The Transformation of the Web: How Emerging Communities
Shape the Information we Consume
(Graz University of Technology, Austria
(Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media, Graz University
of Technology, Austria
Abstract: To date, one of the main aims of the World Wide Web
has been to provide users with information. In addition to private homepages,
large professional information providers, including news services, companies,
and other organisations have set up web-sites. With the development and
advance of recent technologies such as wikis, blogs, podcasting and file
sharing this model is challenged and community-driven services are gaining
influence rapidly. These new paradigms obliterate the clear distinction
between information providers and consumers. The lines between producers
and consumers are blurred even more by services such as Wikipedia, where
every reader can become an author, instantly.
This paper presents an overview of a broad selection of current
technologies and services: blogs, wikis including Wikipedia and
Wikinews, social networks such as Friendster and Orkut as well as
related social services like del.icio.us, file sharing tools such as
Flickr, and podcasting. These services enable user participation on
the Web and manage to recruit a large number of users as authors of
new content. It is argued that the transformations the Web is subject
to are not driven by new technologies but by a fundamental mind shift
that encourages individuals to take part in developing new structures
and content. The evolving services and technologies encourage ordinary
users to make their knowledge explicit and help a collective
intelligence to develop.
Keywords: Collaborative Work, Community Building,
Self-Organisation, Emergence, Information Systems, Web-Based
Applications, Wikis, Blogs, Podcasting, File Sharing, Social Networks
Categories: H.3.4, H.3.5, H.3.7, H.4.3, H.5.1
The World Wide Web has grown into a truly world-wide computer-based
media network. Previously, most information was, by and large, offered
by professional information providers such as companies advertising
their products and services, organisations or news services. In
addition, private users on the web had the option of establishing
personal homepages as well. However, technological
obstacles—complicated tools, lack of infrastructure and
technical background knowledge—prevented many users from producing
web-pages (e.g., [Lindahl and Blount
The infrastructure of successful corporate web-sites often relies on
content management systems. These environments take their organisational
structures from traditional media such as newspapers or television channels,
where authors, editors, an editor-in-chief, etc. are in charge. Hence it
can be argued that, to date, the Web has mapped structures from the physical
world to the hypertext domain. It has not been able to deliver other qualities
than traditional media; the World Wide Web has been far from being interactive,
and users rarely had a chance to participate.
Recently, however, the Web has undergone changes. Although it has gone
partly unnoticed, these transformations are profound as they give ordinary
users ability to get more involved in the content creation process. As
a result, community-driven initiatives such as blogs, wikis and podcasts
This paper gives an overview of a number of popular community-based
technologies and services. The following sub-sections detail the
nature of self-organising systems and briefly outline current
developments on the Internet. Section 2 introduces
blogs, a form of web-based journals. The subsequent sections address
wikis, types of collaborative content development systems, and two
particular instances of wikis: Wikipedia and Wikinews. While blogs and
wikis allow communities to generate mainly textual content, podcasting
addressed in section 6 introduces a way for users
to distribute audio content. Section 7 discusses
file sharing tools including Flickr used by communities for sharing
documents such as photos. In section 8, social
networks as communication and meeting platforms for communities and
friends are presented. The last section of this paper discusses the
impact of the services introduced and gives an outlook on further
1.1 Self-Organising Structures
Oftentimes it seems to be necessary to introduce hierarchies in
order to make large amounts of data and complex structures manageable
and comprehensible. Hence most information systems, as computer-based
environments or systems in the engineering sciences in general, have
hierarchical structures. Examples are filesystems, web-sites,
newsgroups and e-Mail systems.
Daily life, however, has numerous examples of systems that do not
have a clearly defined hierarchy and follow the rules of organised
complexity that may yield emerging structures (e.g., [Johnson 2001]). Examples include the formation of
neighbourhoods and cities, the growth of plants, and the natural
balance of ecosystems.
Probably the most prominent examples of self-organising systems,
however, are ant colonies (see [Gordon 2000; Gordon 1999]). Although every colony has its queen,
the term queen is misleading because she is not a leader of the
colony. The ant queen lays the eggs, but she does not communicate any
particular orders to the workers. They communicate with each other
using a vocabulary of about ten to twenty pheromones. In addition to
this, they are believed to have a small set of "built-in"
rules they follow in order to be able to complete tasks including
building a nest, protecting it, and foraging.
Every ant starts the day with a particular task such as collecting food.
When many foragers return to the nest with food, ants performing other
tasks will also start foraging. ("Today is a good day for collecting
food.") When, on the other hand, many foragers return without food,
the ants in the nest will continue doing their current work, and foragers
will, for instance, go back into the nest and remain idle. ("Today
is not a good day for finding food, try again tomorrow.")
Although these simple decisions foragers make might not be ideal, and
individual ants make wrong decisions, the large number of ants in colonies
assures that decisions are ultimately correct. This can be explained as
a variation of the principle of evolution that holds true for a sufficiently
large amount of time and a critical mass of individuals (e.g., [Rechenberg
Another remarkable aspect of ant colonies is that they change their
behaviour over the course of generations. Foragers of a three or four year
old colony, for example, are likely to fight over food with ants from neighbouring
colonies. In contrast to this, ants of older colonies will steer clear
of foreign foragers on their encounters. On subsequent days, foragers will
avoid the corresponding region altogether and attempt to find food in different
This change in behaviour is particularly astonishing since, apart from
the queen, ants do not live for more than a year. The ant queen, however,
is unable to pass any knowledge on to the workers. Although the behaviour
of single ants seems to remain unchanged, the entire colony becomes more
mature towards the end of its lifetime.
1.2 Recent Developments on the Internet
Technological advancements in recent years have yielded systems with
entirely new qualities. Although similar applications have existed in the
past, the new developments have amalgamated distinct features of their
"precursors" and enable entirely novel applications.
The common characteristic, which all these systems share, is that
the approach is "bottom-up" rather than
"top-down". This means that in these environments content
and structure are not determined by professional, corporate
information providers. Both content and structure are defined by the
individuals of the community. This facilitates self-organisation in
these systems and makes the emergence of advanced structures possible.
The result is a system where the knowledge of the community is
"larger" than the sum of knowledge and experience of all
For this approach to work, a critical mass (of users in the
community) is required (e.g., [Andrus 2005] and
[Rechenberg 1973]). This requirement can be
seen as an analogy to ant colonies. Individual ants may be unable to
build a nest and defend it, may be incapable of providing all
fellow-ants with food, etc. With a large number of ants, however, they
become more than their sum—they form a community, an ant
Weblogs, often simply called blogs, are web pages that contain
newsgroup-like articles in a chronological order with the newest
article listed first. Postings to blogs are frequent, typically once
a day. They are usually produced by one author or by a small group of
authors and are open to the public for reading. Both in style and
content, blogs resemble a cross between diaries, newsgroups, newspaper
editorials, and hotlists where owners write down information important
to them on a regular basis (see [Blood
2002]). Blogs are, however "owned" and maintained by a
single person or group of users. They are not open to the public for
authoring, and there is no well-defined publishing process as in
newspapers (e.g., [Herring et al. 2004]).
Blog entries frequently cite a current event such as a law recently
passed, a news story, or the release of a new product. Individuals write
comments and their opinion on the event in their blog. Hence, blogs are
usually opinionated and reflect the author's views on certain topics.
2.1 Types of Blogs and Applications
Basically, two major sorts of weblogs can be distinguished: diaries
or personal journals and filters. Journals amount to approximately
seventy percent of all blogs, and filters to about ten to fifteen
percent ([Herring et al. 2004]).
In the first class of blogs, authors keep readers informed on their
work, a social life, they posted holiday photos, etc. The first diary-style
weblog believed to have been published was started by Justin Hall, a college
student, in January 1994 (e.g., [Pollock 2001]).
He employed it to keep people informed about his daily life. Nowadays,
for many users, weblogs are a replacement for homepages because they can
be used in similar ways but are easier to maintain.
Filters are collections of links to external web-sites that are supplemented
with abstracts or brief comments on the contents of the corresponding page.
They are usually dedicated to particular topics that can be as diverse
as computer hardware, politics, or the war in Iraq. One of the best-known
filter style blogs is Slashdot, a web-site focusing on technology ([Slashdot
Slashdot has a large number of authors, and hundreds of new articles
are added every day. This was a potential problem for readers because it
is hard to find out which articles are interesting, and almost impossible
to read all new articles. Therefore Slashdot introduced a rating system:
every entry in the blog is rated by readers of the blog. At the same time,
readers can choose to have only articles with a certain average rating
displayed. Thus, the community of readers determines which articles are
significant and hence is capable of establishing a sort of quality control.
