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Everyone Knows Everything. Andrew Keen Interviews Marshall Poe, author of "The Hive" in the Atlantic Monthly:

This is the link to the home page of Wikipedia for the planet Earth.

This is the link to Marshall Poe’s Wikipedia entry.

This is the link leads to Marshall Poe’s Atlantic Monthly article on Wikipedia,The Hive.

And this is the link to this very page containing the link to Andrew Keen’s podcast interview with Marshall Poe about Wikipedia, which will probably be added to his Wikipedia entry.

Marshall Poe on the Hive of Wikipedia with Andrew Keen

In this insightful conversation, PJM Special Correspondent Andrew Keen of AfterTV, gets Poe to talk about Wikipedia, a global web collaboration that Poe believes will be around in 500 years: “Wikipedia is really not an encyclopedia. It’s more like a dictionary. It has the definition, a kind of rough description, of the way we talk about everything. It’s not expert knowledge, it’s common knowledge.”

Other highlights: “How infinite can Wikipedia become?” “Every time the ‘community’ has reached consensus about where it should stop, that consensus has fallen apart. I can see a day when every person has an entry in Wikipedia, a day when every house has an entry on Wikipedia…. In that way it’s a little bit Orwellian, you’re engaging people in a process that is going to have eventually some baleful consequences.”

New Media vs. Old Media: “The basic problem that faces old print media is that the commodity that we sell does not really have sufficient demand to keep it afloat. I noticed new models of information built on the read/write technology and I thought that the Atlantic could use some of this technology to engage its readers. That’s what led me to Wikipedia.”

Is Web 2.0 a Business? “We’re really back into the Internet Bubble. No one has quite figured out how to make Web 2.0 into a business model. What its been has been a huge race to the bottom. In the end, if you’re going to make money on the Internet. Naked ladies or something that allows you to steal stuff like Napster.

“That said, advertising revenue is flowing towards the internet and people are trying to figure out how to use the Internet to disseminate serious content.”

The Wikipedia Mission: “The people building Wikipedia are very serious about building a repository for all human knowledge and translating it into all languages.”

What It Is: “Wikipedia is really not an encyclopedia. It’s more like a dictionary. It has the definition, a kind of rough description, of the way we talk about everything. It’s not expert knowledge, it’s common knowledge.”


Andrew Keen is PoliticsCentral’s podcasting source for the present and future convergence of media, culture and technology.

You can find his previous podcasts @ AfterTV and his collected writings @ The Great Seduction.

A Production of Pajamas Media, the Best of the Blogs, and POLITICSCENTRAL.

TRANSCRIPT:
Andrew Keen: I’m talking with Marshall Poe who is a writer and analyst at the Atlantic Monthly, the Vanderbilt Boston based physical magazine. Marshall just wrote an extremely interesting article about—what the [media] called The Hive. Hi, Marshall; thanks for appearing on After TV.

Marshall Poe: My pleasure.

Andrew Keen: So your—your recent piece, The Hive, why the title? What does this mean? Does it have something to do with bees?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; it does have something to do with bees actually. You know originally the title of the piece was something else. It was going to be called Everyone Knows Everything, and I quite liked that title. I don’t think one of the Senior Editors did though and then they suggested The Hive, which I thought was just fine.

Andrew Keen: Well before we get to The Hive, Everyone Knows Everything—is that ironically or seriously?

Marshall Poe: Well no; it was partially meant seriously because if you think about it in the abstract you know where does all knowledge lie, it is in people’s heads for the most part—at least that active part of knowledge as opposed to the dead knowledge which is in libraries and on hard drives. And you know if you were to take the most recent snapshot of what is known—the kind of [know-i-sphere] you would have to look inside people’s heads because that’s where it is. And one way to think about Wikipedia—one way I thought about it—is that they had kind of magically gotten access to everyone’s head; everybody was downloading, doing a core dump as they used to say onto Wikipedia of what they knew; so we were seeing in fact what everyone knew for the first time through this project. I quite—as I say I quite liked that metaphor, but the Editors like The Hive a little bit more and I certainly understand that. I mentioned in the interview I think that there are people you might think of as the worker bees of Wikipedia and there is something like 3,000,000 to 5,000,000; we really don’t know how many exactly. I’m sure that—

Andrew Keen: These are the guys who do the actual writing?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; the guys who do the actual development of the software, the writing and the editing.

