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Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade? 286

Posted by Zonk
from the i-give-it-a-b dept.
swestcott writes to mention an article at the Chronicle of Higher Education site, wondering if Wikipedia will ever 'make the grade'? Academics are split, and feuding, about how to handle the popular collaborative project. Due to the ease of editing correct information into nonsense, many professors are ignoring it. Others want to start contributing. From the article: "As the encyclopedia's popularity continues to grow, some professors are calling on scholars to contribute articles to Wikipedia, or at least to hone less-than-inspiring entries in the site's vast and growing collection. Those scholars' take is simple: If you can't beat the Wikipedians, join 'em. Proponents of that strategy showed up in force at Wikimania, the annual meeting for Wikipedia contributors, a three-day event held in August at Harvard University. Leaders of Wikipedia said there that they had turned their attention to increasing the accuracy of information on the Web site, announcing several policies intended to prevent editorial vandalism and to improve or erase Wikipedia's least-trusted entries."
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Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade?

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  • by Silverlancer (786390) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:32PM (#16618434)
    Answer: yes. And in the few days since the last Wikipedia-related Slashdot article, not much has changed. It feels like a dupe over and over again, but its actually different articles each time. Yet they all say the same thing.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:37PM (#16618468)
      Actually, in the last few days a few hundred thousand things have changed:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Recentchanges [wikipedia.org]
      • All the same
        We take our chances
        Laughed at by time
        Tricked by circumstances
        Plus a change
        Plus c'est la meme chose
        The more that things change
        The more they stay the same
        • Look the article is asking the wrong question.

          Wikipedia, to me, is meant for the casual person who wants a centralized, fairly reliable source of information about the world. In this Wikipedia succeeds magnificently. I am willing to bet that most wikipedia queries are from people who are looking for overview primer materials. Even academics can use it for these purposes profitably.

          However, academics should go past wikipedia in their research simply because it is usually better to read actual research arti

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Saedrael (880381)
            If its not science then it shouldn't be considered academic

            What the hell are you talking about? Are you seriously suggesting that history, philosophy, literature, languages and art are "not academic?" That kind of lack of respect for other fields than your own (although with that kind of attitude I seriously doubt you're actually a scientist) is what separates science from other disciplines and leads to the public's distrust of science.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cloricus (691063)
              So what world are you living in? Have you spoken to a physicist or a chemist lately and even dared to suggest that biology is a 'real' science... There is very little respect for one of the main strands let alone the classical sciences from what I see every day.
              • by buswolley (591500)
                I try to keep it simple. If the field depends on the scientific method, then it is a science. In the past physics and chemistry were the true hard sciences, but today such pinnacles as the standard theory and superstring theory, etc cannot always directly measure the things they are interested in.

                They have instead developed methods to indirectly measure the phenomena. In short they use transcendental reasoning. This involves the construction of a model by inferring its rules from the available evidence, th

          • by mr_zorg (259994) on Friday October 27, 2006 @10:26PM (#16619154)
            Wikipedia, to me, is meant for the casual person who wants a centralized, fairly reliable source of information about the world. In this Wikipedia succeeds magnificently. I am willing to bet that most wikipedia queries are from people who are looking for overview primer materials. Even academics can use it for these purposes profitably.
            Exactly right, what don't these people understand that? That's what I use it for... And it's usually the first place I go, because it succeeds so well at it.
            However, academics should go past wikipedia in their research simply because it is usually better to read actual research articles published in the scientific journals which they have access to. Academics need more than an overview, they need the meat, bones, and fat of the subject.
            And that's the other thing I like. The wikipedia articles usually include reference links to such material at the bottom, so I can read more and make my own decision, should I so desire.
          • by buswolley (591500)
            Half-Troll, seriously..
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The last time I used Wikipedia, I looked up Chewbacca because I couldn't remember the name of his species [I know, revoke my geek license]. Well the first paragraph gave me the answer, but it also said something like, "And Chewie is a real live person who is my god and saviour, and is coming to marry me one day." Before I had a chance to fix it, someone had already removed the vandalism. It had been repeatedly altered by kids, making fun of each other's Moms. It's easy to see why someone new to online forum
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by saridder (103936)
        I agree that it's a great collective body of knowledge and love the "human network" that comes together to create it. But the fact that one person has the same "power" as everyone else to create content is a double edged sword and limits its usefulness.