Blogging technology is employed in both professional and personal areas.
Companies, for instance, make use of weblogs in order to keep employees
informed about new products and strategies or on the progress of projects.
Furthermore, they are a means to foster cooperation between various departments
(see [Treese 2004]). Such blogs are usually only
available within the network of the company and not publicly accessible.
Authors are frequently project leaders and heads of departments.
2.2 The Blogging Community
With several free tools and services available on the Internet,
basically anyone can set up their own blogs relatively easily (e.g.,
[Blogger 2005]). Hence, readers can also
comment on other authors' blog articles in their own blogs. This
network of more or less loosely interconnected weblogs is called
Connections among various blogs are a type of community-building
that becomes possible through a set of technologies including
permalinks, trackback and RSS feeds (see [Efimova
and de Moor 2004]). A permalink is a persistent URL to a
single posting in a weblog. When author A refers in her article
aA to an article aB by author
B, a permalink to aB can be used. If the
blogs are trackback-enabled, a link from aB
to aA is appended to aB.
aA and aB are linked
bidirectionally, and authors of cited articles are informed about
their content being used (cf., [Maurer and
Tochtermann 2002] and [Bharat et al. 2001]).
RSS (RDF Site Syndication, [RSS 1999; RSS
2001]) is a relatively uncomplicated way for users to find out about
the most recent changes on a blog, or a web-site in general, in a given
period of time. The RSS feed for a site presents a list of changes
and additions that typically contains the title of an article, a short
summary and the URL to the full entry.
2.3 Advantages and Drawbacks of Blogs
Weblogs are an easy way for users to express themselves on the Web and
are a valuable tool for companies and organisations to communicate information
to employees. Critics, however, claim that they are essentially nothing
new (e.g., [Herring et al. 2004]). Hotlists, discussion
forums, and "what's new" pages have existed before; however,
their usage was more complicated than writing an entry for a blog.
Blogs are sometimes perceived as authoritative works—which they
are not. Their contents may be flawed due to a bias. Depending on the
purpose of the blog, this can be an advantage or a shortcoming. In
systems where a blog is utilised in order to give users the
opportunity to comment on articles on a web-site, for instance,
opinionated entries can be of value to other readers. Filter-style
blogs, on the other hand, offer links to external information
complemented with comments. In this case, biased comments are
When analysing the blogosphere technological drawbacks of HTTP and
HTML become obvious. Permalinks become necessary because it is not
possible to identify and locate information at the required level of
detail. Since the Web merely implements unidirectional links a
technology like "trackback" has to be introduced (cf., [Kappe 1995]). The Web is a passive media that
provides content on request; it cannot inform users whenever an
existing document is altered or a new page is added. Therefore RSS is
employed in order to notify users of new or modified content.
Blogs are usually not used by themselves but in conjunction with
several other technologies ([Efimova and de Moor
2004]). Most frequently, they are combined with e-mail and
instant messaging for "out-of-band" communication or wikis
(see below). From this perspective, weblogs are a new sort of media
that is complemented with various other technologies.
The term wiki wiki is Hawaiian for "quick"
and reflects Ward Cunningham's intent to create a concept that makes
rapid development and organisation of web-pages possible (see [Leuf and Cunningham 2001]). The first wiki was
started in 1995 as a collaborative authoring environment (see [WikiWikiWeb 2006]). Wikis in general are
self-organising web-sites, where anyone on the Internet can edit
existing pages and add new documents any time they wish. This means
that every reader can instantly become an author.
This characteristic is interesting because initial authors of
articles allow other users to edit "their" content. The
fundamental idea behind wikis is that a vast number of users read and
edit the content, and therefore errors will be found and
corrected. Although modifications to the original article can
introduce errors, the principle of evolution determines that in the
course of time, after a number of changes, the document will become
complete (cf., section 1.1).
The aim of wikis is to reach an agreement among the authors. Through
the iterations an article undergoes, and the numerous editors, the content
is generally agreed upon. For the same reason, wikis tend to be unbiased,
which differentiates them from blogs.
3.1 Technical Aspects of Wikis
From a technical perspective, a wiki is a web-based content management
system (CMS) for generating web-pages that can contain text, images, sound
and similar media objects as well as hyperlinks to internal and external
resources. Unlike a regular CMS, wikis usually do not contain sophisticated
rights management. Thus apart from a few users with administrative privileges,
every user in the system has the same permissions.
When the content of a page is modified a wiki-specific source code
has to be employed. The complexity of this markup language determines,
for example, if the wiki can be used to display tables, mathematical
formulas or different fonts. The visual design of the wiki articles is
determined by HTML templates that define the placement of the content
on the page, the font to be used, etc. When a wiki page is requested
by a user the content entered using the wiki-specific markup is
translated into HTML code and is inserted into the template. Thus, a
conventional HTML page with a pre-defined design is sent to the
The articles of a wiki are stored in a database. However, not only
the most current versions of articles but their entire history is
retained. Therefore wikis inherently provide version tracking, and
users can have access to a list of recent changes of a given
page. Moreover, the differences to a previous version of an article
can be pointed out.
3.2 Application Areas
The concept of wikis is applied in numerous fields, from learning
environments to documentation systems. Many companies including
computer businesses and car manufacturers offer online documentation
and help for business customers and consumers. Traditionally, these
support databases contain information provided by engineers and
customer support. Other valuable information such experiences with the
actual product gathered by users are handled in discussion
With wikis, engineers could provide the first version of a product
description, and users could modify the initial content and append
complementary information when needed. This approach can make
documentation systems much more effective since the essential
description of a product, for instance, is available in a single
document. The information can be kept up-to-date by the user
community, and new developments such as the influence of a new
operating system on an existing software product can be dealt with
potentially more effectively. Discussions about topics such as the
usability of the product can take place in forums or blogs attached to
articles in the wiki.
Another area in which wikis are successfully applied are "knowledge
bases" used in companies and organisations for internal communication
and documentation. In such repositories information needed for doing everyday
business but also information on competitive products, on the use of technologies,
etc. can be retained. With wikis not only a small group of editors but
everyone can contribute even small portions of information to articles
in an uncomplicated way. When a programmer, for instance, finds a more
effective solution to a problem, she can add it to the corresponding article
in the wiki, and the result is available to other programmers immediately.
A research project conducted by the CIA suggests a similar concept (see
[Andrus 2005; Tomlin 2005]).
Intelligence officers collecting data could insert their information into
a wiki and thus make it available to the entire organisation. Since an
editor does not have to approve the content, the information can be offered
faster, and actions such as re-structuring of articles can be performed
Many state-of-the-art learner-support systems make extensive use of
digital libraries. In most cases, the information in these libraries
is authored by teachers, lecturers, and professional information
providers. More recent projects, however, rely heavily on the
students who generate content as part of their homework or
lecture. Although the first version of the digital library will most
likely be rather imperfect, subsequent versions—after a few
iterations, after a few semesters—will become more and more
complete. An example is a wiki that is used by university students of
structural engineering to create an online library of lecture material
for reinforced concrete construction science ([Ebner
and Zechner 2005]).
Further examples for wikis are Wikipedia and Wikinews presented in sections
4 and 5. Wikipedia, by far the
largest wiki in use today, is of special interest because phenomena of
large-scale communities can be observed (source: [Wikimedia
3.3 Benefits and Shortcomings of Wikis
Similar to ant colonies, wikis are self-organising systems with a large
number of individuals at work (cf. section 1.1). As
ant colonies manage to succeed in tasks such as foraging and building nests,
wiki communities can successfully author content and create organisational
The fact that basically everyone on the Internet can contribute to wikis
in an uncomplicated way makes them more flexible than static editor-based
web-sites. Content can be created and published by users easily and, unlike
regular web-sites, without profound technical background. In addition,
features such as easy and open access as well as version control make them
particularly well suited for collaborative work.
Users being both readers and authors at the same time is one of the
strengths of wikis but also one of their major drawbacks. Although the
wiki concept makes the development of content highly flexible and a system
versatile, it makes maintaining high quality standards for entire wikis
almost impossible. Since basically everyone with access to a wiki can modify
its content, the credibility of the information provided can be questioned.
Users might inadvertently add incorrect information to a page in a wiki,
and readers might mistake the content provided for reliable.