Andrew Keen: Do you want to give a typical profile, a snapshot of the kind of Hive member that you saw in your research?

Marshall Poe: Well you know I can try; I haven’t done any sort of demographic research that would be very impressionistic.

Andrew Keen: Well just sort of anecdotally.

Marshall Poe: Yeah; well anecdotally they’re somebody who is probably between 30 and 40; they’re usually male though. I wouldn’t say they [skew] to hard male—they have some technical sophistication; they certainly know how to use the internet very well. They’re probably comfortable with a markup language of some sort; they know what HTML is because to use we could be—kind of have to understand that it has a permanent markup language, though a very effective one. They’re joiners; they’re people that like to be involved in projects; they’re talkers; they’re usually very well educated I would say. They in terms of their education—

Andrew Keen: When you say very well educated, does that mean—

Marshall Poe: Meaning they certainly have college degrees; almost in all cases they’ll have college degrees. They tend toward the technical side of things I think especially the people who were the early adopters in 2001—2002; these were people with technical backgrounds who were just sort of interested in the project. More recently since the number is so large you really see a kind of regression to the mean; they are everybody now. So the most recent cohort of Wikipedia(ns) are people just like you and me and everybody else.

Andrew Keen: Well you have a PhD so—?

Marshall Poe: Well yeah; not exactly—not like me so much, but—

Andrew Keen: Like me? [Laughs]

Marshall Poe: —you know again they probably tend to be a little bit more educated than average; they probably tend to be a little bit higher income than average; they’re joiners, they you know—they know something.

Andrew Keen: Well why do they do it? Is it the glory; is it the—?

Marshall Poe: Well—

Andrew Keen: The anonymity.

Marshall Poe: I think that it’s partially to do with the fact that—I mean vanity certainly drives some of it; it is a mechanism for self-publication to a certain extent, although it’s anonymous self-publication so that kind of [eviscerates] the value of it. It’s not like you get your name in the spine of the book.

Andrew Keen: So it’s like writing for The Economist?

Marshall Poe: [Laughs] Yeah, no; it is like writing for The Economist, yeah. So there is that aspect of it; there is also the tendency for people who are a little bit more highly educated than average to be know-it-alls. You know they have to have projects and they pride very much understanding what is right and what is wrong and so they’re just natively irritated by things they think are wrong or things that are missing or this kind of thing. So these are the people that are largely responsible for what are called drive-by edits—meaning they’ll see something in a—they’ll see something in an entry that they think is wrong and they’ll go in and change it. And this is kind of addictive actually; I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it. But you start changing things and you get comfortable with it, and so basically every time you read an entry and these people read a lot of entries, they change things in the entries.

Andrew Keen: How do you become a member of The Hive? Can anyone join?

Marshall Poe: Anybody—it is a kind of a Web 2.0 phenomenon in the sense that you—you are known by your deeds. You know computers especially these computers in the Wiki-Media software is very good at keeping track of what you have done. And by that mechanism you build a reputation and—

Andrew Keen: So it’s a sort of Blog almost?

Marshall Poe: Well—

Andrew Keen: A Blog of your accomplishments?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; that’s right. You have a user page and people can leave comments on your user page. Also there is the history of all of your edits and people use it as kind of a badge of honor—the number of edits that you have. You can also work on the administrative side—again it’s all volunteer; you can join an arbitration committee; you can work on the rules; you can do all kinds of things and then once you develop a certain reputation you’ll be nominated to be an administrator.

Andrew Keen: So it almost sounds as if it’s somehow—I don’t know—a cross between Orwell and Huxley—is it? I don’t understand; why do people do this if they’re not getting paid? Why don’t you just go and work for the Encyclopedia Britannica?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; I mean I think because it—this is just a lot easier and it’s kind of a weak bond. Going and working for the Encyclopedia Britannica is quite a commitment.

