Wikipedia – some people wish it were better

Inveterate Troppodillians (that’s not invertebrate Troppodillians) will know that I’m pretty interested in how ‘open source’ things are working out on the internet. Open source software like Linux particularly that under the GPL licence has demonstrated itself as a new and powerful economic form. That’s prompted lots of hype about ‘open sourcing’ various things.

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic about Wikipedia. It’s an absolutely fantastic resource. But it too has its problems. Here’s a link to its founder conceding that it has some poor articles. The article then says this is a great step forward because only by understanding one’s weaknesses can one . . . yada yada yada.

But it holds Britannica out as the standard bearer for encyclopedias. I think that’s ridiculous. An open source encyclopedia will be worse than a proprietary one in some ways, and better in others. Whenever one goes to Wikipedia one is aware that it could be wrong (so could Britannica but the quality control is obviously kept above a certain floor whereas this may or may not the case with a particular Wikipedia entry).

But then again Wikipedia has strengths that Britannica will never have. It has incredible speed of response (I was looking up great stuff on Hurricane Katrina a few days after it had hit). It has breadth. What other encyclopedia has an entry on Troppo’s very own Rafe Champion?

And as for the errors, well I think one can acquire a pretty good ‘nose’ for an article that’s on the level. It’s like people. You can get a pretty good idea of whether you can trust someone from talking to them for a while. So while it would be nice if Wikipedia had the strengths of proprietary production, I’m quite happy that it has the strengths of open production. And I’m writing up a Wikipedia entry on my Dad which might prove to be of some use to someone sometime.

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John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

I read Carr’s original post with interest. I think it raises a general issue for open-source production which is that all projects include some components that are necessary but boring, such as copy-editing in Wikipedia. These are unlikely to get done, or at least to get done well.

There’s a potential role for policy intervention in subsidising these ‘boring bits’.

That said, I thought Carr was OTT – he picks up some embarrassing stylistic flaws, then jumps to more substantive claims implying factual error and unreliability, with no real evidence.

Tony D
Tony D
2022 years ago

Is it just me or has someone been messing with Rafe’s page on wiki?

“… co-blogger at CrocoArmadillo which is based at a hick town in the outback of the continent.”

Wicking
2022 years ago

Nicholas, I can’t thank you enough for introducing me to the term ‘wiki-fiddler’.

Rafe
2022 years ago

The problem with Wiki is that entries can be edited by anyone, ranging from simple-minded prats with a depraved sense of humour (as above) to people with seriously vandalistic intent who plant blatant and damaging lies in the bio of people they dislike. This happened to a decent and principled but highly unpopular non-left journalist a week or two ago. The crap can be edited out of the current text but it may remain in the history like a submerged mine.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Yes Rafe,

It is amazing that Wikipedia has got as good as it already is without proper registration procedures. It’s hard to imagine that it won’t go that way. One can imagine all sorts of mechanisms for ensuring that it is difficult for spammers and vandals to mess things up, from registration, to tiered levels of access within the project (as with open source software) where you don’t get to make changes to articles that have reached a certain quality and maturity without a track record. Still, I like the fact that Wikipedia has jokes in it – which themselves acquire a perfectly reasonable legitimacy. I’m thinking of Spaghetti Monsterism something which I made clear in an earlier post was close to my cartoonist’s heart.

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/009457.html

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

Fixed the joke. I’m surprised it lingered so long.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

You’re a very naughty boy Jacques.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Like Jesus Christ.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

No he’s not the messiah at all etc etc (but don’t get me started, I’m warning you. I’ll headbutt you to death).

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

I’m mystified: who is the “decent and principled but highly unpopular non-left journalist”?

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

I might not be the Messiah, but anyone who really likes the joke can put it back in. Then we can have a good old fashion edit war.