Vandalism is also a problem experienced in wikis: wrong data,
advertisements, defamatory content are inserted deliberately, existing
content is deleted, etc. Although acts of vandalism are usually found
and corrected relatively fast they are pestering communities and can
impede the authors' motivation to contribute to the system.
After a period of time and several evolutionary cycles, single articles
in wikis usually become authoritative, and their level of accuracy and
completeness is high. This does, however, not mean that the wiki as a whole
becomes authoritative, which might be confusing especially for users not
fully aware of the wiki concept. Further issues related to the wiki concept
are discussed in section 4.2.
3.4 Counter Measures
The open access to the content in wikis is one of their disadvantages,
particularly when the information presented is critical. Therefore a distinct
form of wikis with various levels of permissions is proposed, while the
core features of the concept remain unaltered.
For users on the highest level, the "hierarchical wiki" can
be used in exactly the same way as traditional wikis, i.e., these users
can edit any section in any article. Users on lower levels, however, may
only modify parts authored by users on the same level or on lower levels
but not portions of text, for instance, written by users on the highest
level. Users on the lowest level can only edit information initially authored
by users of this level.
The key for making such a system successful is to restrict the majority
of all users to the lowest level. While a few users in higher level groups
supply essential information, start new articles, and work actively on
maintaining quality standards, the large mass of users work only on the
actual development of content.
This approach makes it possible to have the most important information
provided by high level users, whereas supplementary information is authored
by writers on lower level. An example is a product-related wiki, where
engineers as high-level users publish a user's manual, and consumers add
their experiences or information on the use of the product. Although consumers
can add new information and can alter pieces of content authored by other
low-level users, they are not capable of modifying the content provided
by the engineers.
Potential further application areas for hierarchical wikis include the
communities around intelligence agencies (see [Andrus
2005]). One of the main processes in these environments is gathering
pieces of information. As soon as new information becomes available it
can, for instance, be inserted into an existing article in a wiki by the
officer of the intelligence community. While the majority of the article
can be edited and viewed by everyone of the community, certain parts might
be confidential and only be viewed by members of higher levels. Yet other
sections such as the "core" of the article might only be edited
by users on the highest level.
The tradition of trading knowledge in the form of professionally authored
encyclopaedias goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. This is in stark
contrast to Wikipedia, where articles are neither written by acknowledged
experts nor are they reviewed by editors.
Wikipedia could be coined "the people's encyclopaedia". It
is a free, wiki-based encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. Every user is
reader, author, and editor at the same time ([Wikipedia
The success of Wikipedia builds on the tight involvement of the users,
the sense of the community, and a dedication to developing a knowledge
repository of unprecedented breadth and depth. The project is growing rapidly:
from its founding in 2001 until December 2005, Wikipedia has been established
in more than 200 languages with more than 2.5 million articles. The largest
editions are the English one with about 980,000 articles and the German
one with almost 330,000 articles (source: [Wikipedia
4.1 Advantages of Wikipedia
The concept and architecture of Wikipedia make it much more flexible
than a print version or an edited online version of an encyclopaedia. When
events like the Olympic games, for example, take place the most current
results are published just minutes after they become available. These articles
are sometimes even complemented with tables, photos and links to external
The main argument against the Wikipedia project is that with an open
editing process the correctness of the information provided cannot be guaranteed.
However, a recent study conducted by Nature shows that, in terms of accuracy,
science articles in Wikipedia are fully comparable with corresponding information
in the Encyclopædia Britannica (see [Giles 2005;
Britannica 2005]). Both encyclopaedias contain a
number of misinterpretations of concepts, omissions, misleading statements,
and factual errors.
Wikipedia is probably doing comparatively well because it endorses guidelines
to ensure that articles are written in an objective and unbiased way. One
of the main policies for writers is the "neutral point of view".
It urges authors to write content from a neutral perspective so that "ideas
and facts [are presented] in such a fashion that both supporters and opponents
can agree" (from [Wikipedia 2006a]).
4.2 Drawbacks of the Approach
Despite all guidelines, the concept of Wikipedia is prone to a number
of complications. This section presents selected problems that can be observed
frequently (see also [Denning et al. 2005]). They
are most likely not only to be encountered in Wikipedia but in any wiki
with many articles and users.
4.2.1 Quality and Authority
Encyclopaedias and dictionaries are typically reference works. They
are used by researchers, librarians, students, journalists, etc. in
order to obtain precise definitions and explanations. Since articles
in Wikipedia are written by a large number of users, and currently
mechanisms to approve the expertise of authors or to verify the
reliability of content do not exist, the quality in Wikipedia is not
equal for all articles. Therefore it can be precarious to use
Wikipedia as a sole source of reference. An editor of the New York
Times has even warned the journalists of the newspaper to use
Wikipedia with caution (see [Ingrassia 2005]).
The Wikipedia initiative is aware of the problem of a lack of
quality, but instead of having articles approved by experts, a peer
review and rating mechanism is favoured (e.g., [Giles
2005]). The "article validation feature" due in January
2006 will allow users of the encyclopaedia to assess the quality of
articles (see [Wales 2005; Wikipedia 2006b; Wikimedia 2006b]). Since the mean value of
all ratings for a given document version indicates its quality, it
will be easier for readers to judge whether to trust the information
provided by Wikipedia or not.
4.2.2 Background and Balance
Wikipedia has several policies in place to ensure, for instance, that
articles are unbiased (see section 4.1). However,
even if an article is written in compliance with the "neutral point
of view" the varying cultural, social, national and lingual backgrounds
can have an enormous influence. Hence, content in Wikipedia can only be
as professional and balanced as its authors and their demography are.
On February 5th, 2005, the English article on the American chess player
Paul Morphy, for example, had 5,466 words, contained a photo, citations
and references to external resources. In contrast to this, the German version
consisted of only 290 words and did not offer any additional information.
This example shows, on the one hand, that Paul Morphy is an important person
for Americans. On the other hand, it distorts reality and creates an imbalance
in that it emphasises "local heroes".
Edited encyclopaedias meet imbalance and bias by introducing guidelines
for the creation of content. The length of articles or the number of references
to external sources, for instance, might be limited. These measures make
it possible to create articles in a given "class" with the same
structure and similar volume (e.g., [Korica et al. 2006]).
In Wikipedia, disproportionate weight is given to topics such as controversial
scientific matters, disputed hypotheses, science fiction, and conspiracy
theories. It is beyond the scope of this paper, but it should be investigated
how popular these topics actually are, and what kind of users are involved
in their writing.
4.2.3 Sensitive Information and Privacy
Incorrect information in Wikipedia articles is particularly
problematic when sensitive information is covered. A recent, startling
example is the case of John Seigenthaler. An anonymous user published
a biography for Seigenthaler on Wikipedia. It related him to the
assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother and accused
Seigenthaler of collaboration with the Soviet Union in the 1970s (see
[Seigenthaler 2005]). An intense discussion
followed and as a consequence of the Seigenthaler case, the creation
of new articles is restricted to registered users only, i.e.,
anonymous users are not able to start new articles. Becoming a
registered user is, however, not complicated, being only a matter of
Although defamatory content can cause much harm, sometimes
incomplete articles and articles with deliberate omissions are just as
bad. If an article states that an author has written books A
and B but does not mention that the same author has written
another five books it leaves the impression that only two books were
written. In some cases, however, correct but controversial information
is published, and the person concerned wishes to have it corrected or
Daniel Brandt, privacy activist and critical of Wikipedia, wanted to
have the Wikipedia article on him removed (see [Brandt
2005]). After a lengthy, sometimes provocative discussion, Daniel Brandt
was blocked from using Wikipedia, and his article was not removed.
4.2.4 Wiki-Related Phenomena
Malicious modifications of articles, including the deletion of information,
appending incorrect or inappropriate content, insertion of vulgarities
and the insertion of advertisements, happens occasionally in Wikipedia.
Research shows that these acts of vandalism are often repaired within only
a few minutes after they occur (see [Viégas
et al. 2004]). Spiteful deletions, in particular, are reverted very
Another example of something that is common to wikis in general are
"edit wars": a number of paragraphs of articles are repeatedly
inserted and deleted or modified and reverted by two users or groups of
users. Most likely this is a social problem, where two parties are unable
to reach a consensus over a piece of content. Usually such a dispute is
ended by a democratic vote that is attached to the article.
