I attended the Open Knowledge vs. Controlled Knowledge panel this morning, and Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia, made a really good point. Robert Capps from Wired had just been talking about how vandalism has been a big issue for Wired whenever they open something up for community contribution. Gil’s point is that if things have been tightly controlled and are suddenly opened up as a free-for-all, you can end up with what he called “principal for a day” mentality where the community wants to change everything and really mess with the people who have been in control for so long. At Wikia, since it has been completely open from the beginning, they have seen less vandalism. The Wikia community feels ownership for the content: they watch the content, monitor changes, and make immediate corrections when things go wrong because they have a vested interest and feel ownership for the content.
Gil also pointed out that not everything should be transparent. At Wikia, the content is open, but the bathrooms still have doors and walls – there are some things that people want to see and other things they do not need or want to see.
From my perspective, this balance is important. Too far in either direction (open or closed) can create problems within the community, and a drastic shift in the balance between open / closed can also result in issues. Achieving and maintaining this balance within a community can be a difficult and tricky process, but it seems to be better to err on the side of open rather than closed.