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Nitpicking Wikipedia's Vulnerabilities 545

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the trust-no-one dept.
tiltowait writes "A lot of Wikipedia critics point to hypothetical situations when giving reasons for not valuing the site. Wikipedia even has a 'Replies to common objections' article set up to field these. I'd rather look at some real examples of applying the same level of scrutiny to materials often held up as the Platonic ideal of 'scholarship,' such as peer-reviewed journals, conference papers, established journalism sources, monographs, and print encyclopedias. Even these have disclaimers because they can be can be vandalized or have their reliability and accuracy questioned. As dangerous as it is to trust unverified information, it can be just as bad to make prior judgments discounting information because the source happens to be anonymous. The above examples illustrate that all materials existing along a continuum of valuable information formats. Wikipedia articles can be useful for quickly obtaining factual overviews or as a starting point to further research. But that's just one librarian's opinion. How do tech-savvy people view Wikipedia?"
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Nitpicking Wikipedia's Vulnerabilities

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  • Editorial control (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:54PM (#13736215) Homepage Journal
    The problem that I have had with Wikipedia is that in editing articles on which I am a recognized expert, I have had my edits and entries entirely removed by others who "feel" that these edits were somehow inappropriate, even when I referenced those entries along with results from peer reviewed journals. So, while allowing everybody to edit, there is no weighting system in place for those individuals who may, in fact, know more about a particular subject matter than others who exert their biased or uneducated editorial control.

    Now, all of that said, I do really appreciate Wikipedia as like the poster stated is a good starting out point for research into a particular topic.

    • by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:06PM (#13736289) Homepage Journal
      "The problem that I have had with Wikipedia is that in editing articles on which I am a recognized expert, I have had my edits and entries entirely removed by others who "feel" that these edits were somehow inappropriate, even when I referenced those entries along with results from peer reviewed journals."

      Wow! That sounds just like another website I frequently visit!
    • Re:Editorial control (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pHatidic (163975) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:07PM (#13736293)
      This is what Larry Sanger said in his last K5 article about Wikipedia. Larry made the argument that even though he has a PhD in philosophy his articles could be corrected by a six year old. Personally, I think that if your beliefs can't stand up to the curiosity of a six year old then that says something in and of itself.
      • by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:13PM (#13736321) Journal
        Really though, I think if Wikipedia had "certified" users who could somehow prove they had acceptable degrees in certain areas and whose changes could not be undone by regular users in articles pertaining to those areas, it would do a lot. I've certainly heard stories of knowledgeable people being overwritten by college freshmen who thought they knew what they were talking about.
        • by nine-times (778537) <> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:40PM (#13736445) Homepage
          The only thing is, who certifies? Who decides who's smart enough to be an authority, and who isn't? I've known professors who should have their work overwritten by college freshmen. Do we want those professors censoring smart people because they disagree?

          I do rather like the idea of having some sort of editorial process to the wikipedia. Whenever this issue of "trustworthiness" has come up, I've always had the same hesitating suggestion: branch the wikipedia so that there's something like a "stable branch". Keep the wikipedia as it is, but it'd be nice if there were some kind of designated "editors" that could integrate the changes better, make sure the work is coherent, correct, etc. and put out the edited version as the "stable" version which would lag a bit behind from the "unstable".

          Of course, such a thing would be a logistical nightmare, and it's damn near impossible. However, I think it would be appreciated by a lot of people if some editorial process could be worked in somehow.

          • by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:10PM (#13736574) Journal
            " The only thing is, who certifies? Who decides who's smart enough to be an authority, and who isn't?"

            ummmm, the Wikipedia authors and monitors. It's perfectly possible to verify people know what they're talking about some way or another, and even if they don't and slip through the system, there will be other "certified" users who can overwrite/edit their mistakes just like 6 year olds can right now.
            • by nine-times (778537)
              ummmm, the Wikipedia authors and monitors. It's perfectly possible to verify people know what they're talking about some way or another....

              It's not that easy to know who knows what they're talking about unless you know what they're talking about. In other words, if I don't know anything about quantum physics, how do I test you to find out if you know anything about quantum physics? You'd have to end up, probably, just allowing people who have degrees in these subjects and, like I said, I've known profess

          • Dev and Stable (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Agarax (864558) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:18PM (#13736602)
            I've always had the same hesitating suggestion: branch the wikipedia so that there's something like a "stable branch".

            Of course, such a thing would be a logistical nightmare, and it's damn near impossible. However, I think it would be appreciated by a lot of people if some editorial process could be worked in somehow.

            This is actually a very good idea.

            A stub could start out as a beta, where it gets many edits. After a certain ammount of time/edits the entry could be forked into a RC and dev page. The RC could be locked and the dev maintained on a seperate tab (like the discussion or talk links are now). You could then put up a voting system where you can give a thumbs up or down.

            If it gets a number of yes votes it could then be called a stable page (1.0) More edits would still be made on the dev page until it reaches the limit where it goes up for a up/down vote again, and a snapshot of the dev would go up for review. If it passes you could then have a 1.1 version of the page and continue adnausium.

            This would provide a signifigant ammount of quality control on the page.
          • by Quadraginta (902985) on Friday October 07, 2005 @01:45AM (#13737311)
            The only thing is, who certifies?

            It's only top-down designers who face this perennial conundrum, you know. If you free yourself from the narrow confines of socialist thinking this problem is easy to solve: let a free market assign the appropriate value of Wikipedia information, just as it successfully assigns the appropriate value of bazillions of commodities from 1/8" copper tubing to expertise in brain surgery.

            How could that work? Simple, if Wikipedia could figure out a way to let users bid to pay for information, and let experts (or random wannabes) bid to sell information, and connect them up. The ol' invisible hand would rapidly solve the problem of assigning an appropriate value to every article and every author in the Wikipedia.

            Users for whom information is mission-critical, e.g. who will be testing the truth of that information most severely, would end up offering the highest price for it. So, information that consistently proves reliable and accurate in actual use (and not just in some academical opinion) would fetch the highest price. Similarly, experts who really are expert, who can easily provide the high quality information, are going to end up commanding the highest fees, fees which will encourage them to provide more of those tasty nuggets. Lonely groupies who merely browse and argue without actually using the information in the real world won't be paying high prices, so they will have little effect on the nature of the supply. Flamers who supply plausible-sounding but useless or misleading garbage will quickly find the price of their product falling to peanuts.