4.2.5 Awareness of the Concept
Although in theory everybody can edit articles, only a small
percentage of users actually do—even though they probably know
that the content is incorrect or incomplete. Some users might not even
be aware that Wikipedia is not an edited work and that basically every
reader can edit the content provided. This is true especially for
users that are relatively new to the Internet and are directed to
Wikipedia by search engines such as Google.
If users are not acquainted with the underlying concepts of Wikipedia
they do not know that the content may not be authoritative. However, even
if users do not rely solely on the information provided by Wikipedia and
do consult other resources, the content provided might be identical because
several services including Answers.com retrieve information from Wikipedia
([Answers 2006]). Thus we could have the situation
where misinformation originating from Wikipedia is used as a basis for
a new piece of work, utilised by Wikipedia authors to argue for the incorrect
information in the encyclopaedia.
4.2.6 Volume of Wikipedia
The number of articles is not necessarily a yardstick for the completeness
of the encyclopaedia. Wikipedia with approximately 900,000 articles has
far more articles than the Encyclopædia Britannica with about 120,000
articles ([Britannica 2006]), but it also contains
many articles about movies, rock groups, etc. These kinds of articles are
not usually part of a general encyclopaedia but of more specific works.
Although it can be seen as an advantage that detailed articles on a very
wide range of topics are present in a single encyclopaedia, it is sometimes
cumbersome (cf., section 4.2.2). In a general encyclopaedia
an article on The Beatles, for instance, is not expected to exceed more
than a few paragraphs in length. In Wikipedia, however, the corresponding
article is several printed pages long and includes a complete discography,
a history and a set of photos of the band, etc. Thus, the Wikipedia article
might be better suited for a specialised encyclopaedia on pop music.
These differences make it hard to compare Wikipedia to a traditional
encyclopaedia. On the one hand, the topics covered by Wikipedia vary greatly,
and it might have to be compared to a set of specialised encyclopaedias.
On the other hand, articles in Wikipedia are sometimes much longer and
more detailed than corresponding information in a conventional encyclopaedia
or dictionary. We believe that Wikipedia is likely to become a new type
of encyclopaedia incommensurable to existing ones.
Most community-based news services on the Web reverse the order of the
traditional publishing process. In conventional publishing, a board of
editors selects a set of stories from the vast amount of information produced
every day. The number of stories is usually determined by the volume of
the newspaper, by the time available for a TV or radio programme, etc.
By contrast, community-based news providers make every piece of news accessible,
and filtering techniques such as filter-style blogs are employed to present
only relevant articles to the consumers.
5.1 Goals of Wikinews
In November 2004, Wikinews, a community-based, participatory news project
linked to Wikipedia, was started ([Wikinews 2006a]).
Wikinews is not only a news provider but a journalistic service. The aim
is to publish complete news stories and to act as a counterpart to commercial
news agencies such as Reuters and United Press (see [Wikinews
2006b]). Neither does Wikinews offer only news headlines with short
abstracts like Slashdot does, nor is it restricted to a specific topic
or does it present an opinion in its articles as services such as Indymedia
does (see [Slashdot 2006] and [Indymedia 2006]). Instead,
Wikinews articles are written conforming to Wikipedia's "neutral point
of view" guideline.
As a news service where everyone can contribute information, it has
to potential to have an impact on the information made available to consumers.
Content that might not be relevant enough to be presented by large news
providers or information deliberately suppressed by mainstream media can
still be made available on Wikinews. Especially in countries where freedom
of speech and freedom of press are restricted Wikinews can become an important
5.2 The Relationship between Wikinews and Wikipedia
Both Wikinews and Wikipedia build on the same concept and infrastructure,
and both share the same benefits and disadvantages. Wikinews however takes
a different approach to the publication of information. While Wikipedia
articles are usually open for editing any time, stories in Wikinews are
set "read-only" after editing has been completed and their content
has been approved by the community. After editing has finished, a permanent
and stable version of the articles is archived in the system.
This means that the convergence criteria applied in Wikipedia is not
valid for Wikinews. Wikipedia articles are typically long-lived, therefore
the probability to achieve completeness and accuracy is higher because
the more time available, the more readers will access an article, and the
more likely it is that errors will be corrected.
Such an approach cannot be taken for news sites since news need to be
published quickly—otherwise it will be obsolete. Therefore information
edited on Wikinews has to reach maturity rapidly, which is not always successful
and sometimes results in rather short articles.
5.3 Success of Wikinews
Up to the 19th of January, 2006, 4,065 articles were published on the
English edition of Wikinews, i.e., on average about nine or ten articles
were produced per day (source: [Wikinews 2006c]).
This makes Wikinews not nearly as successful as Wikipedia. One of the reasons
might be the directive to write articles from a neutral perspective, without
bias and opinion. In our opinion, this makes Wikinews monotonous to read.
Also articles are often collections of news and different views on a given
topic gathered from various mainstream news providers (see [Bruns
One reason for the limited success of Wikinews might be the fact
that there is no way of commenting on news articles within the
Wikinews system. Although it is possible to attach discussions to
Wikinews articles ("talk pages") these postings are strictly
confined to discussing details on authoring. Once a Wikinews article
is completed, however, users cannot debate its content or add
complementary information. In contrast to this, the popularity of
blogs and Slashdot-like news services is based on the comments
added by readers. In these systems, views on a news article shared by
readers are sometimes more enlightening and more important than the
actual news item because they can offer a different perspective on the
story, details on the topic, related information, etc. This type of
commentary is not permitted in Wikinews. As one of the administrators
of the system explains, "It's deliberate — opinion or
commentary is banned. There are enough blogs already." (from:
The expression podcasting is a combination of two terms: iPod,
a popular MP3 player, and broadcasting. The word appropriately describes
the nature of podcasts. On the one hand, they offer audio content that
can be listened to on demand—like music on an MP3 player. On the other
hand, it is a system that provides content resembling radio programmes.
Podcasting basically means blogging audio content, where the content
producers post audio content regularly on a server in the MP3 audio format
(just as users post short articles on blogs). In a fashion similar to readers
using RSS feeds to stay informed on the most recent articles on a blog,
podcasting allows users to subscribe to various audio content producers.
Each podcast offers a list of audio clips that are available for download
complemented with metadata such as a brief description of the actual content.
By subscribing to several podcasts, users are able to accumulate material
from numerous sources. The content, however, is only retrieved on the users'
request, hence podcasting can be seen as an "audio on demand"
service (e.g., [Biever 2005]).
Topics covered by podcasts range from music and cultural programmes,
mainstream entertainment, business, politics, science and technology, and
travel to religious programmes. Podcasts are typically either person-centred
or dedicated to specific topics. "Personal" podcasts are usually
produced and published by a single person and offer the person's views
on a various subjects, present the person's favourite music, etc. Podcasts
geared to particular topics are often created by a small group of users
and contain a selection of separate "stories". Examples are news
programmes, regular discussions on political topics, or science-related
shows such as the Nature podcast (see [Nature 2006]).
6.1 Use of Podcasts and Application Areas
In September 2004, the concept of podcasting started to take
off. The initial idea was to offer anyone on the Internet a platform
for publishing their own radio show. Soon a large number of amateur
shows emerged, one of the favourite shows being "Daily Source
Code" by Adam Curry, one of the earliest adopters of
podcasting (e.g., [Pod411 2006; PodStats 2006]). Although the target group were
amateur users, and the largest proportion of podcasted content is
still produced by amateurs, the technology was soon also employed by
professional content providers.
Nowadays podcasting is, for instance, applied in education in order
to enable distance learning or simply to provide the possibility of
listening to a lecture again (e.g., [Downes
2006]). Even organisations such as Duke University or the
Washington College of Law fully endorse podcasting technology. Both
universities make a range of content, including lectures and
discussions, freely available in podcast format (see [DukeCast 2006; WCL
2006]). Moreover, podcasts can also be offered as supplementary
material to the proceedings at conferences. Two workshops of the IEEE
Symposium on High Performance Interconnects, for example, can be
downloaded freely as podcasts (e.g., [HotI 2006;
6.2 Similar Technologies
The idea of publishing audio content using blogging technology can
also be applied to other types of media such as photos or video
content. With photocasting, for example, users can share and
distribute their photos using an RSS feed. This enables uses such as
photos diaries or sharing entire photo albums with friends on the
Internet. With the required functionality being included in popular
applications such as Apple's iPhoto, photocasting can be expected to
become a fashionable technology among users (see [iPhoto 2006]).