Andrew Keen: And you get paid and you get—

Marshall Poe: You might actually—you get paid but you’ve got to move somewhere you know and then you’re dependent on that income stream; this is something you can do basically in you know the five minutes between you know coffee and going to work every day.

Andrew Keen: But are there real people doing this; when I say real people—people with families and real jobs?

Marshall Poe: Oh yes, oh yeah, oh yes; there really are. No; there are people who—who do it you know—they have differing levels of commitment obviously but there are people that are—that are just ordinary folks—

Andrew Keen: And when they get home and they rip off their suit and tie and they become bees in this Hive?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; and they join The Hive and they work with others to build this amazing thing. And I mean that partially has to do with it; I mean these things have a kind of snowball effect. I mean you become recognized in the community as somebody who is an active contributor and they give you—you know like many institutions it has awards; you can win awards. You can win the Barn Star Award for shoring the project up and you win the kudos of your fellows and you know it becomes a little virtual society and you’re a member of it; you have invested yourself in it.

Andrew Keen: Right; it’s virtual and obviously extremely virtuous and it sounds like everyone feels very good about themselves. Is that fair?

Marshall Poe: Well some of them do and some of them don’t; I mean there is of course a not so noble opposition as well.

Andrew Keen: What does that mean?

Marshall Poe: There are people who think that—who constantly think the project is going in the wrong direction and they’re relatively serious people, too.

Andrew Keen: These are the purists or the people who think it’s become too commercial?

Marshall Poe: No; I wouldn’t say they’re people that think it’s too commercial. There’s general consensus on the fact that it probably will never become commercial but the major truncation, the major difference in Wikipedia is between completion-ists I think they’re called and deletion-ists. And the completion-ists, they think that anything should be added and that you should just try to go for breadth, you know as many articles as possible. And then the deletion-ists they tend to want quality; so they’ll delete what they think are non-encyclopedic articles or articles that are bad—this kind of thing.

Andrew Keen: Well I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a skeptic generally on Wikipedia; the thing that really strikes me is not so much the mistakes but the inappropriate length and depth of articles about things that seem extremely unimportant.

Marshall Poe: Yeah and there is that; there is no question about it. I mean it’s not—you know it’s a fire hose of information; it’s—it’s not specified for the user particularly. And that’s absolutely true. I mean that—I would think you know when—I kind of have to explain this or let me just say it—to justify it for people who are skeptical about it, and if you think about the reference work it can have three characteristics generally speaking that you like, you know. It can be deep, it can be broad, or it can be right. Now in terms of depth, Wikipedia doesn’t really do very well. Most of the articles are not going to tell you absolutely everything you want to know. It does fairly well. In terms of breadth it does far better than anything else. There’s just nothing like it. I mean with 1.25 million entries, the English Wikipedia is the largest reference work ever to be constructed by anyone. And then in terms of accuracy well it doesn’t do very well; it does quick and dirty. It does good enough and they don’t say anything different. That’s what they say they’re going to do.

Andrew Keen: How does it reflect the need for so many of us now for quick and dirty information?

Marshall Poe: I think it absolutely does; yeah, I mean there are a lot of things that you have to know to move as a rational actor in modern life. And the internet which is a kind of unstructured Wikipedia just really won’t do it for you because it’s full of too many pictures of naked ladies and guys trying to get you to buy Viagra and people who think they have something to say but don’t. I mean it’s just a mess; whereas Wikipedia has the virtue of being structured. It’s loosely structured but it’s structured.

Andrew Keen: Do you see—what is it about Wikipedia that you see as sort of symbolic or even symptomatic of what now is known as the Web 2.0 Revolution? Why couldn’t we have had a Wikipedia in the mid-?90s?

Marshall Poe: I think we could have and we almost did; I sort of—I classify Wikipedia, to use a very—what is now kind of an old term; people—there was a forerunner of Web 2.0 and it was called the Read/Write Web. Do you remember that? [Laughs]

Andrew Keen: No; I don’t remember that.

