The Globe and Mail did something really unusual this morning: they devoted an editorial to Wikipedia (behind their premium firewall, sorry!). Normally reserved for political or social commentary, the editors wrote about this internet phenom instead. Towards the end, this paragraph explains the motivation:
The Wikipedia model is not perfect, but its success has implications that go far beyond how people conduct research. It puts a question mark over the whole idea that information must move from credentialed producer to passive consumer. That presents established companies and organizations with a big challenge. Media groups will have to find a way to emulate Wikipedia and bring readers and viewers inside the tent, as this newspaper is trying to do by, among other things, inviting on-line comments and organizing question-and-answer sessions with journalists. Political parties will have to use the Web to involve an alienated public, as Howard Dean managed in his Web-driven run for the 2004 U.S. Democratic presidential nomination. Government itself, that ultimate control freak, will have to open up to the views of its Web-empowered citizens. In the same way that Wikipedia presumes "collaboration among users will improve articles over time," government should learn to accept that collaboration among citizens can change things for the better.
At Barcamp Ottawa, one of the most raucous sessions was Chris Nolan’s "What does Web 2.0 mean to you?". A cornerstone of the debate was between folks that felt that credentialed producers (notably, newspapers) gave them more value than the raw feed. In other words, one faction was all too willing to read the RSS feeds of the material they wanted, while others found value in the editors selection compiled into a dead tree edition.
Disintermediation is having a profound effect on many traditional businesses. It seems as if there are no boundaries to how the Internet can be used to disintermediate existing models, either. Here’s an interesting, and perhaps cheeky, thought experiment: what would a disintermediated religion look like? After all, from the perspective of business model, a church is a distribution mechanism to get "wholesale truth" from God, and distribute it retail to the masses.
Perhaps the more profound change to come, however, is in the collaborative dialog that the Globe wrote about this morning. When every citizen can be a publisher and collaborator, the world is a very different place.