Wikipedia on Blockchain | CORPORATE ETHOS

Wikipedia on Blockchain

By: | January 8, 2018

The internet has disrupted several age-old beliefs and institutions. An institution that has been made irrelevant by the onslaught of the Internet is Encyclopedia Britannica. The centuries-old institution was the most authoritative source of information till a few decades ago. But Britannica lost its relevance due to the tremendous success of  Wikipedia, the crowd propelled online encyclopedia.

The idea of an encyclopedia entirely built on contributions from ordinary people struck a chord with netizens and the project became a massive hit.  Wikipedia offers each one of us the opportunity to contribute to the globally available knowledgebase and this decentralised content creation model is the key to its success. The real significance of Wikipedia is that it showed us how the Internet can be used as a collaborative tool for the general good of a society.

muralicolHowever, despite being a great project that has been highly acclaimed by netizens across the globe, some reports suggest that all is not well with Wikipedia. One issue is the slimming down of the number of people who contribute to it. The ratio of contributors to readers is declining, especially after the widespread adoption of smartphones; it is difficult to post serious content via a smartphone and this could be one of the reasons that drive potential contributors away from the service.

Some critics (like Larry Sanger, Wikipedia’s first editor-in-chief,  who left it several years ago) even consider that Wikipedia is over-run with trolls and some contributions with political leanings have ruined its credibility.

Over time, Wikipedia developed strict guidelines for editors to determine “ whether a given topic warrants its own article”. This notability test attracted criticisms from some quarters. Some popular online publications (like MakeUseOf) complain that Wikipedia editors have removed entries for those publications.

Of course, Wikipedia is a huge project mainly run by anonymous volunteers and one cannot expect it to be a perfect/ totally unbiased/ accurate knowledge repository. To counter some of the issues pertaining to the Wikipedia model, several alternatives have come up.  Scholarpedia, an online wiki-based encyclopedia with features commonly associated with open access online academic journals is an example. The site aims to have quality content and to ensure this, Scholarpedia articles are written by invited expert authors and is subject to peer review.

Another  Wikipedia alternative that has gained attention recently is Everipedia, which is being touted as the new version of Wikipedia. The idea behind Everipedia is that it is the encyclopedia of everything. The topics that can be covered in the platform are unrestricted — no “notability restrictions’  mentioned earlier.

Though anyone can edit Wikipedia, no one actually knows anything about the people who edit it. The Everipedia strives for a Wikipedia kind of site that has all the information, but it wants to make sure that everyone knows the people who add stuff to it and reads it. You can put any information on anything — any person/startup/event.  However, to contribute, you need to create an account and while adding content it has to be cited. A page without citation simply cannot exist.The promoters hope the citation requirement will keep out  fake stories and useless trolls. Every single citation can be voted up or down and this way the community can control the reliability of citations.

The application developers have brought every Wikipedia page on to Everipedia (this is possible as Wikipedia is a non-profit). Being a fork of Wikipedia, as of now, Everipedia has everything that Wikipedia has (in English) and more.

Author incentives in Everipedia

When you create an article or update a piece, the system rewards you with something called IQ points. This reward system acts as a motivating force for participants to engage with the system in a more serious fashion. As an editor accumulates more IQ points, her status will go up and she will gain more privileges. So, a knowledgeable person with good communication skills can easily accumulate IQ and rise through the ranks. You are no more an anonymous contributor.

Of course, Everipedia is not a product launched yesterday. Perhaps you may wonder why we feature it now. The new excitement about Everipedia stems from its recent decision to move the content to the blockchain.

Blockchain, the technology that powers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,  is a distributed ledger, which is completely open to anyone. A ledger running on millions of computers and available to everybody. It enables people all over the world to trust each other and transact peer to peer. Every kind of asset could be stored, transacted, exchanged and managed without any intermediary.

As mentioned in an earlier column, the blockchain has an interesting property: once some data are recorded in it, it is almost impossible to change/remove it. The data that is stored in the block chain depends on the type of the chain. For instance, the bitcoin blockchain stores the details of financial transactions — sender, receiver and amount of coins.

blockchainSo when the encyclopedia gets into the blockchain umbrella, the content will never get destroyed. As mentioned earlier, Everipedia rewards its contributors with IQ points. Now, when it moves the content to its blockchain, the system will convert the IQ points to token-based currency (similar to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies). All the current editors will get a share of this token (proportionate to the number of IQ points they currently possess). Besides  storing content on the blockchain, the entire process of approving the articles will also be done via the blockchain. This means that along with the contributors who post content onto the block chain, the validators who ensure its accuracy will also get these tokens. More details are available here.

Once the system has been completely moved to the block chain, anyone who contributes/edits content will automatically earn Everipedia tokens or coins and this will indirectly enhance his or her stake in Everipedia.  If Everipedia gains acceptance among the people, the value of these tokens will go up and these tokens will act as virtual shares of the platform.  Perhaps (in the coming days) the Everipedia token may generate an enthusiasm similar to the one we witness for  the Bitcoin front now. Naturally, this could attract more knowledgeable people to the system and could enhance its quality. Moreover, as the validation/approval is managed by the blockchain algorithm, a true censorship free publication infrastructure could emerge.