        I guess the point is that you were smart enough to see through the vandalism when it was as obvious as "...Chewie is a real live person who is my god and saviour..." but what if it said Chewie was a Knookie or a Wooky (instead of what he really is, a Wookie
    • by SEWilco (27983)
      And the Slashdot-related Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] has only a few changes since the last Wikipedia-related Slashdot article.
  • wikiality. (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:35PM (#16618456) Homepage
    swestcott writes to mention an article at the Chronicle of Higher Education site, wondering if Wikipedia will ever 'make the grade'?

    Actually, according to the article about Wikipedia on Wikipedia, it already has 'made the grade', and is universally praised in all academic circles. As a matter of fact, its popularity has tripled in the last six months.
    • by darkwhite (139802)
      There's got to be a way to make that article make Wikipedia implode on itself or die in an infinite loop or form a singularity in the fabric of space-time or something like that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by klept (895849)
      Yeah I think they make the grade. I am sure there are inaccuracies, but even prestigous publications have inaccuracies too. The tip off to me about an article is how many references it has. Many times these are also sources.

      I have gotten flamed a lot online for sticking up for Wikipedia. But I think it is great.

  • An idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by krotkruton (967718) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:41PM (#16618496)
    Here's an idea to make Wikipedia more reliable: show the time of the last edit for pages, or even better, for sections of pages.

    Wikipedia pages are constantly viewed by people. If thousands of people see a wikipedia page and don't change it for a month, I would be inclined to trust the information presented in the page. However, if the page was edited in the last 24 hours, I might be more skeptical. Longer or shorter times would lead to more trust or skepticism.

    A lot of people claim that you can't trust the masses, which I don't really believe. Why should we trust a couple experts on a subject over those same two experts along with a few thousand people, when they are trying to determine whether or not information is true? There are plenty of "experts" who look at / edit wikipedia pages. I have trouble understanding why people have such a hard time trusting wikipedia but trust other sources of news. I'm not saying that anyone should trust wikipedia articles, just that I don't think there is sufficient evidence to show that wikipedia articles are any more or less trustworthy than other sources of information. Take anything you read with a grain of salt.

    With all that said, bringing some form of timestamps to wikipedia would, in my opinion, make it more trustworthy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Koushiro (612241)
      Here's an idea to make Wikipedia more reliable: show the time of the last edit for pages [...]

      It does; through the History for each page, obviously, but also at the bottom of the article (below the categories for that page).

      As for showing the last modified information for each section of a page, that is slightly more difficult within the current structure of Wikipedia. It's an interesting idea, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Firehed (942385)
      I agree entirely. I suppose that this really demonstrates the importance of proper citations when a resource like Wikipedia is being used for academic purposes - a citation (MLA, at least) includes the date of access. So, on the offchance that a teacher goes to check the resources and finds a vandalized wiki page, s/he could check the datestamp in the citation and cross-reference to the appropriate version history, and quite probably discover that the information at the time of access was indeed accurate.
    • Re:An idea (Score:5, Funny)

      by Iron Condor (964856) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:57PM (#16618992)

      A lot of people claim that you can't trust the masses, which I don't really believe.

      You mean you don't trust the masses on this?

    • by Nasarius (593729)
      I don't think there is sufficient evidence to show that wikipedia articles are any more or less trustworthy than other sources of information. Take anything you read with a grain of salt.

      Uhhh, have you ever even heard of peer-reviewed journals?

      • by jrockway (229604)
        On peer review:

        http://www.aaskolnick.com/naswmav.htm [aaskolnick.com]

        "There seems to be no study too fragmented, no hypothesis too trivial, no literature too biased or too egotistical, no design too warped, no methodology too bungled, no presentation of results too inaccurate, too obscure, and too contradictory, no analysis too self-serving, no argument too circular, no conclusions too trifling or too unjustified, and no grammar and syntax too offensive for a paper to end up in print."