Videocasting, sometimes called vodcasting, applies the
blogging concept to video content. Vodcasting is, in fact, an acronym,
where "vod" stands for "video on demand". With
vodcasting, content producers can create video clips and inform users
about new episodes using RSS feeds. Consumers subscribing to a
vodcast have access to a list of video clips that can be played at the
users' request. Vodcasting can include both downloadable video files
and content streamed from a streaming video server.
The technology receives attention from various business
areas. Recently, German car manufacturer BMW, for example, made a
videocast available for presenting new products and disseminating
interviews (see [BMW 2006]).
7 File Sharing Tools
For most readers, maybe, file sharing has a negative
connotation. It is often synonymous with downloading music and movies
illegally from the Internet and with distributing pirated digital
content. Napster and Kazaa are popular examples for tools that let
users share files (mostly illegally) over the Internet. However,
lately also legal peer-to-peer file sharing networks have evolved (see
[Rodriguez et al. 2005]). The BBC, for instance,
has started a service, based on file sharing technology, for the legal
dissemination of TV shows (see [BBC 2006a]).
Recently, a new type of file sharing has emerged. This class of
systems are web-based, offer users a private space to store their
documents and a public space for sharing files with other users, as
well as helping them to organise their information. The prime example
of such an application is Flickr, a portal for managing and sharing
photos (see [Flickr 2006]).
Flickr lets users store, organise, and share photos. Users can upload
their photos to a server, add comments and leave notes inside pictures.
The key element in the system, however, are arbitrary tags attached to
photos (e.g., [Weiss 2005]). These tags represent
loose metadata and are utilised to describe the content of the photo. A
photo depicting a tree can, for instance, have the tags "tree",
"my holidays in Iceland", and "winter". When users
search Flickr for "winter", the photo of the tree is part of
the results. Users can also browse the photos in Flickr. For every photo
displayed the tags defined by the author are shown. Instantly, users can
have all images in the same "category" presented (i.e., pictures
with the same tag).
Flickr is a self-organising community where the system does not tell
users how to tag their photos or impose any structures on the organisation
of content. This approach is in contrast to the conventional way of generating
metadata. In traditional "editor-based" systems, professionals
assign metadata based on a well-defined taxonomy and a set of guidelines
(e.g., [Mathes 2004]). In Flickr, however, the
choice of tags is entirely up to the user. Although this concept lowers
the barriers to entry and is a major incentive for people to store their
content and metadata in the system, it raises the problem of ambiguity.
Since there are no formal taxonomies users can use ambiguous terms and
synonyms when tagging photos. The tag "apple", for example, can
stand for the fruit or the computer manufacturer. On the other hand, there
are several synonyms for Apple computers including macintosh and mac. As
the examples illustrate, the free-form taxonomy can sometimes make it difficult
to find the desired content.
The content in Flickr is largely published under a Creative Commons
license (see [CC 2006]). With this type of license
content is freely available while protecting the owners' copyrights. Therefore
Flickr is an increasingly attractive resource for web designers, publishers,
8 Social Networks
In 1967, American psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the "small
world experiment", in which he sent letters to sixty volunteers in
Kansas and asked them to forward the envelopes to a specific person in
Massachusetts—by hand and through friends or friends of friends.
The letters that reached the addressee were, on average, relayed by
five to seven people. This is seen as an empirical proof that arbitrary
people in our society are related to each other through friends and friends
of friends (see [Milgram 1967]).
The small world hypothesis based on Milgram's findings states that
the number of personal acquaintances needed to connect two random
persons on the planet is small. The hypothesis led to the expression
"the six degrees of separation", meaning that any two random
persons are associated with each other by a chain of about six
individuals. The "six degrees of separation" is one of the
underlying concepts of social networks on the Internet.
Social networking services offer friends a space where they can maintain
their relationships, chat with each other and share information. Moreover,
they offer the opportunity to build new relationships through existing
friends. On the first use of the system, users are required to submit a
profile containing personal information such as their name, date of birth,
and a photo. The personal information is made available to other users
of the system, and is used to identify friends on the network and to add
them to a list of contacts. In most systems, users can not only view their
friends but also second degree friends (friends of their friends). Some
networks follow an "invitation only" approach. Hence, every person
in the system is automatically connected to at least one other person.
Examples for common social networks are Friendster with about 24
million users, MySpace with about 41 million users, and Google's
Orkut with about 12 million users (see [Friendster
2006; MySpace 2006; Orkut 2006]). In addition to these general-purpose
networks, specialised services have evolved in order to establish a
community of like-minded individuals. OpenBC, for instance, is a
professional networking service that attempts to create a web of
trusted experts and business partners (see [OpenBC
8.1 Large Communities
When communities grow larger, self-organisation tendencies emanate,
and frequently sub-communities covering more specific topics or
smaller groups of friends are established. Several services including
Orkut facilitate creating new sub-groups as a core functionality of
the system. In these smaller communities users chat, have lively
discussions in dedicated forums, and exchange pictures and other
documents (e.g., [O'Murchu et
The formation of smaller groups within a large collective can
probably be described with the rule of 150. This axiom refers to the
social channel capacity, the ability of the human brain to relate
factual, emotional, and social details to people. A series of social
studies show that the average person can remember these features for
approximately 150 individuals (see [Dunbar
1993]). Psychologists explain this characteristic by using the
evolution of human societies: early settlements did not comprise more
than 100-150 people, and therefore the brain developed only to the
point where it was able to store the information on all people in this
social network. Thus, a "genuine" social network is limited
to about 150 people.
8.2 Technical Aspects
Most popular social networks in use ask users explicitly for personal
information (e.g., [Adamic et al. 2003]). Hence users
fill out profiles and provide personal data as well details on their likes
and dislikes. As mentioned above, users add their friends manually to the
list of contacts. So the social network is generated manually, which usually
results in a high accuracy of the connections made.
A system that forms a large social network without the users' explicitly
knowing it, although users provide the required information voluntarily,
is Skype. Skype is a provider of free internet telephony (see [Skype
2006]). Every user in the system has a user profile that can contain
the name, address, phone number, e-mail address, a photo, etc. When person
A wants to call person B, usually the profile of person B is added to the
contacts of person A. Calling a person is a strong indication of a personal
or professional relationship. Thus, the information stored in Skype represents
a large, manually generated social network.
An alternative approach to manual generation relies on fully automatic
creation of networks. E-mails of a group of users, their postings in newsgroups
and blogs, links on their homepages and similar resources are analysed.
An e-mail from user A to user B, for instance, indicates a connection between
users A and B. In the same way, a follow-up by user B to a newsgroup posting
by user A can be interpreted as a (weak) relation between the two users
(e.g., [Kautz et al. 1997]). All connections detected
by the generative algorithm are accumulated and utilised to form a graph
of weighted edges between "user nodes". Edges whose weight is
over a given threshold correspond to the connections in the network to
be generated. The advantage of this method is that it does not require
user interaction. Moreover, it is capable of unveiling connections that
might otherwise have remained implicit or hidden. The drawback is, however,
that automatic generation of the network cannot be as precise as manually
adding contacts. Furthermore, a fully automated process is usually not
able to collect the personal data provided by users.
Automatic generation of a type of "social networks" is
also possible for services such as eBay or Amazon. In eBay, for
instance, information is retained on who bought from whom, which buyer
rated which seller, etc. This information can be used to generate a
network of weighted connections, where the weight depends on positive,
neutral or negative ratings between buyers and sellers. In Amazon,
users' buying a book, writing a review or giving a recommendation for
a book imply that they have an interest in the author or the
topic. Although this data does not form a traditional social network,
it can be interpreted as a social structure in the broader sense. On
the one hand, clusters of users with similar interests are formed, and
clusters and users are connected with each other; a friendly contact
and direct communication among users is, however, not possible.
8.3 Use of Social Networks
The obvious aim of social networks is to give users a way to stay in
touch with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Services such as OpenBC
also let users browse through their contacts and second degree contacts
(contacts of contacts). Additionally, users in OpenBC can search for people
with certain skills or other attributes. When an appropriate person is
found, the chain of contacts to this person is displayed. Thus, users can,
for example, ask their friends and friends' friends on the person's qualification.
Potentially, one of the biggest application areas of social networks
might be personalised searching on the World Wide Web (e.g., [Freyne
and Smyth 2004]). Whereas today's search engines provide largely anonymous
or uncredited information, future versions might highlight or recommend
web pages created by recognised or familiar individuals. The integration
of search engines and social networks could also enable queries such as
"Has any of my acquaintances been on holidays in New Zealand?"
or "Recent articles on hypertext authored by people associated
with Ted Nelson".