Marshall Poe: Previous stuff was the Read/Write Web—well I still talk that way; I still like that term. Wikipedia is part of the Read/Write Web, and if you think about it so was eBay, right—eBay allows you to write something to the web, which is then seen by other people; so is Craigslist. You write something to the web—it’s seen by other people; so it’s a site like Meta-Filter or Dig—write something to the web; it’s seen by other people.

Andrew Keen: All right; but those are Web 2.0 phenomenon, right?

Marshall Poe: Yeah there are; yes. And I would—but—and I would say that Wikipedia is just one of these—that you write something to the web and other people use it. It’s just an easy facility; you’re enabled to input something through a browser. Now on Web 1.0 you couldn’t do that—at least you couldn’t do it very effectively. I could never do it. You actually had to have a web page and you had to put it on the server and you had to mess with HTML and all the other crap. Whereas with these other sites on the Read/Write Web you read it and you can write to it, so that’s—you know I don’t really classify Wikipedia as different from those. They all rely on the sort of wisdom of crowd stuff and they’re peer-to-peer and you know they have a lot of the other—it’s just Wikipedia is not a commercial venture. Well neither is Craig’s List really; so—.

Andrew Keen: Well but Craig’s List will eventually be sold and—

Marshall Poe: I don’t know; I don’t know what Craig is up to these days. The last time I saw him—I saw him at South by Southwest and he said that he didn’t have any intention of taking it commercial. I just don’t know what he’s going to do but Wikipedia I can guarantee you will not ever be commercial—well ever.

Andrew Keen: So how infinite do you think Wikipedia can become?

Marshall Poe: I was just talking to somebody about this. Well [Laughs] every time the community, and that’s in air quotes, every time the community has reached consensus about where it should stop that consensus has fallen apart and it has expanded. So I don’t particularly see an end-point for it. I mean I can easily see a day when almost everybody has a page on Wikipedia, you know literally you know the bar for notably is very low. I mean I can see a day in which every house has an interest on Wikipedia. [Laughs] There’s no reason it shouldn’t happen I suppose.

Andrew Keen: But I guess in that sense there would be a huge market? Everyone could learn everything about their neighbors.

Marshall Poe: Well there—yeah; that’s absolutely right. That is correct and in that way it is a little bit [Orwell(ian)] and it’s also a little bit—dare I say it—but it’s a little bit you know like something that [Fuko] said. I mean you’re engaging people in a process that is going to have eventually probably some baleful consequences. You know there—they seem to be playing along really well; you’re even incentivized in such a way that they want to do this, but nine—ten steps down the line it may really turn on them. I mean I don’t—I don’t know; I’m not really much of a dystopian theorist but you know if I saw my house described on—had a Wikipedia entry I’d feel a little funny.

Andrew Keen: Well certainly there’s a surrealist project in many respects.

Marshall Poe: Well it is, yeah; I mean it is. I mean—yeah; I mean—

Andrew Keen: I think the problem and I know you also have a background as a Russian historian is it would be fine if it was being operated by surrealists but it isn’t.

Marshall Poe: No.

Andrew Keen: It’s being operated by computer programmers without really much depth in terms of their education and certainly without much of a sense of humor; is that fair?

Marshall Poe: Well I would say I don’t know about that. I mean these are pretty broadly educated people.

Andrew Keen: But they’re certainly not surrealists with much of a sense of humor.

Marshall Poe: No; they’re not surrealists. There’s no question; they’re doing this in earnest. I mean you’re talk to Jimmy—.

Andrew Keen: I mean I imagine them as sort of deeply earnest programmers.

Marshall Poe: Yeah, yeah; you talk to these guys and they’re very serious about building a repository for all of human knowledge and translating it into every language.

Andrew Keen: I mean it could be a short story in [Inaudible] right; I mean in fact he did write a short story?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; no he did, yeah. No, it could be.

Andrew Keen: The infinite library.

