25 November 2006

Cost Structures

... As a result, when the cost structure for creating, say, an encyclopedia changes, our existing assumptions about encyclopedic value have to be re-examined, because current encyclopedic values are relative, not absolute. It is possible for low-cost, low-value systems to be better than high-cost, high-value systems in the view of the society adopting them. If the low-cost system can increase in value over time while remaining low cost, even better.

... Barriers to both access and re-use are built into the Britannica cost structure, and without those barriers, it will collapse. Nothing about the institution of Britannica has changed in the five years of Wikipedia�s existence, but in the current ecosystem, the 1768 model of creation � you pay us and we make an Encyclopedia � has been transformed from a valuable service to a set of self-perpetuating, use-crippling barriers.

... The measure of possible virtues of an encyclopedia now include free universal access and unlimited re-use. As a result, maintaining Britannica costs more in a world with Wikipedia than it did in a world without it.

Clay Shirky in Social Facts, Expertise, Citizendium, and Carr