The crowdsourcing scalability problem (or the thinness of the cognitive surplus gruel)

I’m sure someone has mentioned this, but the interesting thing if you look at Wikipedia is how many editing hours have gone into each page. Shirky says there’s a hundred million hours put into Wikipedia. There’s an estimated 342,768 full articles in Wikipedia

That’s about 291 hours per article. I don’t know what they get to write an article at Britannica, but I imagine it is something less than a sixth of a year.

If my math is wrong, feel free to correct it. This is back of the envelope stuff. (and yes, I’m aware that many articles in Britannica are re-edits — feel free to include in that sixth of a year all edits from the 11th edition until now if you want, I think the core claim does not change).

If my math is right, you can only crowd-source a very limited set of things before general productivity collapses. And as all good economists know, productivity is the key to quality of life — the quality of life, ironically, that allows us enough time to edit Wikipedia articles for free…aka the “cognitive surplus”…

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