Marshall Poe: Yeah; no it could be a short story but the fact of the matter is that I—I think I’m unusual in the sense that I think Wikipedia is now a permanent fixture of the landscape. I don’t think it will ever go away. I think it will be like you know Cambridge University or something. It’s going to be around in 500 years.

Andrew Keen: So how important is it? I mean in—is this going to be a footnote to the internet or is the internet eventually as you’re almost suggesting going to become a footnote to Wikipedia?

Marshall Poe: Well I think the internet will still exist because Wikipedia is kind of a safe non-commercial space. And the media companies all want to get on the internet to make money. But the difference I think is—is that Wikipedia is in a sense kind of public utility now. It’s much more like the electric company or the water company or the public library than it is anything else and there’s no reason it shouldn’t exist and continue to expand alongside all kinds of other commercial ventures because it is basically built for free. I mean it’s just—it’s a utility that is provided to the public at almost no public cost. So it has the pants beat off any sort of tax funded venture or commercial venture. You know it’s just not—it’s done—it does what it does too efficiently to have to compete against anybody else. That isn’t to say that other people won’t be out there making money on the web; they will. But no one will be able to compete against Wikipedia.

Andrew Keen: So in a sense in spite of the slightly skeptical tone of the piece you are a believer?

Marshall Poe: Yeah; I am a believer. I mean I—again I think it’s—I think one place where people get very confused and for good reason is the insistence on these—by these very earnest people of using the word encyclopedia because it’s really not an encyclopedia. It’s more like a kind of dictionary; it has the definition; it has a kind of rough description of the way we talk about everything, you know. It’s not exactly expert knowledge; it’s common knowledge. You know when—when you go to nuclear reactor on Wikipedia you’re not getting an encyclopedia entry, so much as you’re getting what people who know a little about nuclear reactors know about nuclear reactors and what they think common people can understand. So encyclopedia constantly throws people off and they think well if it’s an encyclopedia why can’t I site it; why can’t I basically use this money or use this—you know use this information you know in a kind of—in a hard sense? Why can’t I rely on it? And you can’t; you just can’t rely on it like that. You can rely on it in the way that—it used to be the case for example you know when you wanted to know something and you had a friend, you know like I need to know about—you know I need to know about Novocain; I just suddenly need to know about Novocain; let’s see—I have a friend who is a dentist. I’m going to call him. And you get his wife on the phone and his wife knows a little bit about Novocain so she tells you. Now you’re not going to put any money on that information; you know you’re not going to take that to the bank but it’s probably pretty good information and just orientation(ally) it helps you. Now if you want to know more about Novocain, you go to the library or you talk to somebody who is a Novocain expert. Similarly with Wikipedia, you just—it kind of puts you—it sends you in the right direction; it’s not the end of your researches.

Andrew Keen: I think that that’s a very interesting way of putting it in terms of addiction. I was just writing something and I was looking at the word meme, m-e-m-e and in the—in my Oxford English Dictionary which I rely on it has a one-line definition. In my Encyclopedia Britannica Online subscription there is no entry. In the Wikipedia entry there is a very long and fairly irrelevant for the most part entry but it still taught me more than my Oxford entry.

Marshall Poe: Right; and that’s because it was basically written by somebody who knew a little bit about it. You know they weren’t a lexicographer nor were they an encycloped(ist); they were somebody that knew a little bit about it. [Laughs]

Andrew Keen: So what’s really interesting then is in a sense it’s attacking the dictionary. What is it doing to language?

Marshall Poe: Well it’s actually extremely interesting because I mean I think that let me just throw this out there for you—I think that what you know Johnson and his dictionary did for English and England, Wikipedia is doing for the world. I mean this truly is common knowledge; I mean it’s going to be the thing—it’s going to be the place where everything we all know is held, and when I say you know we all know, I mean the 6.5 billion people on earth once they have internet access. This is where you’re going to go to find out what things are. So I mean it’s a great step forward in what you might call homogenization.

Andrew Keen: But what does it do to language?

