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Thu, Jun 15, 2006 - Page 10 News List

EBay `wiki' to collect users' wisdom


EBay president and CEO Meg Whitman delivers a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday.


Using a technology once the domain of nerds, US auction Web site eBay is collecting the wisdom of millions of users in a how-to guide for buying and selling online.

Any of eBay's estimated 185 million users can contribute insights to an eBay "wiki," a Web site that allows visitors to add, delete or otherwise edit contents.

Executives from eBay unveiled www.ebaywiki.com on Tuesday at an annual eBay Live conference in Las Vegas.

"It is a milestone in the coming of age of wiki in terms of coming out of the land of the nerds to a more mainstream audience," said Joe Kraus, founder of JotSpot, the company that built eBay's wiki.

Members of virtual communities wind up informally collaborating on definitive articles on whatever subjects or questions are posted on wikis, Kraus said.

"The Web was read-only for the first 10 years of its life," Kraus said. "The goal is to make it a two-way conversation as opposed to a monologue."

Best known wiki would be www.wikipedia.com, an encyclopedic online trove of information compiled and refined by its users.

The eBay wiki was to address online auction matters such as how best to deal with buyers in other countries, consummate deals in foreign currencies or resolve sales disputes.

"The idea here is that this is the Wikipedia of eBay by eBay users," Kraus said. "EBay can leverage the expertise of the entire community to get the right answers in much the same way Wikipedia leverages the expertise of people around the world all the time."

Wikis have grown increasingly common, as people use them for everything from class reunions and family trees to company efficiency, according to Kraus, whose company is based in Palo Alto, California.

"I'm only cautiously optimistic about the wiki model," said Ken Walton, whose auction of a forged Richard Diebenkorn painting on eBay in 2000 sparked a scandal that ended with him pleading guilty to wire and mail fraud.

Walton told his tale of transformation from a budding California lawyer into a hustler of paintings on eBay in the recently released book Fake: Forgery, Lies and eBay.

"It is possible the wiki may raise awareness about fraud and bring things to light," Walton said.

While sharing wisdom in a wiki might help keep online sales honest, "a lot of the frauds tend to fly under the radar," Walton said.

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