It should be noted that real concerns regarding the privacy of members
of social networks exist. Information on consumers that privacy activists
have been trying to protect from companies are nowadays provided willingly
by inexperienced users. The detailed personal information stored in user
profiles, for instance, could be utilised to send disseminate personalised
fraudulent advertisements, automatically sign users up to services matching
their profiles or even sell the personal data to third parties. Moreover,
the service providers have the ability to monitor and store the information
communicated among users and make use of ideas expressed and data transferred
during users' discussions (e.g., [Orlowski 2004]).
8.4 Other Community-Based Networks
Although not directly associated with social networks, this section
introduces three community-based networking services: del.icio.us,
Furl, and Eurekster. del.icio.us is a social bookmarking and
classification service that enables collecting and sharing favourite
web pages (see [del.icio.us 2006]). Users can add
bookmarks of web pages to del.icio.us, attach tags or keywords and
choose if it is to be publicly available or private. The keywords
assigned by users are used for non-hierarchical categorisation of the
bookmarks. Hence, clusters of bookmarks for various topics are created
in the system. When users access a bookmark, they can also look at the
public bookmarks of users that have the same web page in their
portfolio. Moreover, users can search for "similar"
pages—bookmarks that share certain keywords or are in the same
bookmark cluster (e.g., [Millen et
Furl, a similar service, takes the concept a step further and stores
bookmarked articles in an internal database (see [Furl
2006]). Thus, users can create their own "Personal Web" that
only contains the pages they store. As in del.icio.us, pages can be private
or publicly accessible. In addition to keywords users can also assign topics,
give ratings and attach comments to pages. Furl also creates an index of
all documents stored in its database and offers full-text search functionality.
Both Wikipedia and services like del.icio.us are employed by some users
as an alternative to conventional search engines such as Google. Wikipedia
is a good starting point for many topics, since it can give an overview
of a topic and frequently offers manually selected links to more detailed
resources. Similarly, a query in del.icio.us yields a number of web pages
that have been selected by users as one of their favourite pages on the
Web. Although Google's search and ranking algorithms are very sophisticated
and mostly offer relevant results first, they are currently unable to offer
documents that were evaluated and chosen by individuals.
Eurekster is a collaborative search engine whose concept is a blend
of social networking and social bookmarking (see [Eurekster
2006]). People sign up to the system and form communities of users
with similar interests. When a user searches the Web, information on the
query and the documents actually chosen from the result are stored in the
system. These data are used in order to introduce a prioritisation of topics
within the community and perform a ranking of relevant articles within
a topic. Thus, the system eventually "knows" which topics and
web pages are relevant for a community. A user part of a community of archaeologists
searching for adobe, for instance, might be confronted with results including
historic sites in Peru. By contrast, in a technology centred community
documents on the computer software company Adobe might be the result of
the query (e.g., [Freyne and Smyth 2004]).
9 Summary and Outlook
During the last few years, new forms of content generation and
organisation on the World Wide Web have emerged. Services such as
blogs, wikis and podcasting give users the opportunity to become
authors and to express themselves. For the first time, even users
lacking the knowledge of the underlying technologies can participate
in contributing content to the Web. In a way, these new services have
finally brought a form of democracy to the Internet, and the
traditional distinction between content producers and consumer is
blurred (e.g., [Miller 2005]).
With these new technologies, the flow of content is no longer
strictly "top-down", from classic producers to readers, but
an increasing number of users become writers and contribute new
content (e.g., [Lenhart et al. 2004]). Thus, a
new "bottom-up" movement can be observed—consumers start
producing information that is distributed among other users until it
is picked up by mainstream media. The aspect that makes such an
approach work is the critical mass of users that allows
self-organisation to take place (e.g., [Johnson
2001]). This resembles ant colonies (see section
1.1) when they are, for example, building nests: while single ants
can only contribute small pieces, the collective establishes an
extremely complex and efficient structure (see [Gordon 2000]). In analogy, new services support
individuals in making their knowledge explicit and help collective
The novel forms of content development have sparked a "revolution"
across all types of media. Classic web-sites are complemented with, or
even replaced by, wikis; services such as Wikinews and blogs offer an alternative
to conventional news providers and commentary; traditional knowledge repositories
are challenged by Wikipedia; and radio broadcasting is supplemented by
podcasting. The next logical step seems to be "video-blogging"
as an approach to the creation and distribution of television shows.
The community-based types of media introduced in this paper allow for
alternative perspectives and views that are not suitable for traditional
media. Furthermore, topics that are inappropriate for the mass of users
served by broadcast media, as well as news that are possibly not relevant
enough for the majority of consumers can be addressed by the new services.
9.1 Major Transformations
The new services that have recently emerged have indeed spawned a series
of transformations on the Web. The transformation, however, is not only
based on technological changes, but more importantly on a fundamental
mind shift. The aspects that Web communities (such as blog, wiki, file
sharing and social networks, bookmarking services and podcasting groups)
have in common are user participation and openness. Basically every user
on the Internet can start new blogs, can readily produce podcasts, and
can edit the content in wikis. So, the attitude of users has changed insofar
as they now enthusiastically make the information they produce available
to the public (see [O'Reilly 2005]). In addition
to this, even companies make their content repositories publicly accessible
and enable new and sometimes unconventional uses of existing data: the
content made available by the BBC, for instance, is used in a dictionary
of English phrases (e.g., [BBC 2006b]). To put it
a different way, the services recently developed on the Web are based on
"an attitude not a technology" (from [Davis
Apart from making the Web more democratic and enabling user
participation, the community-based services have opened up entirely
new opportunities. Wikis, for example, have the potential to alter
the way collaboration among users and groups happens. It is no longer
necessary to send text documents as e-mail attachments or to employ an
expensive groupware solution in order to enable collaborative work on
a common body of content. In similar ways, blogs make it possible for
users to utilise the Web to express their views—without having to
purchase web authoring software or to get acquainted with hypertext
9.2 Opportunities and Future Trends
Wikis including Wikipedia, blogs, podcasting, file sharing and similar
techniques can react faster to recent events and new developments than
conventional infrastructures. When an event happens, it can be published
instantly on a blog or in a wiki. In contrast, a traditional news service
article has to undergo fact-checking and an editorial process prior to
publication. Articles in Wikipedia are often updated only minutes after
new information becomes available. For instance, only shortly after the
spacecraft for the Nasa mission to Pluto was launched photos and other
details were included in Wikipedia articles. In contrast to this, a classic
encyclopaedia requires an editorial cycle (usually at least a year) in
order to incorporate such information.
With the tools and services at hand, users become more independent from
classic information providers. Therefore in the future, probably a smaller
percentage of information will be authored by professional editors, and
distributed by (media) companies. Moreover, new structures might become
mainstream: wikis, blogs and podcasts are the environments that produce
content. When the authors' names are known they can be looked up in social
networks in an attempt to verify their expertise. Finally, social bookmarking
services and filter-style blogs are utilised as aggregators and filters
in order to offer a balanced selection of reliable information. Hence,
individuals as well as large organisations have the potential to establish
a network of trust, where information can be accountable to users.
Moreover, systems which rely on a large user community can facilitate
the "accidental" encountering of new information. Although environments
such as learner support systems or digital libraries explicitly include
functionality that enables accidental information encountering (e.g., [Marshall
and Bly 2004]), community-based systems provide this feature intrinsically.
Examples are Flickr and del.icio.us (see above). Since users in these
large communities have varying opinions and interests, they are likely
to access diverse resources on the Internet. The information they gather
from these contrasting sources can easily be made available within their
9.3 Challenges and Concerns
The changes the Web is undergoing raise a number of concerns. Most can
be clearly observed in very large community-based environments such as
Wikipedia. One of the most problematic issues is the lack of accuracy and,
connected with this, the lack of accountability. Several evolutionary cycles
are required to make information accurate and complete, especially in wikis.
In addition, both blogs and wikis do not have the means to indicate the
completeness and correctness of articles, which makes it difficult for
users to judge the content provided.
Moreover, in most community-based systems it is not a requirement to
provide a real name when authoring content. Authors can usually hide behind
self-assigned synonyms, or only their IP addresses are shown (as for anonymous
authors in Wikipedia). Therefore it becomes almost impossible for average
readers to find out who the content authors are, and even simple enquiries
such as asking for the source of a quotation might be impossible.
