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”…