Monday, April 28, 2008

200 Billions Hours of Television a Year.........

I remember being surprised when I first learned that my secondborn, son and heir, was a Wikipedia contributor. He started writing in first year of University and he takes his entries very seriously. The whole idea of Wikipedia initially scared old people - it is just too democratic and undisciplined. But if I want to get information quickly, then it is off to Wikipedia that I go.

Imagine the audacity of Wikipedia creators to think that people would want to contribute their time to write articles. A recent article wanted to know how much time people spend writing millions of articles for free. The answer: people spend a lot more time watching dumb television shows than they do contributing to Wikipedia. It is estimated that Wikipedia represents about 100 million hours of collective effort by Wikipedia's editors. In contrast, Americans spend something like 200 billion hours watching television each year.

The argument makes great sense:

"And however pathetic people might find it that someone would spend their evenings having edit wars with people on Wikipedia, it's surely more pathetic to spend your evenings on the couch watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island. Even an online game like World of Warcraft, which many people deride as nerdy and anti-social, at least involves interacting with other people. Indeed Shirky argues, correctly in my view, that the transformation of our social lives from passive to active forms of entertainment is just beginning. People still spend a huge amount of time consuming passive media like television. If even a small fraction of that mental energy was diverted to more active pursuits, it could lead to the production of dozens of socially-beneficial efforts like Wikipedia. The problem isn't finding people with time on their hands; we've got tens of millions of those. The challenge is finding socially-beneficial projects that they'll enjoy participating in more than re-runs of Seinfeld."

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