Brittanica editor Robert McHenry's “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia" is criticism of Wikipedia asserted that quality declines over time. Rather silly, as the one thing that is known about the quality of a given Wikipedia article is that it is better than it was before and will get better with more time and attention. In "The FUD-based Encyclopedia" Aaron Krowne has not only fisked McHenry's claims, but relates open content to open source -- a very similar topic to what I just contributed to a forthcoming book on open source to be published by O'Reilly. Krowne sees McHenry's efforts as similar to the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt campaigns waged by threatened by incumbent software vendors. But of particular interest to M2M readers is Krowne's first two laws of commons based peer production, and the illustration of their interplay:
(Law 1.) When positive contributions exceed negative contributions by a sufficient factor in a CBPP project, the project will be successful.
With wikis, as phantom authority pointed out, transaction costs are low for making a contribution and even lower for fixing mistakes.
(Law 2.) Cohesion quality is the quality of the presentation of the concepts in a collaborative component (such as an encyclopedia entry). Assuming the success criterion of Law 1 is met, cohesion quality of a component will overall rise. However, it may temporarily decline. The declines are by small amounts and the rises are by large amounts.
Coding is vertical information assembly, marked by dependencies between contributions. Writing, as in the case of Wikipedia, is horizontal information assembly, which has little dependency. You can get the date of birth wrong in an article, but the article still generally works and can be built upon in the process. Doing the same in software could result in a Y2Kish meltdown. This distinction accounts for the authority models that Krowne describes later in his article, owner-centric and free-form. Krowne also adds a correlary for the two laws:
(Corollary.) Laws 1 and 2 explain why cohesion quality of the entire collection (or project) increases over time: the uncoordinated temporary declines in cohesion quality cancel out with small rises in other components, and the less frequent jumps in cohesion quality accumulate to nudge the bulk average upwards. This is without even taking into account coverage quality, which counts any conceptual addition as positive, regardless of the elegance of its integration.
Dependency is not necessarily a negative factor, as it can prompt refactoring. It has been said (link? will refactor in later) that Wikipedia could not be a poem because of inherent structure. But I wonder what impact a language or fact-checking refactoring tool could have on cohesion by highlighting dependencies.