Alix contra Bodnick

From René Alix, comment on my repost of Bodnick predicting demise of Wikipedia. Several insights I think deserve wider readership.…

A lot of smart people I know feel the way I do, but aren’t willing to say so publicly.

I see; “lurkers support him in email” <scoff>; smart ones too, not idiots like the rest of us. You’d think Wikipedia had imposed a totalitarian state upon us all and Bodnick was leading the underground intelligentsia.

Pretty ridiculous notions about people not daring to say anything bad about Wikipedia, when a simple search shows exactly the opposite. Sure, there are apologists who will defend anything; Quora has plenty of those itself. But AFAIK various Wikipedia critique has pretty much been constant and wide spread, for years — and nobody I know is afraid to say anything. I am certainly not. Heck, Wikipedia has comprehensive pages about it: Criticism of Wikipedia. People have written papers on it, done academic studies. After all, what can Wikipedia do stop us; they have zero power over us.

IMO Wikipedia is somewhat better now than it was 10 years ago. I don’t see the degradation. It also has scale, which means editors who burn out are replaced by new ones (though it could certainly do even better at retaining editors; the rules are byzantine). And no, I am not an apologist; I find Wikipedia extremely useful (much more useful than Quora, which is IMO never going to be a replacement), but I am not at all blind to its shortcomings.

Innovation is great; most of my life I’ve worked at the cutting edge of it, in the service of creating better software for users who are themselves at the cutting edge of entertainment (in film and games). But innovation just so you can brag about being innovative, innovation for innovation’s sake? Not so desirable. Serious users don’t like that sort of thing in their UX. They do in fact resist it; hard. And if you develop software people pay a lot of money for, you notice that real quick. Quora seems to do too much innovation for innovation’s sake (excepting the AI aspects). I don’t see them doing much for the experience of their actual users at all, rather I see them ignoring most of the common complaints in order to futz around with aspects that nobody I’ve ever seen has requested any change on. If they actually had to make money from selling their product to their users, they’d be singing a different tune. The lack of communication with users in itself is pretty disastrous when it comes to innovation that is supposed to help the user. Quora doesn’t even obey the most basic rules. Keeping people perpetually off balance is not innovative.

But we already know who the real customers are — not the users — so it all makes sense. Razzle dazzle buzzwords draw investors and advertisers.

In fact one of the most successful aspects of user experience in recent years has been gamification. But Quora has removed some of its own and hasn’t replaced it with anything fun — the credit system is gone, and the only things left are the Quill (out of reach for most of us, for which the rules are arbitrary; never a good thing), upvotes/downvotes on individual answers (about which we are not fully informed and which are impossible to keep track of), and followers (this is probably the most “true” metric, but I can’t say it does much for me (might need to unpack why not some time)). All of Quora’s assessment that goes into how high our answers float is completely hidden.

I was just reminded of how ridiculously motivating it can be to gather points and levels/badges (if I understand exactly how I’ve earned them) when I started answering questions on TheQuestion and Fluther, both of which have reputation scores. I know how silly that is, and still it motivates me. Fluther also has levelling of sorts. All very cute, probably too cute for the more academic of Quora’s users, certainly a bit twee for me, but it makes me feel oddly cared for, particularly in contrast with Quora’s complete disregard for me as a person.

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