I don't believe that the goal should be 'acceptance' so much as recognition of what Wikipedia is and what it is not. It will never be an encyclopedia, but it will contain extensive knowledge that is quite valuable for different purposes.
So the idea that the Wikipedia will never be an encyclopedia is in part an ahistorical assertion that the definition and nature of encyclopediahood is fixed for all time, and that works like Britannica are avatars of the pattern. Contra boyd, I think Wikipedia will be an encyclopedia when the definition of the word expands to include peer production of shared knowledge, not just Britannica's institutional production.
Wikipedia is not a product, it is a system. The collection of mass intelligence that I value unfolds over time, necessarily. Like democracy, it is messier than planned systems at any given point in time, but it is not just self-healing, it is self-improving. Any given version of Britannica gets worse over time, as it gets stale. The Wikipedia, by contrast, whose version is always the Wiki Now, gets better over time as it gets refreshed. This improvement is not monotonic, but it is steady. …
So, is Wikipedia authoritative? No, or at least not yet, because it has neither the authority of the individual merchant or the commercial brand. However, it does have something that neither mechanism offers, which is a kind of market, where the investment is time and effort rather than dollars and cents. This is like the eBay model … Now when eBay launched, people were skeptical, because the site wasn't trustworthy. The curious thing about trust, though, is that it is a social fact, a fact that is only true when people think it is true. Social facts are real facts, and have considerable weight in the world. … Ebay has become trustworthy over time because the social fact of its trustworthiness grew with the number of successful transactions and with its ability to find and rectify bad actors. …
So, under what conditions might the Wikipedia become a kind of authority, based on something other than authorship or brand? And the answer to that question, I think, is when enough people regard it as trustworthy, where the trust is derived from the fact that many eyes have viewed a particular article. And here danah points to something interesting — she believes, and I believe with her, that a Wikipedia page created by a single user isn't as valuable as a page that has been edited by many users. … And once that social fact is established, authority, albeit of a more diffuse and systems-oriented sort, won't be far behind.
Many interesting points are raised here, but I believe there are problems too, already touched on elsewhere by others who have contributed to this on-going debate. (I would like to single out 'more is better': really? Who makes up the more, and who, at any given time, has had the last word?) For example, in the comments to Joi Ito's 29 August (2004) posting, Wikipedia attacked by ignorant reporter:
Lis Lawley (comment 8):
… while the back-and-forth of community editing may, over time, result in information with significant balance and validity, there's also the very real potential of an unsuspecting user coming across an article during a pendulum swing. With print reference sources, that back-and-forth occurs as well, but it's typically invisible to the end-user, who always receives the post-debate version.
Horst (comment 23):
Imagine a user who needs to find a bit of information and consults a wikipedia article. Can this user be certain that the article is correct as he finds it at any given point in time? The average unsuspecting user doesn't care about knowledge building processes, he is only interested in the result of such a process. Wikipedia, however, is one giant process that, by its very nature, is constantly changing its shape. For the average user (who does not care at all about version histories of the articles) there is no way of telling whether an article is more in flux or more stable, or whether it has just been defaced by a person with a sense of humour like Alex Halavais [see comment 5].
Furthermore, there are apparently plans to print Wikipedia or to produce it on CD-ROM (IMSoP, comment 27). What, then, of the argument from wiki-ness ('Wikipedia, by contrast, whose version is always the Wiki Now, gets better over time as it gets refreshed')? IMSoP continues:
In future, it is likely that the wiki-process will be used to build, improve, and correct articles, which are then verified before being labelled as "authoritative"; under such a system, arbitrary vandalism would not only be corrected, but would be invisible to genuine end-users (i.e. "users not engineers" as you put it). OK, so we're not yet sure how; that's a challenge, but it's not an impossibility just because we want to balance it against the clear advantages of the wiki approach. The Wikipedia interface already diverges quite significantly from the "classical" WikiWikiWay - it has separated discussion from content, the ability to protect pages, ban users, and yet do so to some extent within the spirit of openness that the project is founded on. So yes, it has had to become more complicated than a traditional wiki, and gets ever more so as it approaches in similarity to a traditional encyclopedia. It is neither the same as a "normal" wiki, nor is it the same as a "normal" encyclopedia; nonetheless, it has many real uses for real people. In short: it's not a wiki, it's not an encyclopedia, it's the one and only Wikipedia; and as it matures, it will find it's own, authoritative, place in the world.
(Consider, also, this from Matt Jones' September '04 posting, Authority and Autonomy: 'The wikipedia's structural strength and resilience confered by its form, also condemns it to be being in the constant flux of the wikinow - and that immediately erodes it's 'authority' in traditional terms …'. And this, from Dave Winer: '… the inherent weakness in the Wiki model, the consensus isn't always correct, esp when some people want to have their point of view prevail above all others.')
As is probably well known, Dispatches from the Frozen North performed a more covert series of acts of "vandalism" on Wikipedia than did Alex Halavais:
I was disappointed that all my changes in Wikipedia went unchallenged. … One way to solve this weakness is to create a formal fact-checking mechanism. In Wikipedia, contributions of new material are certainly valuable, but fact checking is even more important.
Clay's second posting concludes:
And the more macro point is that Wikipedia is still in the early days of experimenting with models of governance, editing, or, as here, presentation to the users.
Issues to do with governance and editing surely lie at the heart of this debate: issues, that is, centred around accuracy, trust, collaborative editing and reputation — see Ross Mayfield's post of August last year.
Footnote: I read in Reagle's A Case of Mutual Aid:
Wikipedia is the populist offshoot of the Nupedia project started in March of 2000 by Jimbo Wales and Larry Sanger. Nupedia's mission was to create a free encyclopedia via rigorous expert review under a free documentation license. Unfortunately, this process moved rather slowly and having recently been introduced to Wiki, Sanger persuaded Wales to set up a scratch-pad for potential Nupedia content where anyone could contribute. However, "There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers, however, to making Nupedia closely associated with a website in the wiki format. Therefore, the new project was given the name 'Wikipedia' and launched on its own address, Wikipedia.com, on January 15 " (Wikipedia 2004hw). [ History of Wikipedia. Retrieved on April 29, 2004 from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia>]
Given this, I think it amusing that this whole recent round of debate about Wikipedia's authority and/or integrity and/or reliability has been sparked off by (amongst others) none other than Larry Sanger. Many of the "problems" he identifies seem to be characteristic of the radically open nature of wikis …