Friday, March 17, 2006

The Problem With Wikipedia

Once upon a time, I believed in the glorious vision of Wikipedia. But now that it's achieved a measure of success, Wikipedia has become a battleground for false information and warring ideologies. A man had a fictional and slanderous biography written about him and copied to other websites. A libertarian website blasts Wikipedia for not including the idea that the Nazi salute is derived from the US pledge of allegiance. Some people are even calling for a boycott.

The problem is that Wikipedia is a victim of its own success. With greater attention comes greater scrutiny to its failures. The fact is that it's open-source, which means anyone can screw around with it. That's its strength and weakness. The scientist can update entries on rocket science as easily as the high-school dropout can write dirty words into the entries on Beethoven. And the encyclopedia is heavily skewed towards its audience. Nerd-oriented topics such as Bill Gates are heavily contributed to while female-oriented topics like the girdle has two paragraphs. I personally think the good far out-weighs the bad, but maybe an open-source encyclopedia isn't a good idea, after all.
Categories: opinion


Mauricem said...

Yeah, I agree. I never trust anything in Wikipedia. What they need more than anything else is a reliable set of factcheckers. Say, an expert in each field checking each entry under their field.
That or a reliable way to track who's making changes for traceablility.

Monkey Migraine said...

Well, they do have a way to track changes. It logs either your nickname if you've logged in or your IP address. And they do have a campaign to get experts to contribute. But I do think it's more self-regulating than the critics would believe.

glomgold said...

I thought recent studies conducted showed that the % of incorrect info in Wikipedia was no worse than a traditional set of book encyclopedias? Of course, only a small sampling was taken which might not be completely accurate, plus I'm always a little hesitant about trusting that site anyway.
Still, it's a good thing to wrest control of stuff from the hands of giant faceless corporations. They're not necessarily any more accountable than anonymous web-dorks.

Monkey Migraine said...

I agree with that study. I personally have always found Wikipedia more extensive and comprehensive than regular encyclopedias. And if I ever found an error, I just fixed it myself.