Marshall Poe: Well I mean again it provides a vocabulary; it provides a huge vocabulary. It expands the vocabularies of many languages. I mean the English language is extremely rich because we intend to invent a lot of this crap but if you do things in Urdu or—I suppose [Urdu] is very rich as well but if you do things in [Kazak] or you know Turk or I don’t know Bantu you’re not really going to have a word for rocket, but Wikipedia is going to give you one. And then you’re going to know what a rocket is and the word is going to be rocket [Pronunciation Difference] [Laughs].

Andrew Keen: How do—what determines the way we talk to another? Is it every time we look up a word instead of getting a single sentence definition we get 30 paragraphs.

Marshall Poe: Well yeah; I mean I absolutely see your point but things—you know again that—the other thing that distinguishes—you asked about language—the other thing that distinguishes and is more honest about Wikipedia than any dictionary or any print dictionary or any print encyclopedia is that it’s really a discussion about what things mean. It’s never really fixed. You know if you think that the Wikipedia entry on carrot is not quite right you can go in and change it if you want and then you’ve got to fight with everybody who is watching that entry and you can negotiate what carrot means in real-time for as long as you want. And that’s really the way we use words too; I mean we don’t fight about them often. When I say carrot you know what I mean and that’s that. But if you’re really invested in carrots you might want to fight and if you find the right person you’re going to have a knockdown drag-out over what a carrot is or if you’re a lobbyist or something and you sell carrots or I don’t exactly know but if you have enough invested in carrot, you’re going to fight about carrot.  And Wikipedia basically every entry is kind of a battlefield for that sort of semantic struggle.

Andrew Keen: So it’s a good way of describing it—semantic struggle.

Marshall Poe: I mean it’s a discussion; it’s a discussion about what things mean and a negotiation about what things mean. It’s not what things mean because there is no what things mean.

Andrew Keen: And now you’re sounding like Foucault.

Marshall Poe: [Laughs] Yeah; well I mean I think it’s true. I mean you know words are—or maybe [Lichtenstein] I don’t know—words are defined in use. And so—and so are definitions and so are encyclopedia entries.

Andrew Keen: So I know that you—most of the time at the Atlantic an analyst, someone looking at the future of media in terms of the magazine. What attracted you about this particular subject in terms of your analytical work for the magazine?

Marshall Poe: Well you know the basic problem that faces all old print media is that the commodity that we sell unless you’re in a kind of [inaudible] business does not really have sufficient demand in order to keep it afloat and I did notice the emergence of new models and again they were built on this Read/Write technology—Read/Write internet technology, what we now call Web 2.0 technology. And I thought this was an interesting way to engage readers and I thought the Atlantic website could use that technology to engage its readers in discussions. That’s really what led me to Wikipedia and the—and the discussion that’s constantly going on about everything. And there are other sites that are you know similarly interactive like that—that I looked at. And one of my favorites is Meta-Filter. I don’t know if you know it but it’s a terrific site.

Andrew Keen: Do you think that the big story—the new thing is Wikipedia while magazines including I think your own are in crisis?

Marshall Poe: Well I—you know I think a lot of it has to do with sort of an internet bubble. I mean I really think that we’re back into it. I—no one has really quite figured out how to make Web 2.0 a—into a business model. I mean even the people at News Corp with My Space and so on and so forth; they still can’t quite figure out and what—what it’s been really is kind of a—at least in my opinion—has been a huge race to the bottom. I mean in the end on the internet you almost always—if you’re going to make money—you almost all—always end up selling some variation on one of two things—pictures of naked ladies or some utility that allows you to steal stuff, you know like Napster. [Laughs] And you know that’s pretty much what My Space has become and it’s what all of these properties have become as far as I can tell. So I’m not—I’m not afraid that traditional media or the Atlantic is going to go away you know sort of pass into the darkness any time soon; that said advertising revenue is flowing toward the internet. People are trying to figure out how to use it in order to disseminate serious content. And you know it’s just due-diligence for us to figure out how that’s being done, to figure out what the best practices are in that particular movement.