        Incidentally, Wikipedia pointed me to t
    • by rtb61 (674572)
      Wikipedia is what it is. It is not up, down , left nor right. It's popularity is as a result of what it is, complete with all of it's supposed faults. There is nothing that really needs to be changed, excluding of course any current or future, errors and ommisions.

      The are now attempting to create an exsperts ( a drip under pressure) version of wikipedia, where people have to log in, and all the work is properly credited and referenced and bibliographied and bloody boring to read ;-).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jimbobxxx (1019396)
      It would indeed be nice to get some kind of heuristic for a page on how accurate it is likely to be. Factors that might make a page judged to be more/less accurate would be: Number of viewers versus number of updates. A moderated page. How frequently/recently its been updated. The trustworthiness of an updater (how often are their contributions corrected). The last one would probably be tricky to implement - but would effectively take the benefits of peer-review into Wikipedia.
  • by JanneM (7445) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:41PM (#16618498) Homepage
    There's quite a lot of academics adding information to the Wikipedia already. It's no stranger than writing a magazine article, or appearing on any kind of radio or TV show, or writing part of a primary school textbook - or writing an article in a paper encyclopedia for that matter. Reaching out to a wider audience is part and parcel of the job today, and just because you won't get a citation or a CV bullet point out of it doesn't mean it's completely worthless to you.

    No, Wikipedia is not an authoritative reference, but then, neither is EB.

    • just because you won't get a citation or a CV bullet point out of it doesn't mean it's completely worthless to you.


      Oh

      ::looks sad::

      ::Removes 'wikipedia editor' from his CV::

      -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
  • by jc42 (318812) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:45PM (#16618526) Homepage Journal
    If "make the grade" actually means anything, it happened when the first "quality" studies were done comparing wikipedia's error rate with assorted encyclopedias and other reference material. The reports were that wikipedia's error rate was either about the same as or slightly better than the others.

    The reaction of the wikipedia crowd was mostly to discuss how to improve this situation. Being "no worse than Britannica" wasn't taken as high praise. This is further evidence that wikipedia is doing something right.

    Now if they can avoid the tendency of all organizations to bog down in bureaucratic protocols, they might turn into a reference site that's actually good, not just "good enough".

    • If you're referring to the Nature study, Wikipedia was found to contain a third again as many errors as Britannica. That's a far cry from "about the same." And that's if you accept the study's methodology. To this disinterested observer, at least, some of the objections raised to their methodology seemed to have merit.

      I call myself a disinterested observer, by the way, because I no longer edit Wikipedia. Like most onetime contributors I know in real life, I eventually learned it's not worth the trouble.
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      Because articles had a good accuracy at the time of measurement, is there any guarantee that they haven't been since edited, and their accuracy thusly lowered?

      Academia has time-tested and well-understood methods for citing references. When you look up a reference in a book or periodical, you are likely to encounter the exact same text that the author who cited the text read. Is there the same 'guarantee' for wikipedia articles? I understand that you can reference particular edits of wikipedia articles. It
  • It already has (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumFTL (197300) <justin.wickNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:47PM (#16618546)
    Wikipedia is a termendously useful resource - an excellent source of information, and at least a good place to start research into almost any topic. Will it ever replace brittanica? I don't know. But does it need to? Certainly not.

    Wikipedia is already performing a vital function in aggregating information and external links on important (and sometimes not-so-important) stuff. It's also a great social experiment.

    That being said, I'm still looking forward to Citizendium, which, IMHO, will be more like a real encyclopaedia.
    • Re:It already has (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Coryoth (254751) on Friday October 27, 2006 @10:07PM (#16619046) Homepage Journal
      Wikipedia is already performing a vital function in aggregating information and external links on important (and sometimes not-so-important) stuff.

      I think this point is often underrated. Often I'll want to look up some term, or a person, or whatever, not because I need a detailed and accurate reference, but just because I happened to be reading something and saw mention of X and suddenly thought "Hmm, what/who is that exactly?". I just want 5 or 10 seconds worth of reading summarising whatever it is. Previously this was the sort of thing search engines were good for, but these days I just go straight to Wikipedia - more often than not it has an entry for whatever it is, and regardless fo whether it is of stellar quality or not it always has the basic details I need to sate my curiosity. What Wikipedia has really meant is that I can indulge my curiosity better - where previously I would have had to dig through a variety of web search results (which probably wouldn't have been worth it for the 10 second rough description of whatever it is I'm after) I can just skim read the intro to the relevant Wikipedia entry, which I can easily go straight to. If it is actually something really interesting and I want detail then there are usually references and external links I can use to track down the details properly.
      • I can just skim read the intro to the relevant Wikipedia entry, which I can easily go straight to. If it is actually something really interesting and I want detail then there are usually references and external links I can use to track down the details properly.

