A Renaissance story has some fascinating anticipatory echoes of current Web 2.0 debates. A Fathom course* on humanism and printing describes a certain problem with textual quality, as perceived by a critic who would certainly recognize Wikipedia or the blogosphere:
[P]apal curialist, Niccolò Perotti, Archbishop of Siponto... had thought the advent of printing was an inestimable boon to mankind until he set eyes on Bussi's 1470 edition of Pliny and realized that men of slight learning were now in a position to publish whatever they liked in hundreds of copies, without any sort of editorial responsibility or control. He proposes as a remedy that the pope should appoint a competent scholar (he thinks of himself) to supervise texts printed at Rome.
"without any sort of editorial responsibility or control" - how often do we hear that these days? Notice, too, that Perotti argues from a position of authority, being an archbishop.
Then one response brings to mind social filtering and the wisdom of crowds:
[Giovanni Andrea] Bussi saw his task as getting the material into print, and then correction of outstanding difficulties could follow as a sort of communal enterprise. Years later, in the Greek Theocritus of 1496, the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius took a similar complacent (or resigned) line, to the effect that something is better than nothing, and a text once printed can at least find many correctors where a manuscript can only receive occasional and individual emendation.[emphases added]
The Fathom article's author, Martin Davies, then quietly adds in agreement:
This, of course, is true in the long run.
Perotti's complaint not an exact parallel, of course, for all sorts of reasons. Web 2.0 grew up in countries with freedom of speech and separation of church and state. Comparative numbers are far different, in terms of the ratios of manuscripts to early print versus modern print to the web. The great publisher Mantius is resigned to this "communal enterprise" over time, rather than evangelical about it. And the outcome of this ideological contest was only a fizzle, as James O'Donnell notes ("[Perotti's censorship] appeal was unavailing, and de Bussi became Vatican Librarian"). But it's fascinating to see a rough similarity of argument, five-six centuries later.
This might be a useful account to consider, too, in order to offer a different argument from the classic Gutenberg->Protestant Reformation line of thought, given when it occured. The text quality issue returns with a vengeance in the late 1600s, according to Adrian Johns' superb The Nature of the Book. That's whence British copyright law emerges, among other things.
*Fathom. Now there's a name to bring us back to the 1990s, and universities trying out new ways to mobilize the web!