And while I’ll never forgive the thing for not having an Edit button, I’ve got to admit the device is pretty cool. Not only does it make it possible to bring WP to a bunch of places that are otherwise impossible or impractical, the thing is built entirely with free software. One of my colleagues at the Center for Future Civic Media suggested we should put one in every bar to help settle drunken arguments. Think of the lives we might save!
I hope the device becomes successful but I’m worried about what success will mean for the already indefensibly large gap between the number of readers and editors on Wikipedia. After all, the ability to change and contribute is the thing that makes Wikipedia interesting, empowering, and successful; cutting this functionality out kind of misses much of the point.
I think it is important to start implementing a simple method to allow users of these types of devices to contribute back. Over the last few years, Sj and I have talked repeatedly about a simple method for contributing back from offline devices that would even be possible from devices like the Om Wikireader where editing the articles is probably impractical. Perhaps the device could be extended so that people could write short comments about articles from their reader — there’s an on screen keyboard after all — which could be saved to a log on the SD card. When the data on the card is updated, messages from this log could be uploaded somewhere — perhaps the talk pages of the articles in question or some dedicated page or ticketing queue. Editors could help merge these changes back into the articles.