First, thanks for the comment/response. You obviously feel very strongly about Te Ara, so I guess there must be some kind of professional, or maybe even, on the taxpayer thing, some political angle to the strength of your views?
Te Ara Design
As to the design - for sure it could lighten up a bit, and it does get a tad dense on occasion - but I totally stand by my own opinion around the information architecture - the use of themes instead of an A/Z encyclopedia approach, and the way they have chunked the material into different sizes for different kinds of audiences is, IMHO, very effective.
Pompous people to stupid people
That said I'm more interested in engaging with your other strongly held critique - that .." Te Ara is a top down elitist channel from pompous people to stupid people.... that people don't need experts .. that the material is badly written .. and that the primary audience is other pompous people"
Frankly, I think the tone of the above is sheer tosh. But whatever.
However, I do think your post is well worth engaging with on the issue of the place for the 'authoritative expert' in this brave new world of web 2.0 citizen created content.
Curiously, I'm the guy who is more often or not seen as the champion of the non authoritative voice. But as I suspect you long since guessed, I'm also on the side of the expert, and totally believe there is a need for peer reviewed walled gardens.
However, before you explode into another bout of well structured and well written - bah humbug - I'm also equally clear that the the gates to the walled garden need unlocked , and that ultimately, the voice of the expert is best heard inside a conversation in which other voices can both participate and contribute to the ongoing vitality of the topic.
But let's be clear here - that doesn't at all mean that the primary loci of the online expert voices abandon their individuality, structure, and give way to a cacophony of other voices.
Moreover, offering Wikipedia as an alternative doesn't help here - the notion that Wikipedia doesn't have subject experts is superficial at best - most articles are shaped and grown by a panel of contributors, who, by definition, have assigned themself an authority to speak. Indeed, increasingly, this authority to speak is in turn validated by the growing structure of editorial control that has crept into Wikipedia.
However I do believe, and I suspect we might even manage a grudging agreement here, that Te Ara, and other formal sources need to allow their pages to be exported into new collaboration, and/or learning spaces. I also believe that Wikipedia should do the same.
In short, I believe the future is not around trying to navigate debates around the benefit of formal - informal : expert- citizen created content.
Rather I strongly hold the view our energies should be pointed at either writing or persuading people to develop open API's, federated search and discovery tools, which people can use inside their own digital spaces
As to what these personal collaboration spaces might look like? Who knows? But I'm equally strongly of the view that the likes of My Space and Facebook are pale shadows of the potential that we could build to manage our growing digital lives.
My own way of talking about this is to imagine what might be in an online space I call My Studio.
As it happens , it would probably be full of what you call pompous voices - but thats my choice, and hey, we don't have to share. But we could if we choose.
For myself, I'm totally up for the challenge of not just making studio spaces - and finding partners who share the potential of the idea - and persuading the mainstream knowledge factories , both public and commercial to put their content into them - and that includes Te Ara.So, for me, not only is Te Ara welcome to their money, I totally believe, they are a welcome part of a learning revolution in which the expert voice is as welcome around the fireseide as yourself.
p.s. my favourite example of so called experts talking about their subjects is In Our Time - BBC Radio series - the new series has just started at ww.bbc.co.uk/radio4/inourtime
But hey - maybe its just more deluded pompous people talking to more stupid people.