            In other words, I think the essential flaw in Wikipedia is that it is free, because in the real world things that are free usually end up being worth the price (i.e. nothing), because there is, indeed, as you point out, no clearly reliable way to ensure that noise and froth do not swamp what's actually valuable.

            That being said, it's hard to know how Wikipedia could change this. Aside from its philosophical blinders, which probably prevent it from understanding the nature of its dilemma and the solution, it is difficult to make appropriate micropayments. No Wikipedia article is worth, say, $2 for a look, or $50/year for a subscription. But would I pay a nickel for a look, if I could pay instantly with just a single mouse click? I might indeed. Especially if I knew that the price was set by market demand from people who had to put up their own money to get the information, which goes far to guarantee that the information has proven worth the price when actually used.
            • by Jules Bean (27082) on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:24AM (#13737612)
              In other words, I think the essential flaw in Wikipedia is that it is free, because in the real world things that are free usually end up being worth the price (i.e. nothing), because there is, indeed, as you point out, no clearly reliable way to ensure that noise and froth do not swamp what's actually valuable.
              Really? Ignoring the most obvious example to slashdot readers of something that is free but not worthless, I can also think of: google, public parks, church services, free music recitals, usenet... I'm sure other people can think of more. I think the suggestion that what is free must be worthless is a truly depressing point of view! Having said that, I do think the micropayment scheme is interesting. But I don't think you present compelling evidence that wikipedia needs or wants it.
              • the first place, not a few of the things you mention aren't free even in the superficial accounting sense that Wikipedia and /. might be considered free.

                For example Google is paid for by advertising which adds a small cost to the products you buy. Public parks are paid for by your taxes. Church services: even if you never put something in the collection plate, you dog, you're still subsidizing it by the higher real estate taxes you have to pay because they don't pay any at all. And so on.

                Some o
                • You make some interesting, and good, points about the power of market economies, and the benefits they have shown all over the work. I don't dispute any of that for a minute. And your ideas about micropayments are definitely interesting.

                  But I still fundamentally disagree that free things are worthless. I don't buy your argument about church services - they are free. Ask a vicar/pastor/reverend if it's OK to come to his service without planning to donate to the collection. I can assure you he'll say it is, a
            • Well, if you free yourself of the narrow confines of american-libertarian thinking ;-) you would notice that Wikipedia *is* a free market in the best of its definitions. Just because you're under the misconception that what is not paid in dollars has no value, doesn't means that there isn't a market interchange with signaling and interchange processes going on. In information economies the most scarce value is human attention, and that's just the interchange format of this market. More valuable than dollars
            • I think you have a nice theory. Unfortunately, the practice of the Wikipedia seems to be pretty good, quite comparable to many encyclopedias you can buy; so in practice your theory that free=garbage seems to be disproved in this case.

              Whether it's as good as the Encyclopedia Britannica. No, it's not. Yet. Perhaps it will never be. I personally wouldn't want to bet.

              What you seem to have gotten is reciprocation- money is not the only unit of reciprocation. If somebody has found something useful from the Wi

              • just wait, then (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Quadraginta (902985)
                Well, EB has been making money for three and a half centuries. Wikipedia has yet to prove it can sustain itself over a single decade, and the fate of other freely shared commodities -- think "Tragedy of the Commons" -- is not especially encouraging.

                If I were a Wikipediast enthusiast I would be thinking about this carefully. Do I have a sustainable model, or are we going to be a merely marvelously fun flash in the pan?

                My impression is that people are worrying already about the weaknesses in their model for
      • I'm pretty sure his point was that they could be scribbled over by a six year old with no idea what he's doing. From looking at the histories of various Wikipedia articles, this happens on a regular basis.
      • Its not the curiosity of a six year old thats the problem. Its the twelve year old that decides to write 'penis' in the middle of the article for no reason.

        The other huge problem are the people peddling their own political agendas. There are people who think that any page is 'biased' if it does not follow the editorial line of Fox News.

        • I disagree. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:04PM (#13736542) Homepage
          Its not the curiosity of a six year old thats the problem. Its the twelve year old that decides to write 'penis' in the middle of the article for no reason.

          That's nowhere nearly as bad as the 20 year old college student who vastly overestimates his understanding of a topic, and the value of what he has to contribute.

          It's easy to notice the handiwork of the twelve-year old and revert it, and there's countless people who can do it. There's relatively few people who can understand why the 20-year old's contribution is very wrong; it takes them considerable effort to demonstrate the guy's errors to a layperson audience; and they're very much outnumbered by the 20 year olds.

          And nothing is worse than a mob of said 20 year olds, independently making small edits to a coherent, cohesive article in order to make small, local "improvements" (without any concern for the overall organization and narrative flow of the article), and thereby rendering the article into an unreadable random shopping list of distorted half-truths.

          • Re:I disagree. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by iocat (572367) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:40PM (#13736732) Homepage Journal
            Bingo. Wikipedia trends towards -- it isn't always -- but it trends towards the conventional net wisdom on subjects, and on subjects on which I am expert, I have seen it frequently misstate facts, include folklore as truth, etc. (I am too tired right now to site a lot of examples, so you'll either have to trust me or not)(but ok, for instance, in its entry on the ABC [] it is the garden variety UoI story on how John Atanasoff's computer was the first digital computer, blah blah blah, without at all referencing the fact that what we call a "computer" is typically a multipurpose, reprogrammable device, which the ABC wasn't, so while it was a digital device, it was a modern computer in the sense of the ENIAC, which thus has a much better claim to being the first digital computer. Blah blah blah boring boring nerd nerd argue argue.) Look my point is, and you UoI people can stop modding me down now, is that it's a really nuanced debate and issue, and on Wikipedia you not only fail to find the nuances, you don't even learn that the nuances exist. (By the way, for a fantastic and authoritative book on the subject, check out this []. In this way maybe its similar to other encyclopaedias, which tend to be very broad and undetailed.

            Yes, I could edit these things, but a) the truth is less good in these instances than the folklore, so I expect it will just get changed back (in the specific instance I cited, ABC fans people probably troll that entry daily to protect their primacy...)and b) I don't have the six-year-old skills in place to be motivated. I like wikipedia as a general overview, but the love of Wiki-fans for "free" as in speech solutions somestimes can't make up for a good fact-checker.