Despite the advantages that new technologies have, readers have to learn
how to deal with the new media. Users have to get used to the fact that
not everything published on the World Wide Web is true and that it is necessary
to find at least another, independent source that corroborates the initial
document. Visitors have to realise that the same process is even more relevant
where content is authored by numerous, potentially anonymous users.
9.4 Technological Aspects
As indicated above, the technologies introduced in combination with
community-based services make it clear that the design of the Web does
not allow for these types of interaction per se. There are no
bidirectional hyperlinks, therefore a technology like trackback has to
be used. The URI and URL scheme and the composition of documents on
the Web do not permit to identify and locate an exact portion of
content. Hence permalinks have to be employed. The implementation of
the Web does not consider a notification mechanism for updated or new
documents, which makes a method like RSS necessary. Version
management is not part of the Web, and so services such as wikis have
to implement version tracking systems, which results in incompatible
implementations. Furthermore, content is regularly duplicated in order
to be able to quote portions of the original document. By duplicating
instead of virtually including content from the original resource,
both the context and the reference to the source document are
Although the new services seem to require new technologies, it
emphasises the shortcomings of the Web. In the 1960s, Ted Nelson
presented the concept of a hypertext system that supported
multidirectional links, identification and location of content on the
level of single characters, notification techniques, and the virtual
inclusion of remote documents.
The environment allowed for collaborative authoring, various of
levels of access to documents, and had versioning functionality
built-in (see [Nelson 1981]). Since then systems
offering similar functionality as Xanadu have been implemented (e.g.,
[Maurer 1996; Andrews et
al. 1995]). The technologies were, however, not included into the
infrastructure of the Web.
10 Conclusion and Future Research
"From chaos comes order" is an expression accredited
to chaos theory. It can also be applied to the services introduced in this
paper. Although the concept of wikis, for instance, might seem utterly
chaotic, Wikipedia is the principal example that such an anarchic system
can yield structure and to a certain extent even high quality content.
The new and successful Web services range from free encyclopaedias to free
and independent news services, amateur radio shows, free and legal photo
sharing tools and social networks. Since the attitude of professionals
and non-professionals has changed in that they are willing to make their
content available, hence still more collaborative services can be expected
in the near future.
The emerging services, however, appear to be evolving into a
"patchwork" of various autonomous or loosely connected,
community-based systems, where the synergetic effects that could
emanate may be neglected and lost. Therefore our future research will
focus on integrating the key benefits of existing community-based
systems such as weblogs, wikis and file sharing tools in a flexible
framework for an open, collaborative environment on the Web. The
essential component of such a service will be an all-embracing social
network that connects users and allows for communication in the
system. Moreover, through the social network the system can be
We are confident that our approach can lead to more resourceful communities,
besides increasing their productivity. Details of the proposed concept
will be described in an upcoming publication.
This paper was supported by the Styria Professorship for Revolutionary
The first author would like to thank Jennifer A. Lennon for the frequent
discussions, her advice and insights that shaped this paper.
[Adamic et al. 2003] Adamic, L. A., Buyukkokten,
O., and Adar, E.: "A social network caught in the Web",
First Monday, 8, 6 (2003). See also http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/idl/people/eytan/social.pdf.
[Andrews et al. 1995] Andrews, K., Maurer,
H., and Kappe, F.: "Hyper-G and Harmony: Towards the Next
Generation of Networked Information Technology", Proceedings
of CHI'95, Denver, CO, U.S.A. (1995), 33-34.
[Andrus 2005] Andrus, D. C.: "The Wiki
and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community",
The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) (2005). See also http://ssrn.com/abstract=755904.
[Answers 2006] Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/.
[BBC 2006a] BBC iMP, http://www.bbc.co.uk/imp/.
[BBC 2006b] BBC Backstage, http://backstage.bbc.co.uk/.
[Bharat et al. 2001] Bharat, K., Chang, B.-W.,
Henzinger, M., and Ruhl, M.: "Who Links to Whom: Mining
Linkage between Web Sites", Proceedings of the First IEEE
International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM'01), San Jose, CA,
U.S.A. (2001), 51-58. See also http://toc.lcs.mit.edu/~ruhl/papers/2001-icdm.pdf.
[Biever 2005] Biever, C., "'Podcasters'
deliver radio-on-demand", New Scientist, 185, 2486 (2005).
[Blogger 2005] Blogger, http://www.blogger.com/.
[Blood 2002] Blood, R.: "The Weblog Handbook:
Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog", Perseus
Publishing, Cambridge, MA (2002).
[BMW 2006] Vodcast from BMW, http://vodcast.bmw.com/.
[Brandt 2005] Brandt, D.: "Wikipedia Watch",
Accessed January 12th, 2006.
[Britannica 2005] Encyclopædia Britannica,
[Britannica 2006] Encyclopædia Britannica:
"Why try Britannica Online?" (2006), http://www.britannica.com/premium/,
Accessed January 9th, 2006.
[Bruns 2005a] Bruns, A.: "Wikinews: The
Next Generation of Alternative Online News?" (2005), http://eprints.qut.edu.au/archive/00002288/01/Wikinews.pdf,
Accessed January 14th, 2005.
[Bruns 2005b] Bruns, A.: "Questions for
Wikinewsians" (2005), http://snurb.info/index.php?q=node/279,
Accessed January 18th, 2006.
[CC 2006] Creative Commons, http:/creativecommons.org/.
[Davis 2005] Davis, I.: "Talis, Web 2.0
and All That" (2005), http://internetalchemy.org/2005/07/talis-web-20-and-all-that,
Accessed January 27th, 2006.
[del.icio.us 2006] del.icio.us, http://del.icio.us/.
[Denning et al. 2005] Denning, P., Horning, J.,
Parnas, D., and Weinstein, L.: "Wikipedia Risks", Communications
of the ACM, 48, 12 (2005), 152.
[Downes 2005] Downes, S.: "E-learning 2.0",
ACM eLearn Magazine, 2005, 10 (2005).
[DukeCast 2006] DukeCast, http://dukecast.oit.duke.edu/.
[Dunbar 1993] Dunbar, R. I. M.: "Co-Evolution
of Neocortex Size, Group Size and Language in Humans", Behavioral
and Brain Sciences, 16, 4 (1993), 186-735. See also http://www.bbsonline.org/documents/a/00/00/05/65/bbs00000565-00/bbs.dunbar.html.
[Ebner and Zechner 2006] Ebner, M., and Zechner,
J.: "Das BauWiki zum Thema: Konstruktiver Stahlbetonbau"
Accessed January 9th, 2006.
[Efimova and de Moor 2004] Efimova, L., and de
Moor, A.: "Beyond Personal Webpublishing: An Exploratory Study
of Conversational Blogging Practices", Proceedings of the 37th
Annual Hawaii Internation Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'04), Big
Island, HI, U.S.A. (2004). See also http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/HICSS.2005.118.
[Eurekster 2006] Eurekster, http://www.eurekster.com/.
[Flickr 2006] Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/.
[Friendster 2006] Friendster, http://www.friendster.com/.
[Freyne and Smyth 2004] Freyne, J., and Smyth,
B.: "An Experiment in Social Search", Proceedings of the
3rd International Conference on Adaptive Hypermedia and Adaptive Web-Based
Systems (AH2004), Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2004).
[Furl 2006] LookSmart Furl, http://furl.net/.
[Giles 2005] Giles, J.: "Internet encyclopaedias
go head to head", Nature, 438 (2005), 900-901. See also http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html.
[Gordon 1999] Gordon, D. M.: "Close Encounters",
The Sciences, September/October (1999). See also http://www.shaav.com/professional/shad/ants.pdf.
[Gordon 2000] Gordon, D. M.: "Ants at Work:
How an Insect Society is Organized", W. W. Norton & Company,
New York (2000).
[Herring et al. 2004] Herring, S. C., Scheidt,
L. A., Bonus, S., and Wright, E.: "Bridging the Gap: A Genre
Analysis of Weblogs", Proceedings of the 37th Annual Hawaii
Internation Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'04), Big Island, HI,
U.S.A. (2004). See also http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/HICSS.2004.1265271.
[HotI 2006] Hot Interconnects, http://www.hoti.org/.
[IEEE 2006] IEEE Spectrum Radio, http://spectrum.ieee.org/radio/.
