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Viva Wikipedia, Part 3

The Seigenthaler fallout continues... if that means nothing to you, go read my first two posts in this series here and here, respectively, and then come back.

Ars Technica — always a good read — has two new articles up pertaining Wikipedia's recent time in the spotlight.

In the first, Ken "Caesar" Fisher digs a little deeper into the Nature study (seriously — if you're lost, read this) and the broader Wikipedia-reliability issue.

The gist of it is that Wikipedia founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales has recently responded to the accusations of inaccuracy in Wikipedia by stating that (a) people really shouldn't be citing encyclopedias as authoritative sources in the first place, and that (b) Wikipedia may have its flaws, but it's worlds better than where people were probably going before... that is, than any ol' sketchy website.

As the Nature study demonstrated, Britannica isn't much better than Wikipedia as far as accuracy is concerned, and I think Wales' first point is a good one. His second is a bit more complex, as Seigenthaler would no doubt agree. The problem is that people expect sketchy websites to be sketchy, whereas people generally expect Wikipedia to be reliable. The question of accountability arises when, on occasion, Wikipedia turns out to be not-so-reliable. But does the fault lie with Wikipedia for not doing a better job of controlling their content, or with the user-base for having expectations that are out of wack with reality?

Personally, I think people spend too much time looking for someone to blame and not enough time taking responsibility for their own actions. Wikipedia never promised to be accurate... quite the opposite, in fact. I think people should spend a little more time appreciating the amazing resource that Wikipedia is, and a little less time nattering on about its shortcomings.

And what better way to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, than to spend your daily Wikipedia-appreciation time making Wikipedia better.

Oh. Right. I promised two Ars articles. The other is about Wikipedia's recent addition of a few more anti-vandalism measures. It's a good idea, it's certainly relevant, and it's not overly exciting... read it here if you care.

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  • Purpose: user-interface critique (ranting), among other things.
  • Justification: I use things; I have opinions; I have a blog.