            Note: I am on a flaky connect and posting this w/o previewing so apologies if the links are broken.

    • Re:Editorial control (Score:2, Informative)

      by brian0918 (638904)
      "The problem that I have had with Wikipedia is that in editing articles on which I am a recognized expert, I have had my edits and entries entirely removed by others who "feel" that these edits were somehow inappropriate, even when I referenced those entries along with results from peer reviewed journals."

      All you have to do to fix this problem is take the problem to the discussion page, or the talk page of the user who keeps reverting you. Simple enough. If they persist, get an administrator to help.
    • Are you suggesting that Wikipedia censor the "uneducated" and "biased"? I hate to break it to you, but as much as you might wish it were untrue, you too are biased. As for uneducated, that term is relative. If you are not the absolute world's expert on your topic, you are in comparison uneducated to whoever occupies that position. The whole "one person, one vote" mentality is the bedrock of democracy, that each voice deserves to be heard, regardless of status (white, black, male, female, land-owners or
    • Wikipedia isn't an encyclopedia. It's a community. Don't confuse the two.

      Your contributions were probably questioned for two reasons. First, because Wikipedia is governed by a policy called NPOV, or Neutral Point Of View, which is interpreted to mean that an encyclopedia must reflect all perspectives on any subject. There can be no "absolute right" or "absolute wrong." According to NPOV, your opinion just that. Expertise does not exist. All sides must be represented, no matter how loony.

      Second, you prob

      • by John Nowak (872479) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:45PM (#13736474)
        This is just bullshit.

        First off, not all sides must be represented. The page on Earth doesn't talk about the "Is it flat?" controversy. Loony opinions are absolutely NOT represented on Wikipedia. That issue has come and gone many times. No one talks about Pat Robertson's side of the story on Wikipedia.

        Secondly, a lot of the edits on wikipedia are done by students and faculty of academic institutions. I don't consider these people "losers" because they're contributing to our base of information. I consider them an important asset to society.
        • Loony opinions are absolutely NOT represented on Wikipedia.

          Ever seen the Remote Viewing [] article?

          • Loony opinions are absolutely NOT represented on Wikipedia.

            Ever seen the Remote Viewing article?

            On the other hand, that's the point of an encyclopedia--Wikipedia should report on all significant topics, even if those areas have been discredited. Wikipedia has an article on phrenology [] not because phrenology was good science but because it was an idea that had significant impact in its day. 'Loony opinions' should be reported when they are or have been held by a large number of loonies.

            The remote vie

        • This is just bullshit.

          You're right. This whole religious thing you guys have about Wikipedia is bullshit. No one is allowed to point out it's flaws without fanatics like you spouting off dogma.

          Not all sides are represented, but if there is a controversy, it will be discussed far in excess of its worth. The "rathergate" article is a good example. Even though the article itself is about a controversy, it spares no expense in mentioning every subcontroversy surrounding it. It even quotes a comment to a blog po
          • You're right. This whole religious thing you guys have about Wikipedia is bullshit. No one is allowed to point out it's flaws without fanatics like you spouting off dogma.

            Wikipedia zealots are like Linux zealots. Both communities believe that it's possible to take a large group of well-meaning contributors, combined with policies that ensure that the overall quality of the projects will improve over time, and the results will eventually be something that no one will be able to ignore.

            Wikipedia has been

        • First off, not all sides must be represented. The page on Earth doesn't talk about the "Is it flat?" controversy.

          From o science []

          the task is to represent the majority (scientific) view as the majority view and the minority (sometimes pseudoscientific) view as the minority view (emphasis original)

          If there's a minority view that the earth is flat (which I am sure there is), why _dosen't_ wikipedia discuss flat-earth ideas?

          Secondly, a lot of the edits on

        • No one talks about Pat Robertson's side of the story on Wikipedia.

          Really? What is this [] then?
          Whose links are at the bottom?
          Not to mention the discussion []...
      • by interiot (50685) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:59PM (#13736527) Homepage
        First, because Wikipedia is governed by a policy called NPOV, or Neutral Point Of View, which is interpreted to mean that an encyclopedia must reflect all perspectives on any subject.

        Not to nitpick, but NPOV is only one of three supreme rules, the other two being No original research [] and Verifiability [wikipedia]. They must be all taken together, no one trumps the other.

        So, if you're an expert, add a "Sources" section with references to back you up, that prove that your statements aren't just things that you believe, but are indeed the consensus of the experts in your field. "No original research" means that, in fact, Wikipedians explicitely are NOT equiped to judge whether something is an expert consensus or not. So, as long as you back your statement up with published sources (just as you'd do in an academic paper), you should be fine.

        Also, if someone reverts you, and you know you're right, don't back down. Everyone on Wikipedia needs to be both bold and civil. Go to the "discussion" part of the article, explain that you're an expert, explain that you think this is also the consensus of other experts, and if they're being civil, they'll welcome your edits with open arms.

      • Say what? (Score:3, Insightful)

        What on earth are you on about? Some Wikipedia editors are more interested in the "community", however when it becomes clear that they aren't really contributing to articles they do tend to be ignored by the same community. And at the end of the day, the community is geared towards writing factual and neutral encyclopedia articles. Those who participate in the featured article candidates process are definitely the most constructive ones. I'd say the same for those who participate in WikiProjects.

        It kind of
      • "The people with the most free time to dedicate to an online encyclopedia will always be the people least-qualified to contribute, because those who are qualified spend their time earning and practicing those qualifications in the real world."

        Couldn't this be said for almost all OSs projects, including Linux?

        What I'm trying to say is that your statement here is wrong and really ingotant of who and why people contribute to non profit stuff in their free time.
      • The people with the most free time to dedicate to an online encyclopedia will always be the people least-qualified to contribute,
        I've found that the articles that I've looked at have been deep-linked to Public Museum's and University websites leading me to believe that over-educated, under-suppervised public servants do a lot of authoratative editing on the job and their spare time.
    • by sdedeo (683762) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:17PM (#13736600) Homepage Journal
      I wonder which article this was. I've never had this problem at all, and I've contributed to dozens of articles, both in science (I'm a Ph.D. in astrophysics), and in politics (where I have worked on "hot button" topics like the ACLU.) I have certaintly had occasional issues with people, but it's actually quite rare. In general, contentious but well-sourced material that belongs in an article, stays in an article, and people who try to remove it are considered vandals by the community and dealt with accordingly.