[Indymedia 2006] Indymedia (Independent Media Center),
[Ingrassia 2005] Ingrassia, L.: "wiki-whatdia?"
(2005), Accessed through http://poynter.org/forum/view_post.asp?id=10748,
Accessed January 8th, 2006.
[iPhoto 2006] Apple Computer, Inc.: "iPhoto
6" (2006), http://www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto/features/photocasting.html,
Accessed February 23rd, 2006.
[Johnson 2001] Johnson, S.: "Emergence.
The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software", Allen
Lane The Penguin Press (2001).
[Kappe 1995] Kappe, F.: "Maintaining Link
Consistency in Distributed Hyperwebs", Proceedings of the INET'95
Conference, Honolulu, HI, U.S.A. (1995). See also http://www.isoc.org/HMP/PAPER/073/html/paper.html.
[Kautz et al. 1997] Kautz, H., Selman, B., and
Shah, M.: "Referral Web: Combining Social Networks and Collaborative
Filtering", Communications of the ACM, 40, 3 (1997), 63-65.
[Korica et al. 2006] Korica, P., Maurer, H., and
Schinagl, W.: "The Growing Importance of e-Communities on the Web",
Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on Web Based Communities,
San Sebasitan, Spain (2006).
[Lenhart et al. 2004] Lenhart, A., Horrigan,
J., and Fallows, D.: "Content Creation Online: 44 % of
U.S. Internet users have contributed their thoughts and their files to
the online world", http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Content_Creation_Report.pdf
(2004), Accessed January 27th, 2005.
[Leuf and Cunningham 2001] Leuf, B., and Cunningham,
W.: "The Wiki Way. Quick Collaboration on the Web", Addison-Wesley
[Lindahl and Blount 2003] Lindahl, C., and Blount,
E.: "Weblogs: Simplifying Web Publishing", Computer, 36,
11 (2003), 114-116.
[Marshall and Bly 2004] Marshall, C. C., and
Bly, S.: "Sharing Encountered Information: Digital Libraries Get
a Social Life", Proceedings of the 4th ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference
on Digital Libraries, Tucson, AZ, U.S.A. (2004), 218-227.
[Mathes 2004] Mathes, A.:
"Folksonomies — Cooperative Classification and
Communication Through Shared Metadata" (2004), http://www.adammathes.com/academic/computer-mediated-communication/folksonomies.pdf,
Accessed January 25th, 2006.
[Maurer 1996] Maurer, H.: "Hyperwave: The
Next Generation Web Solution", Addison Wesley, Harlow, U.K. (1996).
[Maurer and Tochtermann 2002] Maurer, H., and Tochtermann,
K.: "On a New Powerful Model for Knowledge Management and its Applications",
Journal of Universal Computer Science, 8, 1 (2002), 85-96. See also http://www.jucs.org/jucs_8_1/on_a_new_powerful/.
[Milgram 1967] Milgram, S.: "The Small
World Problem", Psychology Today, 2, (1967), 60-67.
[Millen et al. 2005] Millen, D., Feinberg, J.,
Kerr, B.: "Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise", ACM
Queue, 3, 9 (2005), 28-35.
[Miller 2005] Miller, P.: "Web 2.0: Building
the New Library", Ariadne, 45 (2005). See also http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue45/miller/.
[MySpace 2006] MySpace, http://www.myspace.com/.
[Nature 2006] Nature Podcast, http://www.nature.com/nature/podcast/.
[Nelson 1981] Nelson, T. H.: "Literary Machines",
Mindfull Press (1981).
[O'Murchu et al. 2004] O'Murchu, I.,
Breslin, J. G., and Decker, S.: "Online Social and Business
Networking Communities", Technical Report (2004). See also http://www.nextwebgeneration.org/publications/techpapers/documents/DERI-TR-2004-08-11.pdf.
[OpenBC 2006] Open Business Club, http://www.openbc.com/.
[O'Reilly 2005] O'Reilly, T.: "What
Is Web 2.0. Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next
Generation of Software" (2005), http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html,
Accessed January 26th, 2006.
[Orkut 2006] Orkut, http://www.orkut.com/.
[Orlowski 2004] Orlowski, A.: "Avoid
Friendster and its clones, warnes security expert", The
Register (2004), http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/02/10/avoid_friendster_and_its_clones/,
Accessed February 3rd, 2006.
[Pod411 2006] podCast 411: "podcast
directory and information" (2006), http://www.podcast411.com/,
Accessed February 3rd, 2006.
[PodStats 2006] N.N.: "Podcasting
Statistics" (2006), http://www.podcastingstats.com/,
Accessed February 3rd, 2006.
[Pollock 2001] Pollock, H.: "Who Let
the Blogs Out?", Yahoo Internet Life (2001). See also http://web.archive.org/web/20010813193029/http://yil.com/features/feature.asp?volume=07&issue=05&keyword=blogs.
[Rechenberg 1973] Rechenberg, I.:
"Evolutionsstrategie. Optimierung technischer Systeme nach
Prinzipien der biologischen Evolution", Frommann-Holzoog,
[Rodriguez et al. 2005] Rodriguez, P., Tan, S.-M.,
and Gkantsidis, C.: "On the feasibility of Commercial, Legal P2P
Content Distribution", Proceedings of the IEEE 10th International
Workshop on Web Content Caching and Distribution (WCW2005), Sophia Antipolis,
France (2005). See also http://research.microsoft.com/~pablo/papers/CCR.pdf.
[RSS 1999] Libby, D.: "NETSCAPE COMMUNICATIONS
RSS 0.91 Spec, revision 3" (1999), http://my.netscape.com/publish/formats/rss-spec-0.91.html,
Accessed February 3rd, 2005.
[RSS 2001] Swartz, A.: "RDF Site Summary
(RSS) 1.0" (2001), http://web.resource.org/rss/1.0/,
Accessed February 3rd, 2005.
[Seigenthaler 2005] Seigenthaler, J.: "A
false Wikipedia 'biography'", USA Today (2005), http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-11-29-wikipedia-edit_x.htm,
Accessed January 12th, 2006.
[Skype 2006] Skype, http://www.skype.com/.
[SlashDot 2006] SlashDot, http://www.slashdot.org/.
[Tomlin 2005] Tomlin, S.: "Science in
the web age: The expanding electronic universe", Nature, 438 (2005),
547. See also http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7068/full/438547a.html.
[Treese 2004] Treese, W.: "Open Systems
for Collaboration", netWorker, 8, 1 (2004), 13-16.
[Viégas et al. 2004] Viégas, F.
B., Wattenberg, M., and Kushal, D.: "Studying cooperation and conflict
between authors with history flow visualizations", Proceedings
of the 2004 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2004),
Vienna, Austria 2004), 575-582.
[Wales 2005] Wales, J.: "Re: [Wiki-research-l]
Re: Comparison of Wikipedia with Brittannica", Posting on the
Wiki-research-l mailing list (2005). See also http://mail.wikipedia.org/pipermail/wiki-research-l/2005-December/000105.html.
[WCL 2006] Washington College of Law Podcast,
[Weiss 2005] Weiss, A.: "The Power of
Collective Intelligence", netWorker, 9, 3 (2005), 17-23.
[Wikimedia 2006a] Wikimedia Meta-Wiki: "List
of largest wikis" (2006), http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_largest_wikis&oldid=270365,
Accessed January 13th, 2006.
[Wikimedia 2006b] Wikimedia Meta-Wiki: "Article
validation feature" (2006), http://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Article_validation_feature&oldid=254904,
Accessed January 15th, 2006.
[Wikinews 2006a] Wikinews, http://www.wikinews.org/.
[Wikinews 2006b] Wikinews:
"Wikinews:Mission statement" (2006), http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Wikinews,
Accessed January 18th, 2006.
[Wikinews 2006c] Wikinews:
"Statistics — Wikinews" (2006), http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Special:Statistics,
Accessed January 18th, 2006.
[Wikipedia 2005a] Wikipedia, http://www.wikipedia.org/.
[Wikipedia 2005b] Wikipedia:
"Wikipedia — The free encyclopaedia" (2005), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia,
Accessed December 30th, 2005.
[Wikipedia 2006a] Wikipedia:
"Wikipedia:Neutral point of view" (2006), http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view&oldid=34875574,
Accessed January 13th, 2006.
[Wikipedia 2006b] Wikipedia:
"Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Wiki Sort"
Accessed January 15th, 2006.
[WikiWikiWeb 2006] Wiki Wiki Web, http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiWikiWeb.