Harvard Business School Case on Wikipedia

Published on August 21, 2018


On August 24, 2006, the “Enterprise 2.0” entry in the Web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia was made a candidate for deletion. Wikipedia was an unusual encyclopedia because virtually anybody could start a new article or edit an existing one. This egalitarian philosophy had enabled very rapid growth but also led to the creation of some articles that did not meet established standards. Wikipedia’s “articles-for-deletion” (AfD) process was an attempt to deal with this problem. Anyone could nominate an article for deletion; nomination caused a notice to be placed on the article’s page alerting readers to the deletion request and pointing them to a special page where they could debate it. An AfD process lasted five days, after which a Wikipedia administrator reviewed the arguments and made a decision on the fate of the article.

In the spirit of Wikipedia we have released this under a GFDL license, and we will teach it in Andrew McAfee’s second year MBA course on Managing in the Information Age this Spring to get students familiar with the inner workings of a distributed community and to grapple with issues related to authority, decision making, expertise and norms of behavior in a community setting.


Andrew McAfee

Andrew McAfee, an MIT scientist, studies how technological progress changes business, the economy, and society. His latest book, written with Erik Brynjolfsson, is Machine Platform Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. He is the cofounder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

Karim Lakhani

Karim R. Lakhani is a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and one of the Principal Investigators of the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH). He specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. He has also investigated how critical knowledge from outside of the organization can be accessed through innovation contests. Currently, Professor Lakhani is investigating incentives and behavior in contests and the mechanisms behind scientific team formation through field experiments on the Topcoder platform and the Harvard Medical School.

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