        This is one of the reasons that on Wikipedia, I follow the Wikipedia policy on citing sources [wikipedia.org]. Mostly I mark articles that I see that aren't well cited. This helps a lot with clearing up POV issues, but most importantly helps people find real inf

  • I love the new additions to the landscape. We need them!

    If I can add a little plug... With the potential rise of Citizendium and the continued media circus surrounding Wikipedia's foibles, it's a good time to review the current state of Wikimania and consider what these disruptive technologies mean for the future of "authoritative" information sources. If you've ever wanted for a general overview of Wikipedia or needed something to point to when asked, "Wikipedia? Isn't that just a bunch of lies?" then the
  • Wikipedia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Salsaman (141471) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:50PM (#16618560) Homepage
    Sure, you can edit a page into nonsense, but most pages are closely watched so such vandalism will be undone in short order.

    It seems to me that the only people who don't take wikipedia seriously are those who feel threatened by it. Employees of traditional encyclopedias and M$ shills who want to keep selling Encarta, and so on.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:00PM (#16618646)
      Or tenacity, depending on how you want to look at it. I've a friend who is listed on Wikipedia since he has done work the public is aware of. He found his page and made some updates. Nothing self propping or anything, just some background information. It was reverted by someone who claimed it was inaccurate and lacked a source. Well ok, he didn't cite a source, but then he doesn't need to he's the primary. He decided the hell with it and left it alone.

      No big deal, of course, it's just a page about some random DJ, but it's a demonstration of how the "Well someone will fix it" mentality isn't always a good thing. Regardless of how right you think you are, you may not be. However if the misinformed person is tenatious, and if others agree with them, that can become the "accepted truth" as far as Wikipedia is concerned.
      • The policy regarding original research [wikipedia.org] may understandably seem counter-intuitive in cases such as you cite, but that policy results in a verifiable set of facts. Just as in Science, when an experiment is not repeatable or verifiable, a result (however interesting it may be) belongs in some other category until it can be repeated. Editorial comments which violate the Neutral Point of View [wikipedia.org] should be removed, regardless of their apparent truthiness [wikipedia.org].

        I've got over a hundred pages on my watchlist, and although

      • by AdamWeeden (678591) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:53PM (#16618960) Homepage
        Well ok, he didn't cite a source, but then he doesn't need to he's the primary
        I can sympathize with his frustration, but if he's the only person who can attest to the validity of such statements, then what stops him (or the theoretical "him" of people editing their own WP entries) from adding incorrect information or worse, what prevents Wikipedia users from impersonating notable people to interject possibly incorrect information? WikiPedia has a policy on verifiability [wikipedia.org] that essentially states "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth." Therefore, in this context, similar to a court of law, truth is somewhat irrelevant if it cannot be proven, and "Because I said so" has never been a valid defense, even (and especially) in the academic world such as traditional encyclopedias. In particular is their stringent stance on that policy in regards to your friend's genre of articles: biographies of living persons. In the litigious society that we live in Wikipedia has naturally decided to take a very conservative approach in incorporating data about people who could bring suit against them for libel or slander about inaccurate information, and to avoid confusion over what unsourced information could prove slanderous, they choose to disallow all unsourced statements [wikipedia.org]: "Be very firm about high quality references, particularly about details of personal lives. Unsourced or poorly sourced controversial (negative, positive, or just highly questionable) material about living persons should be removed immediately from Wikipedia articles, talk pages, and user pages." Express my apologies to your friend that this wasn't explained in a more friendly manner via the article's talk page or his talk page.
  • ...and as such, should not be used as a reference in any research above the grade-school level. Period. If I were teaching a college class and anyone used encyclopedias in their paper, I wouldn't give them above a C.
  • No matter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Clockwork Troll (655321) on Friday October 27, 2006 @08:58PM (#16618624) Journal
    Whether circles of higher academia ever sanction Wikipedia is largely of concern to academics. The debate over whether Wikipedia is a reliable reference source is misguided; it is like comparing apples and fruit cocktail.

