A system designed to do all things well ends up doing little or nothing well. Wiki design seeks highly interactive and quick collaboration, but not every situation needs that. Wiki design allows totally open public editing, but not every situation needs that. This does not mean that wiki design has failed because all wiki features cannot be used for all situations. Wiki values must be appropriately applied and this includes knowledge of the limitations. Both technical and social factors need consideration.
The public nature of wiki editing means that page vandalism, and intentional distortion and lies and inadequately edited grammar are a risk that must be balanced against speedy change and the capacity for more public control that was discussed under wiki controls.
Wiki design is constantly improving, but currently many of the features of common word processors such as the creation of tables and the easy insertion of media is not possible with all versions. It must be understand that one of the motivations of wiki design is to not add complexity and so it is likely that even though such features can be technically added, they should not be and might not ever be. There is a trade-off between speed and complexity and users must decide which they need most in different situations.
Involving a group of people in a new way of thinking requires some group socialization. Wiki environments by default seem designed for those with little or no ego issues. The concept of egalitarianism needs discussion and acceptance by the players. This may not be the best tool to use to achieve peace and harmony with highly controversial topics. Further, it is a stretch for some to accept shared ownership, often without attribution. Those with status and reputation concerns may not play well in wiki environments. There are many forms of passive resistance and ways around a wiki team, either using email to keep information out of the loop or simply inattention to the wiki content. How much is at stake and how socialized the group has become with a collaborative project will have a great impact on wiki newbies. Beginners considering a wiki project should consider low impact projects to try out a wiki system and their skills before pressure intensive time or public exposure elements are increased. Regular use of notification by participants so that they know what has changed and when is critical to socializing all to wiki norms.
Two cases of distorted wiki articles have been widely reported in the press, dealing with a particular kind of wiki, the publicly created and edited wiki. In the first, the Los Angeles Times experimented in 2005 with a wiki for debate on the controversial topic of Iraq and was overwhelming with porn messages and images and over the top criticism (Lee, 2005). In the second case of 2005, John Seigenthaler Sr., a journalist and former assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, discovered a Wikipedia article in which a prankster falsely accused him in an article of plotting the Kennedy assassinations (Blakely, 2005).
More scientific tests have shown that these headliner cases are the exception, not the rule, even with a publicly edited wiki. In a test by the Editor-at-large A. Jacobs of Esquire magazine in 2005, he put deliberate errors in a wikipedia article. Within three days there were 576 edits, fixing all but one of the errors. Nature, the scientific journal, used independent reviewers in 2005 to compare 42 articles on the same topics in both Wikipedia and in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the gold standard for encyclopedias. The Wikipedias encyclopedia was discovered in general to have just a slightly higher error rate than Britannica.
In short, the technical tools exist to exercise social control in effective ways in a highly mixed population. Whether these are applied or not depends on a number of social factors, but it has been successful done. However, wiki editing can be reserved by only those with the proper password, which allows groups of any size to take advantage of wiki design without worrying about outsiders manipulating the composition.