Wikihow

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Description

Mayo Foster Morell:

"Wikihow is a wiki for the collaborative writing of manuals on how to do things. For example, Wikihow hosts article such as "How to Write a Demonstrative Speech" or "How to Find Work While Dealing With a Long Term Medical Condition". In December 2009, Wikihow hosted over 66,000 howto articles.

Wikihow is provided by the Wikihow enterprise. The WikiHow enterprise is a forprofit company based in Silicon Valley. The Wikihow enterprise defines itself as “a forprofit focused on creating a global public good in accordance with our mission”. The enterprise is composed of five employees and the founder acting as the chief, who work in a one-roomed office.


Wikihow forms part of the change of model within the technological industry following the dotcom crisis in 2001. The founder of Wikihow was previously involved in eHow, a professional expertbase model of know-how.

The high cost of expert-based articles was putting too much pressure into hosting profitable content and as well as invasive advertisement to cover the costs. Following the form of Wikipedia, the founder decided to change the model to an open and collaboratively wiki based one in 2005. In 2009, Wikihow is profitable by selective and optional advertisement. In contrast to eHow, Wikihow is based on a collaborative wiki instead of a expert-based content, and has a Creative Commons license instead of a copyright license; it is run on FLOSS instead of proprietary software; and, it is essentially governed and managed by its community rather than by the provider." (http://wikis.fu-berlin.de/download/attachments/59080767/FusterMorell-Paper.pdf)


Governance

See: Wikihow - Governance

Discussion

Wikihow as a Mission Enterprise Model

Mayo Foster Morell:

"Putting the “mission first” or the “mission before profit” refers to a profit entity whose primary mission is to accomplish a social good, while the business goal remains secondary. According to Jack Herrick, founder of Wikihow, this results in a “hybrid organization”, which is something in between a forprofit organization, a nonprofit organization and the state:

- “Traditionally there have been 3 typical organization entities which could be dramatically over simplified as follows: Businesses (...); Nonprofits (...) and Government. Wikihow is an attempt to build a 4th organizational structure, one might call a hybrid organization. It combines the best elements of the 3 other structures: Like a nonprofit, Wikihow focuses on fulfilling its mission to help people; Like a government, Wikihow is building a public good like a library or a park that can be enjoyed freely by all; and, Like a business, it uses profits to finance its operations, expansion and assure stability for the project.” (J. Herrick, Interview, December 4, 2008).


The tension between the social basis of the mission and the need for the provider to be profitable is also present in these types of profit provider as was presented with the corporate model of Flickr. However, in the case of mission enterprises, these tensions seem to be more obvious in the relationship of the enterprise with other enterprises, and the competition of the platform’s content with other “competitive” platforms, than between the participants and the enterprises. According to Evans Podromou, founder of Wikitravel and Identica: “As wiki service providers, we straddle two very different worlds: the competitive world of Web business, and the cooperative world of Free Culture.” (E. Podromou, Open letter to Wikia).


Secondly, this model is characterized by the principle of netenabling in regards to the level of freedom and autonomy of the participants. Autonomy refers to use of open standards (which facilitate the connection between platforms), open data (which facilitates the flow of information and the freedom to leave) and open source (which facilitates knowledge of how the program works and opens up the possibility of collaborative improvement or to adaptation it to other uses). In these settings, the individuals and the communities as a whole are also more empowered in terms of control over their production. This is illustrated by legally and technically being allowed to leave the platform individually and collectively, through open data and forkable content.


One of the strengths of this approach is that participants can have control over the platforms they use and the data they generate. Furthermore, as not only individuals, but more companies start to use more and more web based services, there is more pressure to ensure that data control is more favorable to participants (M. B. Hill, Interview, October 25, 2009). Examples of mission enterprises are Wikihow (a how to manual)." (http://wikis.fu-berlin.de/download/attachments/59080767/FusterMorell-Paper.pdf)