      Reading between the lines of your post, it seems entirely possible that your edits, even if they were sourced by peer-reviewed journals, were inappropriate for the articles you edited. Wikipedia is not meant to be a series of technical review articles. The information you added may well have been considered at an inappropriately high level, it may have just been "too much" (articles are not supposed to grow without bounds) or, indeed, you may have added too much information about only one side of a contentious topic -- in the third case, people are likely to worry that you are subverting NPOV. (Adding detail to one side of an issue but not the other is probably the most tricky aspect of wikipedia -- I personally think it's OK, but it does, reasonably, set off people's NPOV alarms.)
  • by zegebbers (751020) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:54PM (#13736217) Homepage
    With firefox.
  • by tiltowait (306189) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:55PM (#13736218) Homepage Journal
    I'm probably in the minority, being a librarian a with a good opinion of Wikipedia. Many (mostly older) librarians, for example, relish their roles as gatekeepers to information. I suppose it comes from the old warden-style approach to protecting books, or some sort of warped view of taking "information is power" as a need to hoard and protect its distribution.

    There is this sometimes misguided need to teach "information literacy," with exaggerated assumptions about "kids believing everything they read online." Recent library conferences have covered this alongside how students learn and use technology -- often with the same sort of bemused condescension that 19th century anthropologists exhibited toward alien cultures. It's unnerving. But teaching others to evaluate information themselves, rather than thinking it's our job to do it for them, is on the right track. History as shown a path towards direct and open access to information, and I see wiki publishing as a direct extension of this trend.

    Librarians, in general, seem stuck on the "omg you can vandalize Wikipedia so it's worthless" argument. Jimbo even got asked, at the last ALA conference, essentially, "What's to stop me from distrupting information in Wikipedia?," by a librarian. And this is the profession so disturbed by book bannings? I just don't see libraries staying relevant if we don't acknowledge the value of blogs, wikis, and other new information formats (and we're not [] quite [] there [] yet).

    Of course, those story links are nitpicks themselves. Library stuff (if it exists on your topic) is of better quality than what you'll find via Google. As for Wikipedia, content zealots -- both snobs [] and censors [] -- threaten the open encyclopedia's mission at least as much as the cranks. But there's no need to exaggerate the problems of Wikipedia. Sure, it can get messy, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

    As another frontiersman was warned, "If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

    So anyway, all of these comments are a bit of a hyperbolism. As a piece on peak libraries [] I started shows (oh yeah, that's a library science Wiki btw), I'm something of a provocateur at times. It's just that, after spending my early career trying to educate everyone that librarians are "with it" [], I've discovered that there's just as much of a need to convince librarians to get with the times.
    • threaten the open encyclopedia's mission at least as much as the cranks

      What exactly is Wikipedia's mission? It isn't to write down every possible thing there is to be known. It's only supposed to contain information of encyclopedic value. Therefore, an article about yours truly, does not belong there.

      So what's wrong with "deletionists"? There's a whole lot of stuff on Wikipedia that probably doesn't belong there at all, but it's easier to add stuff than to delete it.
  • How do tech-savvy people view Wikipedia?

    Its convenient.

  • by fishdan (569872) * on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:55PM (#13736221) Homepage Journal
    For me the best thing about wikipedia is the concept behind it. A collaboration of people, working to increase the sum of human knowledge, because the sum of accumulated knowledge is something that is greater than its parts. Everyone working together to maintain this knowledge for the betterment of all. Is that an idealistic view? Of course. But what's wrong with idealism and striving for it? Wikipedia is more that just an encyclopedia -- though it's very good at that. It's a hope that we actually can all work together on something -- something that embiggens [] us all.
    • A collaboration of people, working to increase the sum of human knowledge, because the sum of accumulated knowledge is something that is greater than its parts.

      *if* the reader can extract the true information out of it.

      i don't think it's greater than the sum of all of it, more like, in this case, a blend of opinions, beliefs and hearsay.

      it doesn't give you the true insight into a specific topic, like a real expert would have, but again it's not as useless as mainstream media. but one can always ask th
    • Not knowledge (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NineNine (235196)
      It's tough to increase the sum of knowledge when you're building on questionable facts. There are many, many everyday scientific myths that are widespread. Wikipedia is controlled by quantity, not quality.

      What's to say that these myths don't become "facts" in Wikipedia due to sheer numbers? Is that increasing the sum of human knowledge? If anything, it's damaging it, because everybody who reads thsi "fact" will assume that it's true.

      Wikipedia is the opposite of knowledge
      • Re:Not knowledge (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        "Wikipedia is the opposite of knowledge: it's based on majority rule. Wikipedia in 1805 would have described the "wonders of the African Ape-Man and his Ability to Pick Cotton." After all, the majority believed that it was true."

        Well, then we're screwed as far as knowledge. Even scientific knowledge of 1805 was incredibly racist and sexist by today's standards (not to mention out-and-out wrong about a lot of other things, including physics). So, your criticism of Wikipedia is just as apt for other knowledg
  • by subx2000 (267150) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:56PM (#13736225)
    I view it as a great way to waste time at work, mostly.
  • by BandwidthHog (257320) <inactive.slashdo ...> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:56PM (#13736231) Homepage Journal
    I just had a similar discussion with my girlfriend this past weekend. She found some valuable information on Wikipedia for a paper she’s writing on Chinese culture. I told her she should use that as a springboard: that Wikipedia could provide her the facts and details she needs, and that she should then find independent citable sources for each individual facts. I told her that I was sure it couldn’t be cited because the information there is simply too fluid and couldn’t be counted on to remain unchanged over time. She checked with her professor who wasn’t terribly familiar with the details, but had at least heard of it. He looked into the matter and told her that it was perfectly acceptable as long as the citations were up to MLA standards. I told her that her professor would turn out to be wrong in the long run (yeah, modesty is part of my charm, why do you ask?).

