracks could keep very active until a critical mass of potential contributors has given a significant amount of time and words to a certain wiki page). SourceForge projects recently approved or the possibility of finding projects in FreshMeat according to its development status (planning, pre-Alfa, Alfa, Beta, production/stable, mature).  
HowTos and ad hoc guidelines Although maybe some indicators could be studied about its use and influence for newbies, Wikipedia HowTos about technical, content, editing or vandalism issues are a good example. Like the deletion guidelines for admins. The HowTo is a genuine hacker learning informational product. See for example SourceForge’ Guidelines on Submitting Patches or this list of HowTos for Gentoo developers.  
Issue Tracking / Debugging This type of problem-centered stigmergic tracks are more oriented to quality growth (rather than quantitative growth), or also to solving bias crisis. See articles for deletion and special pages related to vandalism. See SourceForge's bug list. This is another strong point of Open Source development, since it leads to stable versions and represents one of its motivational driving forces (detecting and fixing bugs).  
"Corporate" participants See controversy about Microsoft funding for someone editing its Wikipedia article See IBM and its strategy of involvement in the development of OS projects  
Other examples? In Wikipedia... In OS...

< Meritocracy, vandalism and similarities with Open Source development