Good Faith Collaboration

From History and Foundations of Information Science

Good Faith Collaboration

The Culture of Wikipedia

By Joseph Reagle

Foreword by Lawrence Lessig

How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia.




Open Access


How Wikipedia collaboration addresses the challenges of openness, consensus, and leadership in a historical pursuit for a universal encyclopedia.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community—a community of Wikipedians who are expected to “assume good faith” when interacting with one another. In Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative culture.

Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal Repository and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology—which at the time included index cards and microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential.

Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character (and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262014472 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$20.00 T ISBN: 9780262518208 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Lawrence Lessig.


  • [A] fascinating revelation about how Wikipedia is just one of several attempts at creating a universal encyclopedia.

    Jeff Kirchoff


  • Beyond doubt this is a text that captures the spirit of the Wikipedia enterprise; it is definitely an excellent read and an accomplished exercise of transparency.

    José-Carlos Redondo-Olmedilla

    The Information Society

  • [I] recommend it to the readers as not only serious, but also humorous and entertaining reading, well written and informative to many social and internet scholars.

    Professor Elena Maceviciute

    Information Research

  • For students of social phenomena, Reagle's history is a fascinating read, especially in light of Wikileaks...for anyone interested in starting a wiki, his descriptions of problems and solutions are invaluable.

    Bernice Glenn

    Computing Reviews

  • Ultimately, Reagle offers a compelling case that Wikipedia's most fascinating and unprecedented aspect isn't the encyclopedia itself—rather, it's the collaborative culture that underpins it: brawling, self-reflexive, funny, serious, and full-tilt committed to the project, even if it means setting aside personal differences. Reagle's position as a scholar and a member of the community makes him uniquely situated to describe this culture.

    Cory Doctorow



  • Good Faith Collaboration sheds some much-needed light on one of the most influential resources available today. Joseph Reagle accurately captures the internal collaborative climate of 'good faith' in Wikipedia, and provides an excellent history of its progenitors like Nupedia.

    Jimmy Wales

    Founder of Wikipedia

  • Joseph Reagle is one of a very few people who are both deeply engaged participants in online community and first-rate scholars of it. In Good Faith Collaboration he provides the best explanation to date of how a communally created encyclopedia went from 'crazy idea' to the most important reference work in the English language in less than ten years, and what Wikipedia's massive global experiment in its collaborative culture means for the future of ours.

    Clay Shirky

    NYU, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations

  • Joseph Reagle's account of what makes Wikipedia tick debunks the vision of a shining Alexandria gliding toward free and perfect knowledge and replaces it with something far more awe-inspiring: a humane, and human, enterprise that with each fitful back-and-forth elicits the best from those it draws in. In an era of polemic and cheap shots that some attribute largely to the Internet's influence, he shows how even those of wildly varying backgrounds who disagree intensely can see themselves as embarked on a common, ennobling mission grounded in respect and reason.

    Jonathan Zittrain

    Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and Kennedy School, Professor of Computer Science, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and author of The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It

  • Wikipedia deserves to have its story intelligently told, and Joseph Reagle has done exactly that. Good Faith Collaboration is smart, accessible, and astutely observed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand how Wikipedia works, and why it matters.

    Sue Gardner

    Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262014472 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$20.00 T ISBN: 9780262518208 264 pp. | 6 in x 9 in