    So I guess I agree with the story submittor (askor?) that Wikipedia rocks, but that their model simply doesn’t lend itself the the level of credibility needed for that sort of use. It’s great, and in many ways a more valuable resource than Google, and one hell of a social experiment. But at the end of the day, you simply don’t know if any given fact was contributed by a Princeton research librarian or Karl Rove.
    • When I tell my friends about wikipedia these days I fell like I did during the hotbot, scour net and google early days:

      Me: "Dude there is this whole repository of information at your fingertips totally changing the way we think and collaborate! Just google something factual and add "wiki" at the beginning of the string at your there."

      Them: "Uhhmmm, a wiki-what?"

      Only to be followed by them explaining wikipedia (google-hotbot, scour-napster, ) bacl to me a year or so later. Despite its flaws the wiki is a t
    • by qbwiz (87077) * <john.baumanfamily@com> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:14PM (#13736323) Homepage
      sure it couldn't be cited because the information there is simply too fluid and couldn't be counted on to remain unchanged over time.

      If you're allowed to cite any other web page, why can't you cite a Wikipedia article. As long as you put the date you accessed it in the citation, what information was on the page is even less ambiguous than the webpage.
    • As far as being unchanged goes, the old revisions of articles are available on Wikipedia. When citing it, you should be giving the date that it was retrieved, or possibly even the URL to the particular revision you are quoting. (I don't know if those URLs are stable or not.)

      However, I do think you were perfectly right that she shouldn't be using Wikipedia as her sole source of any information -- finding the original source of the information is a much better idea.

    • This made me think about the teachers I have had through out my life. How some, if not all, taught, preached and educated to their beliefs and schooling - not to what actually may be. History itself is a perverted view of what happened through the eyes of the winners/educated/tyrants.

      I am fortunate enough to work with a myrid of individuals from around the world. We often discuss world events to see how each other view the topic at hand. It's amazing how different we view the same events. Maybe some

      • Maybe someday I'll learn enough french to compare a British history book to a french one- that should be a kick!

        Well, they tend to be pretty similar, except for this typical Brit' habit of naming their train stations after defeats instead of victories as we do.

    • You can cite Wikipedia, it just doesn't make a very good source for factual information at any single point in time for a single article. Just be sure to at least use the permanent link to be somewhat sure that what you're citing is what someone else will probably read.
    • So I guess I agree with the story submittor (askor?) that Wikipedia rocks, but that their model simply doesn't lend itself the the level of credibility needed for that sort of use.

      When doing research for any purpose that matters, you should always be aware of your source. I don't care if it was written by the world's foremost expert on the topic, you should still be aware of the source being a fallible human being who may have his own slant/ideologies that he's catering to. We can all be wrong.

      I'm not s

  • i know! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @09:58PM (#13736244) Journal
    Questions: erigol asks: Have you considered setting up a slashdot Wiki, since Wiki's are, like, the rage, and stuff.
    CmdrTaco: Wiki is silly. Not scalalble.
    hemos: Wiki's make me want to guage my eyes out. gouge, even.
    CmdrTaco: They're fun for small groups.
    hemos: No, I like the idea.
    CmdrTaco: Slashdot is for millions.
    hemos: And yeah, for smaller groups is great. But we spent the 3 years scaling up to this level of users
    CmdrTaco: Thats the thing that people don't understand-
    hemos: and I'd hate to do the same thing over again with a different technology.
    CmdrTaco: the rules are different when you have 5,000 users vs 350,000 each day. What works @5,000 is ludicrous at 350,000. You don't lock your doors in a town with a population of 5,000... but at a quartermilllion people, thats just stupid :)

    So there you have it, from the same horses mouth that told us that the iPod is lame.

  • Yeah, it can be vandalized. So can an ordinary dictionary, or encyclopedia. Some page could be ripped out, or an editor could have inserted a joke or mistake. The only difference, is that everyone believes everything they read on the Internet, so it's more dangerous for an online resource to contain misinformation.

    Yeah, I'm kidding just a little.
  • I have the view that whenever someone comes out with an article about Wikipedia, someone will post to Slashdot complaining that the evil biased Wikipedia editors and administrators have prevented them from inserting their latest crackpot theory. Oh, but they cry, I'm an expert in my field!!! Such mean evil administrators. You can't trust any of them. Regular cabal.
  • IMO (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622)
    > How do tech-savvy people view Wikipedia?

    Wikipedia is a wonderful resource for pop culture - you can find anything you want to know about bands, movies, books, etc.

    It's also good for a quick reference when you run across a term you're not familiar with.

    The problem is the way the articles are polluted by true believers. Proponents of a religion, nationalism, and other ideology are really bad about modifying articles to be Politically Correct from their ideological POV. They're also really bad about findi
  • by totallygeek (263191) <> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:02PM (#13736266) Homepage
    Regarding the things of which I have intimate knowledge, I have seen as many errors per page in Wikipedia as Newsweek, Encyclopedia Brittanica, National Geographic, IMDB, textbooks, etc. Information is only as good as its source. A writer gathers information, an editor picks over it, it is passed before panel reviews, and is published as true. At least with Wikipedia the editing process can pass before more people, and any one of them can do something to affect the publishing. If the informed decision is based on misinformation or misunderstanding, the outcome is a compounded error, and now is stamped with more credibility than the original articles.

    I use Wikipedia quite often, but I usually perform some secondary research.

  • Wikipedia and other online collaborative sites allow us to quickly access and learn a bit on almost any subject. We also share our own personal knowledge freely, through it.

    So what is it called when I can learn anything you know, and you can learn anything we all know collectively?

    I think that's called a Hive Mind. It's not as fast or built-in and wireless as we imagined, but it still serves the same purpose.
  • Well, first we take this craaaazy thing called a "computer", and hook it up to a little bubbly thing called a "monitor," and also through a little, tiny, thin wire to a *third thing* called "the Intarweb."

    After that we open up our "Intarweb Browser" and...

    ...wait, this *is* what tiltowait is asking for, isn't it?

  • by brian0918 (638904) <> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:06PM (#13736285)
    As dangerous as it is to trust unverified information, it can be even more dangerous to trust information which has been "verified" by "experts" (especially if it's information from your 1966 set of EB's)

    Sure, Wikipedia probably contains more errors than EB, but it also contains many more articles. It would be interesting to know how these ratios compare.
  • by Chalex (71702) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:07PM (#13736291) Homepage
    I view it as an excellent starting place to get some information. If I have a basic question, it'll probably be answered by the Wikipedia article. If it's a more advanced question, the article should point me to more in-depth references.

