Graffiti Effect

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The bane of open collaborative projects. Given time, most open collaborative sites are overrun by garbage: pointless scribbling, overheated argument, vituperative name-calling, and other meaningless nonsense. The temptation to scribble seems irresistable to many; once a site acquires a sufficient number of readers and writers, it seems doomed to succumb to a wave of graffiti.

This phenomenon was termed The Graffiti Effect in MarkBernstein's Hypertext '99 keynote.

The Graffiti Effect had, by 1999, already ended the utility of usenet for most serious work. By 2001, Slashdot had largely succumbed. Whether wikis can resist the Graffiti Effect is open to speculation.

Some believe that the conspicuous vulnerability of Wikis to vandalism makes people less willing to harm them. Others suggest that the rhetorical tone of Wikis, or the ability to recall and edit mistaken, offensive, or inflammatory contributions, reduce the emotional burdens that Wikis levy on their community.

The perhaps obvious resistance that wikis have to this is that grafitti is so easily deleted, or if it has any content, refactored. --JohnAbbe

-- Last edited October 27, 2002

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