    Wikipedia taken as a whole (including the vandalism and nonsense) is as much about zeitgeist as it is accuracy. Uncontroversial topics with exclusively dispassionate editors are likely be to reference quality because the world is not paying attention to them. Contemporary topics mixed up in controversy are more likely to have style and NPOV problems because they reflect that spirit of the times.

    Put another way, if I go to Wikipedia and see a vandalized or nonsense article, or one that is clearly biased (stating opinions and perceptions as facts), I know that the topic about which I'm reading is one that some people feel strongly about. That in and of itself is interesting information, separate from the facts that may or may not be there.

  • by LGagnon (762015) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:10PM (#16618702)
    My answer to the question is no. Wikipedia's biggest flaw is that the admins simply can not stop a large biased mob of editors trying to keep the article biased. Just look at all the articles related to Ayn Rand. All of them are in some way slanted in favor of Rand and/or her fans because a mob of her fans keep it in perpetual bias. So far, I haven't found one admin who's willing to deal with the problem; all of them have told me that it's too big of a mess for them to handle, or flat out refused to do anything. Knowing that Jimbo is one of Rand's cult followers, I've gotten suspicious of whether or not he's got a hand in this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sage Gaspar (688563)
      But if Jimbo was the editor of a journal, encyclopedia, or textbook, the process would be completely opaque. As it is now, I can go onto the Discussion page and find out the disputes that everyone is having and how it relates to the content of the main article. Knowledge is constantly evolving and it's almost impossible to create an article that even the majority will agree is unbiased. For me, the victory in Wikipedia is that I can witness the whole, ugly, behind-the-scenes process. If I was interested in
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LGagnon (762015)
        And yet you can't cite the discussion page in an academic paper. And most people only read the article alone. Thus, Wikipedia is doing a great disservice to its readers by presenting an anti-academic pseudophilosopher as the real thing when anyone who's been in academia knows that she's flat-out rejected as being a highly derivative, illogical (her work is based in fallacy) nutjob unworthy of serious attention.
        • No, you can't cite the discussion page in an academic paper. I don't think that anyone is operating under that pretense. As to most people only reading the article alone, I can't say whether that's true or not.

          But what you seem to be saying is that people can't be trusted to read articles critically, even when pretty much all the background material is laid bare. Nor can we just trust academics across the board, since there are certainly card-carrying PhDs in the Ayn Rand Institute. So me, the average guy
        • she's flat-out rejected as being a highly derivative
          No sources cited

          nutjob unworthy of serious attention
          non-NPOV

          Sorry, I'm going to have to revert this comment!
    • by interiot (50685)
      It's not necessarily an admin's job to force a POV change. If you feel that the POV is clearly off, you can put a {{POV [wikipedia.org]}} tag on it to at least note that there's a real dispute over POV, or ask for outside assistance at the Village pump [wikipedia.org] or elsewhere (POV is best countered by any experienced wikipedian through discussion, not necessarily by people using their admin bits to force a change).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LGagnon (762015)
        But Rand's fans delete any dispute tags. They refuse to solve any dispute, and instead just throw around the same illogical arguments over and over again until the opposition quits. Then, they just take down the tag and continue destroying the article.

        And trust me, I've used every venue possible to get the admins to notice this one. And yet, nobody does anything. Like I said, I wouldn't be surprised if upper management is holding them back for personal reasons.
        • by interiot (50685)

          Well, unreasonable tags can be removed, if very few people agree with the tag.

          Though Jimbo is rumored to be a follower of Rand [1] [google.com], so maybe there's a conspiracy there. ;) But no, really, there's no cabal, Jimbo doesn't force admins to take a POV stance like this. Like I said, Jimbo is really hestitant to take sides in a POV dispute, the arbcom doesn't like to either, and admins also should not. POV content issues are complicated, and someone forcing their view on everyone else would be very un-wiki.

