Co-founders Evan Prodromou and Nicolas Ritoux (who naturally both blogged about the article) have been selling the site trying to get some publicity (even to the point of emailing me and asking me to blog about it). I haven’t blogged about it for the simple reason that I’m not a wine critic. I don’t even drink the stuff. I have no clue what makes a good wine, so I have no idea if it needs a wiki.
But what I do know leaves me a bit skeptical. Wine criticism is a subjective thing, and trying to build a wiki around things people disagree about is a recipe for disaster. Of course, if anyone could make it happen, it would be Evan Prodromou, who built up the successful Wikitravel.
When it comes to wikis, Wikipedia is king. It’s the one everyone knows about, and the main reason other people think wikis will be successful. But it also means people are going to go there first. So to create a non-Wikipedia wiki, you need to fill a niche that Wikipedia can’t or won’t. And that’s tough.
There are three main reasons why information would be rejected from Wikipedia and it would make sense to build another wiki database of information:
- The information not encyclopedic in nature. This leads to things like WikiHow (the how-to guide), Wikitravel, A Million Penguins (the collaboratively-written novel) or WikiNews.
- The information is too obscure or too technical even for Wikipedia. It takes quite a feat to get information that specific when Wikipedia has over 2 million articles on subjects like Simpsons pop culture references. Nevertheless, this leads to such oh-my-god-get-a-life websites as Memory Alpha (the Star Trek encyclopedia)
and Wikispecies. Wikispecies, which has more serious goals, also fits into this category.
- The information is subjective, biased or fictional. Conservapedia and dKosopedia fall into this category, as does Uncyclopedia (the parody encyclopedia).
If it’s #3, then there’s the problem of how people can trust it and how to avoid edit wars. #2 might make sense if there was a lot more than articles about wines, which are surely allowed in Wikipedia, and it will take quite a while for it to develop enough articles to become the default resource on the topic. And if it’s #1, then comes the question: What is it, exactly?
I hope the website does well. And if it stays out of the trap of becoming a simple subset of inferior Wikipedia articles, then it probably will.