    So remember, if you're adding information, try to cite a source!
  • the Platonic ideal of 'scholarship'

    Oh really? When was the last time Plato got published in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit@yahoo.cQUOTEom minus punct> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:10PM (#13736307)

    When I look something up in Wikipedia, I generally approach it with the assumption that I'm going to get a short, moderately informative, and probably at least somewhat mistaken article. Instead, I almost always find a well-researched and in-depth piece on whatever trivia I was looking up. It's not perfect, but I generally learn a great deal.

    Yeah, I know I should stop assuming that I'm not going to get much, but I have that assumption with everything I look up online. It's just that Wikipedia gives me more pleasant surprises than most other sources.

  • Wikipedia Categories (Score:5, Informative)

    by br00tus (528477) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:11PM (#13736308)
    Having been on Wikipedia for a long time, I'd say you can't make a blanket judgement about all of Wikipedia. At the top of Wikipedia's main page are eight master categories: "Culture | Geography | History | Mathematics | People | Science | Society | Technology". Wikipedia does a fantastic job on the Mathematics and Science categories. Wikipedia does a horrible job on the History and Society categories. Mathematics and Science categories are ones where people agree, unless there is some cross-over into the society category (global warming and whatnot) as well. As far as the Society category articles, well, in the Middle East Palestinians and Israelis are shooting at each other, and Americans and Iraqis are shooting at each other, and if that's happening there's no surprise there is disagreement over the Society (and History) category articles on Israel, Palestine, Iraq and so forth.

    So that's basically it, there is a spectrum of categories from where Wikipedia works well and has reliable information (mathematics, history and technology categories) to where it is just edit wars that get worse and worse (society and history categories). Wikipedia is fairly reliable about what ideas Godel had about mathematics, Wikipedia is completely unreliable if you are interested in reading about say France's Front National or Vietnam's National Liberation Front. Wikipedia has not gotten better over the years in this regard, it has gotten worse. There are left wing wiki encyclopedias like Demopedia [], Dkosopedia [] and Anarchopedia [], and right-leaning ones like Wikinfo [], and I predict over the coming years these alternative wikis will become quite large.

    One recent example I can give, one guy just popped up who is accusing virtually every left-wing or liberal person in the 1950's was a Soviet spy, and by virtually everyone I mean editing hundreds of biographies and inserting that they were spies. Doing this is fine if done in the right way, but he is a bit nutty or stubborn or whatever and he has a dozen people reverting his stuff but that doesn't do much good. Then we have Lyndon Larouche followers come in as well. Or way out communists saying nutty things. Wikipedia would probably be better off if these people all went off to their own respective wikis.

  • by Pooua (265915) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:11PM (#13736310) Homepage []>New Scientist published an interesting article on a published analysis that says that most published scientific research papers are wrong.

    "Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.

    "John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

    "But Solomon Snyder, senior editor at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, US, says most working scientists understand the limitations of published research.

    "'When I read the literature, I'm not reading it to find proof like a textbook. I'm reading to get ideas.'" eedId=online-news_rss091 []>New Scientist: "Most scientific papers are probably wrong"

  • On every other site on teh Intarweb, I can hit alt-E > F to bring up Firefox's 'find' toolbar. Wikipedia overrides alt-E so that it instead launches the editor for that page.

    Workaround on Windows: Press and release Alt, and *then* press E. That brings up the Firefox 'edit' menu.
  • I enter some keywords into the search field, and wish the results would come back before I am old enough to retire.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:14PM (#13736326)
    One of the things about Wikipedia is that it has become so large and vast in such a short time. Just three years ago Wikipedia only had around 50,000 articles. Last year it only had 300,000. It has grown so fast that it is now the 35th most visited website acording to alexa, and searching for Wikipedia gives over 300 million results.

    Wikipedia has literally appeared out of nowhere in the context of the Internet and printed encyclopedias. It is already the most popular online reference work in terms of linkage and hits per month.

    Its the fact that Wikipedia is so big, yet still relavtivley new that many people are skeptical of it, but I have been with Wikipedia for a long time and have appreciated its value, by around 2010 Wikipedia will have millions of articles, and people will have gotten used to its power. Anti vandal techniques are being developed, there is a dedicated vandal fighter program and there is now almost 600 administrators patrolling it.

    Wikipedia is a monster, and it is carving out the internet. The World wide web will soon split into two webs, the Wiki web, and the Loki web.
  • by everphilski (877346) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:21PM (#13736357) Journal
    A few days back there was talk about the Moller Sky Car, and someone said that the Newtonian and Bernoulli theories are incompatible, citing a Wikipedia article. (I'd link it, but I have a freakin migraine and really need to get to bed...)

    Well, the wikipedia article was BS. Pulling out a real text like "Fundamentals of Aerodynamics" by Anderson would confirm that the Newtonian and Bernoulli views are compatible, just two different ways of expressing the same phenomenon. But since anyone who thinks s/he knows something about something can edit a wikipedia entry we get entries like that, which spread falsehoods.

    I personally avoid Wikipedia for that very reason.

    I suggest to people that when they are interested in a phenomenon that they try to find a reputable website that focuses on **just** that phenomenon. For example, if you have a question in aerodynamics, look for an aero website. Et Cetera.

  • is that the pack of lies that it is will be exposed once everyone begins reading the true truth found in the Uncyclopedia [].
  • Personally, I sabotage random facts in random articles as a hobby.
  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson@g ... minus physicist> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:32PM (#13736410) Homepage Journal
    "Earlier on, we had a systemic bias toward liberal issues. However, as Wikipedia has grown, and become more mainstream, the liberal contingent has declined as a proportion of Wikipedia in general."

    Notice that they don't say that the liberal bias has disappeared. In fact, it has become rather distinctly entrenched at the administrator level.

    Notice how Accuracy in Media [] is called a conservative organization (which it is) time and time again, but the analagous organization on thee left is described thusly: "Media Matters monitors for and refutes identified and materially substantiated conservative misinformation found in media news reports, public affairs and talk radio shows from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and others." []

    So, in short your bias is "identified and materially substantiated misinformation," my bias is truth.