Andrew Keen: Don’t you think though that from everyone’s point of view, probably from the point of view of Wikipedia, from the user point of view, certainly from the point of view of other sellers of knowledge that Wikipedia should charge for its services—that the idea of free is extremely unhealthy?

Marshall Poe: Well yeah; I mean the idea of free is to some degree unhealthy if you’re talking about—if you’re talking about some—you know if you’re talking about something that somebody really has to work hard on and has to have a certain amount of expertise to provide then it is unhealthy. We—we can’t give you what you get in the Atlantic for free because it takes too much effort. On Wikipedia they can give you what they have for free because they have a lot of enthusiasts and everybody works in 30-seconds increments. It’s kind of many hands make small work phenomenon. So we have to find a way to make consumers, people that prize that high-value product—how to make them pay—how to get them to pay for it and it’s tough. I mean it’s tough in an era in which everything is given away. I mean the amount of attention that is taken—you know I mean I would be very interested to know you know just the amount of attention that was taken away when the internet appeared and internet porn and free music sites appeared, because I think it’s probably a very large percentage. People didn’t read the Atlantic as much anymore; they went for stuff that they could get on the internet free that was a—kind of a less savory character. Now that’s their choice.

Andrew Keen: Are you saying that the Atlantic readers look at porn?

Marshall Poe: Well I think pretty much everyone does; don’t you? I you know—I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody—everybody happens on it by accident you know. But you know I mean who hasn’t—hey in the heyday of Napster who wasn’t stealing music? I mean pretty much everybody was; so you know I guess I would call—I’d put it in kind of economic terms—I would say the internet is a huge moral hazard for people in general and it is a huge economic hazard for the serious providers of content.

Andrew Keen: So final question and I’m going to nail you on this one—or try to anyway; you looked carefully at Wikipedia; you’re a guy with an academic background and you work on probably the most distinguished magazine certainly in Boston. Does—does Wikipedia make us any wiser? I know it makes us more manageable.

Marshall Poe: Yeah; you did nail me. Make us any wiser—well I think it does in one sense; I mean it tells us that there are a lot of well-intentioned people out there who want to help. Now they may be somewhat vain it’s true, but you know engaging people’s self-interest for the public good is a game that we’ve been playing in the Western World for a long time. And it’s nice to know that the you know public spirited if somewhat self-interested people of the Western World and increasingly other parts of the world are willing to contribute their time so that everything can be known at least in some [Laughs]—you know in some minimal way.

Andrew Keen: Where’s the wisdom there?

Marshall Poe: Well I mean I think that yeah, the wisdom there is the fact that we can to some extent rely on these people to do good things. You know I mean I—I feel a little bit more positive about mankind knowing about Wikipedia.

Andrew Keen: So Wikipedia makes you wiser about the human race but it doesn’t make the human race wiser about knowledge?

Marshall Poe: Well I think it makes it easier for the human race to get knowledge; I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean if you want to know what things are and you have an internet connection you can find out now. Thirty years ago you couldn’t.

Andrew Keen: And for listeners who want to find out about Marshall Poe, how would be the best way of doing that?

Marshall Poe: The best way to find out about me—well I have a Wikipedia entry; you could go to it—just go to Wikipedia and type in Marshall Poe and you’ll find too much about me.

Andrew Keen: And if they want to contact you?

Marshall Poe: If they want to contact me the best way to do it would be by email and you can get me at mpoe@theatlantic.com. The Atlantic is of course one word.

Andrew Keen: Marshall I want to thank you for—

Marshall Poe: My pleasure.

Andrew Keen: —extremely—I’m not sure if it was a wise interview but it was very informative.

Marshall Poe: No; I don’t know if it was. I didn’t promise wisdom though Andrew; I didn’t promise it.

Andrew Keen: Well you certainly; and I’m certainly wiser now about Wikipedia than I was in the beginning. Thanks so much.

Marshall Poe: Good; okay, take care.

Narrator: Thanks for listening to After TV, which is hosted and distributed by www.pajamasmedia.com, featuring music by Unity, an artist licensed by Creative Commons. Hope you can join us again.

———
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