Case Number: 5-306-507, Year Published: 2006, Revision Date: July 29, 2009
HBS Number: KEL253
Open Source Organizations, Wikipedia, Managing Internet Media, Wiki, Jimbo Wales, Encyclopedia
By 2006 Wikipedia had achieved the type of success that only a handful of young organizations could ever dream of reaching. It had grown from almost nothing in 2001 to become one the consistently highest ranked and most visited sites on the Internet. This success brought new problems and at a scale that no organization of this type had ever before faced. The case exposes students to Wikipedia’s brief history, the causes of its success, and the issues it faced going forward. Two topics form the focus of the case. The first concerns the rules and norms for submission and editing, which raise questions about the ambiguity of Wikipedia’s authority and the virtual cycle that keeps the site going. The second lesson concerns the need to alter its practices as it gains in popularity, raising questions about what any wiki site, profit-oriented or open source, must do to scale to large numbers of participants and entries. These issues arise as part of a discussion about the site’s priorities going forward.
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