    You can find about a hudnred other examples, for example the breaking up of the article on Communism [] into theory and practice to avoid having to mention any of that nasty genocide in the main article.

    • I seem to be running interference for wikipedia today against touchy conservatives when I should be working.

      Both AIM and MM are referred to respectively as conservative and liberal organizations. Actually, to be fair, MM is described in the first paragraph as a group that attacks "conservative" information, and is referred to as a "progressive" organization; the word "liberal" is not used until the second paragraph, where MM's sources of funding as described as "wealthy liberals".

      Meanwhile, yes, indee
    • This sounds like an opportunity for you to become an editor and to contribute something, but while you go about doing so, be sure to document the horrors of capitalism as well. Or at the very least, don't be surprised if the light of truth shines both ways.

      (additionally, most leftists will take issue with the notion that they are sympathetic with communism)
  • The Future (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:40PM (#13736446) Homepage Journal
    I use Wikipedia, I contribute to it — but I'm also damned critical of it. It has one big strength it has a lot of articles on obscure topics that you can't read about elsewhere. It has a lot of weakeness: too much trivia, almost no fact checking, and a lot of badly written articles.

    Yes, there are also well-written articles. And, despite the lack of fact-checking, there are relatively few glaring errors. But even the the good stuff/crap ratio is suprisingly high, there's still a lot of crap.

    I'm one of those factoid geeks who read reference books for pleasure. (Do you know why a Major ranks a Lieutenant, but a Lieutenant-General ranks a Major-General? I do, God help me!) I'll never do that with Wikipedia, because I never know in advance whether the article I'm about to read will educate and inspire me or confuse and nauseate me. It's a reference I find useful, but unlike many other reference works, I can never really fall in love with.

    I think Wikipedia's long-term value will be less in its ability to inform its readers than it's ability to educate its contributers. It's teaching them how hard it is to put together a useful reference work, which is as much about what you leave out as what you put in. Maybe someday there're be a Wikipedia 2.0 that harnesses all that effort but offers better crap filters.

  • My thoughts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:44PM (#13736462) Homepage
    (Dislaimer - I'm a wikipedia administrator, arbitrator, and the "featured article director" -- I choose the featured articles you see on the main page every day)

    Last week I was a guest speaker for a group of education graduate students about Wikipedia (the course was on technology use in education; wikipedia was part of the curriculum). Before the lecture, sent them a few items I thought they should read - objective studies of Wikipedia's accuracy done by impartial, outside organization. Here's what I sent them:

    1) "A group of students in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois has published a paper entitled "Information Quality Discussions in Wikipedia" (PDF format). The focus of the paper was on assessing the IQ of Wikipedia featured articles -- in this case, IQ stands for "information quality" -- when compared to other samples from the project, including featured article removal candidates, pages marked as NPOV disputes, and a selection of random pages. According to the paper, the study showed how seriously the Wikipedia project views issues of article quality. The authors concluded that as a quality standard, the featured article process "is not ideal, but it does seem relatively rigorous." They also noted that the process is not as resource-intensive as other possibilities, such as blind judging." - ignpost/2005-08-01/Featured_content []
    PDF of research paper can be found at: pdf []

    2) An article comparing the WP to Brockhaus and Encarta has appeared in issue 21/04 of C't, a major German computer engineering magazine. It is titled /Lexika: Wikipedia gegen Brockhaus und Encarta/, starting on p. 132 - aus_and_Encarta []
    Full survey results can be found at: 04-October/035339.html []

    3) "As publicly editable sites, Wikis are vulnerable to vandalism. We've examined many pages on Wikipedia that treat controversial topics, and have discovered that most have, in fact, been vandalized at some point in their history. But we've also found that vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly--so quickly that most users will never see its effects." - IBM study of Wikipedia - htm []

    4) Computer Science professor (and minor geek rockstar) Ed Felton ( []) posted in his blog about a
    small-scale survey he did of Wikipedia: []

    As far as my personal interactions - as featured article director, I can say first-hand that we've been hitting really hard on the need to have inline cited sources in the article text. It's been an explicit requirement for featured articles for some time now (9-12 months or so). In many ways, this makes our content much more trustworhty than most other information sources.

    Furthermore, purely from personal experience, I can say there's something to be said for the expert-hobbyist. For example, the "best" writer on wikipedia (in terms of number of featured articles written) is a 17 year old from New Jersey [] who writes long, thorough, well referenced, accurate articles on, erm, British and the Bri
  • by Dr Kool, PhD (173800) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:44PM (#13736465) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia is the top hit on google for a lot of common searches, and I do agree that it is an okay source of information if you need info in a hurry. However I have noticed a clear liberal bias among many articles. Here are three examples I remember off the top of my head from searches in the last week --

    Little Saigon, CA [] -- the article gives a good overview of the landscape of Westminister and Garden Grove, but then out of nowhere he drops "The event also raised some controversial issues about constitutional free speech in the United States". No sir, the event didn't raise controversial issues. I suppose if you were a socialist then yes, maybe the issues would be controversial. But to 99.99% of America, someone flying the VC flag on American soil is a disgrace to those who gave their lives in Vietnam. The guy broke the law by selling pirated movies and he was arrested, end of story.

    Newt Gingrich [] -- In the TRIVIA section: "Candace Gingrich, his sister, works for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay and lesbian organization. In years past she has headed up HRC's "National Coming Out Day" campaign." Gee, thanks for that "trivia". The author couldn't reasonably fit that line in an article on Newt himself, so he sneaks it into the "trivia" section. Clear liberal bias here.

    Ronald Reagan [] -- "It is frequently reported that Secret Service agents had to inform Reagan every morning that he was once the president". Really sir, since it's so "frequently" reported I guess you wouldn't mind providing a link? What business does this phrase have in an encyclopedia entry of Ronald Reagan other than to undermine his legacy??

    • by sdedeo (683762) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:37PM (#13736708) Homepage Journal
      Wow, you seem to have some issues.

      1. I just glanced over the Little Saigon article. The story you freaked out about involves a store owner who posted a Ho Chi Minh poster in his window. There was a riot. The sentence you object to was "[t]he event also raised some controversial issues about constitutional free speech in the United States." According to a New York Times article about the event, "The Vietnamese immigrant who has battled his former countrymen here for weeks about his right to display a poster of Ho Chi Minh in his video store rehung the picture today, but it took dozens of police officers and sheriff's deputies to protect him and the First Amendment." Um, a major police presence to protect someone's first amendment rights doesn't count as "raising controversial issues"? You seem to think the person should not have been allowed to display the poster -- so presumably you yourself find the police actions controversial?

