Chris Anderson at The Long Tail has an interesting entry on why the L.A. Times’s bloggish experiment with participatory journalism went so wrong. For those not following the story, Michael Kinsley (the founding editor of Slate, now the L.A. Times’s opinions editor) tried to create a kind of “wikitorial” on the L.A. Times’s web site. Internet trolls abused the concept by posting porn. But even before the wikitorials were trolled, they had forked.
“Forking” is an Internet term of trade, borrowed from software development, used to describe a schism where dissenting groups simply go their own way. Wiki forks, like software forks, can be extraordinarily bitter. Something of the sort immediately occurred on the L.A. Times’s web site. Anderson suggests that Mike Kinsley had not solved the architecture of participation for a wikitorial. Well, maybe. Perhaps. But perhaps Wikitorials are simply a dumb idea.
Editorial opinion is opinion - the more lucid, original, and trenchant, the better. Collaborative journalism cannot but dilute that effect. Which is not to say that readerly participation does not have its place on the op-ed page - it does. But in the form of letters, fora, commentary.