With my general articles, talks and whatnot about Wikipedia now in the two-years-old stage, I’ve had a lot of chance to get feedback and to go out and look up my name and find commentary about it. The ones that fell into the “read, comprehended, responded” approach often got mail from me. The ones that fell into the “appear to have read it while watching anime in the other window on the desktop” have generally been ignored by me, with a few exceptions that I’ll no doubt regret when I’m 40.
But beyond that, there’s a whole bunch of discussions where someone goes “Wikipedia, yay”, then someone goes “Wait, read Jason’s stuff” and then the first person goes ‘Ewww, words’. I sympathize with this, as I was once the same way. Granted, I was two, but regardless, I’m there with you. With a lot of stuff up on the internet in the form of long-winded articles, you have to invest a lot of time and at the end your head is swimming even if you sort of knew the subject. And the result of all that hard work might be that it sucks!
To that end, I’m putting in this article what I think are the five most common reactions/”debates” about Wikipedia I see, and that way in the future people can point to this article and then my other stuff if the pointed-out-for-them person in question says “tell me more”. Otherwise, they get the point and go.
When I use Wikipedia, I go to an article, read it, and it seems pretty on the money. I get the info, and go! It works! I don’t see what your problem is with it.
If you walk outside your room, stop three random people you’ve never talked to before, and ask them all the same question, chances are you will get some information from them as well. Luck, opportunity and the nature of your question will have an influence on this, but you’d be foolish to think the answer was definitive or adequate compared to primary sources or actual reference material. And the three people you asked (Three People-ia) would be deluding themselves if they were sure they’d be a definitive source on the subject, too. But on Wikipedia, this very thing happens, and happens often. I do not doubt that you will get a decent enough answer, especially if it’s general (who is buried in Grant’s Tomb, who wrote Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony) but you are relying on an enormous amount of luck and you are settling for the lowest common denominator. But hey, the Weekly World News sells hundreds of thousands of copies a week, so there you go.
Nature did a study in which they showed Wikipedia is less inaccurate than the Encyclopedia Britiannica! Look, I have a weblink and everything.
I wish people would stop quoting that study like it proves a whole lot. It looked at forty-two (42) articles out of a total of roughly 700,000 available, truncated articles on both sides to “anonymize” them, introduced errors of its own, won’t let people see the original data in full, and groups minor, major, and debatable errors together. Naturally, when Britannica pointed all this out in a three-month researched response, people went “of course they’re lying”, but then again, these are people who don’t read, like you, hence you’re reading this. Since you like to trust things, like Wikipedia, trust me: it’s a suck-ass study. Maybe someone will do a better one someday. But stop quoting that one.
It’s Just Wikipedia. People know what they’re getting, and I promise to take the result with a grain of salt and be very careful, and look both ways when I cross the street.
I applaud your good intentions, but it is now (August, 2006) to the point that Wikified information (and by that I mean pulped, blended, realigned and dessicated grab-bags of facts presented as pseudo-essays shot through ad-hoc committees) are now the first google hit for most proper and non-proper nouns, verbs, and are getting quoted without attribution everywhere. This is quite understandable, since the information is freely available and easily available besides. But now it’s showing up in school reports, websites like answers.com, and particularly unethical newspapers. So it’s not just a case of figuring out that Bamboo isn’t the capital of Maine; it’s that you will see Bamboo quoted as the capital of Maine more and more over time. Legislative decisions are being made based on Wikipedia articles. Medical decisions are being made based on Wikipedia articles. So it’s not “just” Wikipedia. That’s why I care enough to have written all I have.
Why do you hate Wikipedia so much and want it to be destroyed?
I don’t think any critic of Wikipedia wants it destroyed or to go away; that’s quite impossible at the moment. But there are policies, rules and design flaws in Wikipedia that could be changed and improve some of its worst bits, and over time it could go from wildly unpredictable to something that could be considered either reliable or dependably semi-reliable. Wikipedia has been doing this to itself over time, usually by top-down decisions that change its nature that cause a big uproar and then get accepted. And some of these changes came as a result of criticism. You’re welcome.
Even though I agree with you about what you say about Wikipedia, I just can’t stop using it! It’s so useful and really, at the end of the day, it gives me what I need! Why worry yourself over it that much?
I like people like you, because when I go to Las Vegas every year, I know that it was your hard-work and persistance to avoid ultimately accepting logical conclusions that make the lobbies so nice and give me free drinks while I play hold-em with my friends.
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