      2. Newt's daughter. Don't you think it's rather interesting that the daughter of a prominent and anti-gay conservative is a leader of a gay-rights group? Even in a case where the activities of a son or daughter don't directly bear of those of the parents, don't you think an article about a prominent person should include some information about their children? (Most wikipedia articles do.) How is presenting factual, relevant information "liberal bias"? Perhaps you would like to expunge all information about Ron Hubbard's son from the Hubbard article?

      3. Nice catch. I was going to remove it from the article, but it seems like someone already did. Thanks for helping to improve wikipedia!
  • by Selanit (192811) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:52PM (#13736494)
    I teach freshman composition at the U of Texas in Austin. My students are about to begin their second paper, which will involve a substantial research component, and Wikipedia was one of the first things I covered in discussing acceptable sources. I do not accept citations of Wikipedia articles, for two reasons:

    1) The articles are not stable. They change on a regular basis. If my students cite something, I need it to be static so that I can verify their citations easily. I am well aware that Wikipedia has a robust versioning system, but that is irrelevant to my purposes. If a student cites something and I cannot immediately locate it, I simply do not have the time to sort through the recent edits to find a version of the article that matches what my student quoted. This is particularly true of popular and frequently updated articles, where there can be dozens of recent edits to sort through. There just aren't enough hours in the day for that.

    2) The sources are all too frequently anonymous. Some Wikipedia articles contain excellently documented source information, it is true; but many others do not. There is no reliable way to separate solid, documentable information from personal crank theories. Sometimes they're obvious; sometimes they're not. Some will invoke the magic of "many eyeballs make shallow bugs" at this point, pointing out that errors tend to get corrected or reverted fairly rapidly. But once again, that is irrelevant. If my student cites an unfixed "bug" to support an argument, that's just as damaging to the student's paper as it would be if the bug never got fixed.

    So what I tell my students is this: Wikipedia is great for fast, informal definitions of unfamiliar material, but not for formal papers submitted for credit. You can use it as a starting point for further research -- I have used it as such a starting point myself. But every piece of information from the Wikipedia article needs to be verified against a static, identifiable source before it can be used in a paper, and then you need to cite the verifying source rather than Wikipedia.

    If it makes the Wikipedia people feel better, I also refuse to accept citations of the Encyclopedia Britannica -- or any encyclopedia, for that matter. Encyclopedias provide useful overviews; but I want my students to grapple with primary sources, not secondary summaries.
  • I just love it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @10:55PM (#13736507)
    As a kid who grew up reading encyclopedias and dictionaries for pleasure by the hour, I think it's like a playground. I can be reading about quantum chromodynamics or something, and three links later I can be reading about the Livery Companies of London, or French Impressionism, or linguistics, or the Luminiferous Aether. This is exactly what the World Wide Web is supposed to be about. I'm 50 now, I can't imagine what my life would be like if I'd had this when I was 12. I used to read a newspaper column where a regular filler bit was something about "things I found out today while looking up other things". That's exactly how I feel about Wikipedia.

    Do I take everything I read there seriously? No, no more (or less) so than I take what The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times has to say. After all their authors are anonymous to me, and I frequently diagree with their facts or intrepretations.

  • by floamy (608691) <> on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:39PM (#13736721)

    "Who cares if it's easy to deface, it's got great moderation!"

    Swift (and not so swift) moderation doesn't do very much good. A friend added me to a list of famous erotic authors. It was removed.. a few weeks later. Get what? I (Aaron Gyes) am still, months later, all over the damn internet. otic-works [] /list_of_authors_of_erotic_works.htm [] f%20authors%20of%20erotic%20works [] _authors [] thors [] _authors [] _erotic_works [] ic_authors [] List_of_authors_of_erotic_works.html [] [] _of_erotic_works [] ist_of_erotic_authors [] t_of_erotic_authors [] [] html [] .aspx?w=List_of_erotic_authors [] f_erotic_works [] _authors []

  • by This is outrageous! (745631) on Thursday October 06, 2005 @11:48PM (#13736780)
    How do tech-savvy people view Wikipedia?


    Whatever answer you get, you should immediately do some poll elsewhere to find out if you can trust it. A lot of Slashdot critics(*) have pointed to hypothetical situations where comments might not actually be tech-savvy!

    (*)"It should be noted that polls on Slashdot, like most on the Internet, are notoriously unreliable." []

  • by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkeb@comca s t .net> on Friday October 07, 2005 @03:21AM (#13737600)
    In my experience it depends greatly on the type of article - the less "concrete" the worse it is (in the sense of mathematics being very concrete and "is this author good" being not very concrete). Politically charged - not even remotely useful - not even as a starting point.

    But then, I would say that is to be expected. In a lot of areas the "pro" people care enough to police it and pretty much control it. The "anti" people don't really think about it much but may from time to time edit on it (and sometimes in a destructive way), but it's not common. Especially given some subjects are very soft, or subjective, and the people feel VERY strongly about thier subject this can lead to a HUGE skew that peer reviewed papers are usually weed out. Technical stuff tends to be correct or wrong - whether I'm a gun nut, don't care one way or another, or think all guns are evil it doesn't change when a quicksort is better than a bubble sort - yet that would really color my views on firearms.

    Take the some of the vegan entries, some of the stuff said in there has been, well, idiotic. It may stay for a while, be edited out and back in many times, but rarely is some of the more idiotic things left out for long. Essentially those that care enough to look at it much are mostly vegan, usually not just "vegan" but politically so also (I mean to differentiate between people who are simply vegan and ones who wish to push it on others regardles of any facts). I read it from time to time just for laughs - things like vegans never get sick, cures asthma, diabetes, heart disease, live for well over a hundred years, make you dog/cat a vegan, etc etc. But then, if you read it over time it's obvious which ones because they change quite frequently - one day it may be full of nutso and a few hours later actually a good take on veganism.

    But then, you need to do that filtering on any source too - just that you are more likely to be burned on the wikipedia than a full peer reviewd academic article.

Those who can, do; those who can't, simulate.