          • by LGagnon (762015)
            Who says the tag is unreasonable? And if very few people agree with it, you've got mob rule again. Like I said, the Randists are trying to keep it biased, and they'd gladly take advantage of such a rule. They've already tried to slant voting involving these articles the same way.

            And Jimbo's love for Rand is no rumor; it's well known that he once ran a Rand discussion site on the net before he founded Wikipedia. How this effects Wikipedia has been a matter of debate not only amongst editors, but also in the
        • Have you ever considered that perhaps the Wikipedia articles are neutral, and you're the biased one? Incidentally, people who are obsessed with denouncing Ayn Rand always strike me as funnier than the actual Randians--it's one thing to be obsessed with Ayn Rand if you think she's the greatest philosopher in world history, but it's quite another thing to be obsessed with Ayn Rand when you think she's just a loony.
    • by teslatug (543527)
      If you knew anything about Wikipedia's functions you would know that admins are not supposed to decide editorial content. That's what editors are for. And as far as Jimbo is concerned, he's the last to throw his weight around the place. You'd know this too if you were part of the community.
      • by LGagnon (762015)
        I didn't say they had to decide the content. What I asked them for was to help deal with the problem, which they didn't. They have allowed a notorious multi-banned editor to continue to wreck the article without any attempt to at least convince him to explain his rabidly pro-Rand edits. They have been told that there is a huge slant amongst the editors, but they don't try to balance it out by at least facilitating the editing process. I only asked them to try to help out with the article, and they wouldn't
    • by hackstraw (262471) *
      Wikipedia's biggest flaw is that the admins simply can not stop a large biased mob of editors trying to keep the article biased. Just look at all the articles related to Ayn Rand. All of them are in some way slanted in favor of Rand and/or her fans because a mob of her fans keep it in perpetual bias. So far, I haven't found one admin who's willing to deal with the problem; all of them have told me that it's too big of a mess for them to handle, or flat out refused to do anything.

      Time will tell. Today, scho
    • by Coryoth (254751)
      I think, to be honest, the bigger threat than mobs (who, while polarising, tend to have to fight it out within their own group a little, and will contain some moderates who will listen to the other side) is the situation of single extremists with way too much time on their hands, particularly in slightly more obscure articles. There you get left with a person with the patience and determination to shout down all but the sternest of opposition. If it's a less trafficked page it can be rare that you find enou
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:16PM (#16618746)
    Wikipedia = Crappiest Search, Anywhere

    Seriously, it's 2006, and you're still doing case-sensitive searches?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by interiot (50685)

      Seriously, it's 2006, and you're still using anything other than google and site: to search for something?

      Okay okay, that is a bit of a cop-out (though it's mostly true). There are some cases where multiple articles exist, separated only by case [1] [sosdg.org]. Though in the most normal case, you're right, case insensitive search would be helpful. Don't quote me on this, but I heard that the devs might be working on it [2] [wikipedia.org] [3] [wikimedia.org], but that there might be some DB indexing issue that they need to figure out before the

  • The Encyclopædia Britannica [wikipedia.org] article is gearing up to make featured article status [wikipedia.org]. Ironically this may happen as the English version of wikipedia approaches 1.5 million articles (currently aprox 1.45mil). The coming months will be very interesting...
  • As a purely constructive Wikipedia contributor, I have a feeling (from my gut, of course, not my head) that there will never in the future be a moment, even a millisecond, when there is absolutely no vandalism present on WP. However, Wikipedia is far more comprehensive, I believe, than any other encyclopedia operating by academic submissions will ever be.

    There is far more specific knowledge. Just see this page [wikipedia.org]. Awesome stuff; I would never expect to see anything like that in a regular general encyclopedia
  • by otisg (92803) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:21PM (#16618776) Homepage Journal
    Professors are not the ones who will decide whether Wikipedia will make the grade or not. The populus will. And the populus has already decided [alexa.com]. I know a number of people who now go to Wikipedia first, Google second.
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      people who now go to Wikipedia first, Google second

      Well, I still go to Google first. But if I find the results full of spam and fake pages my next stop is Wikipedia. Generally there is a good collection of links to real pages, not just SEO-optimised crap (though occasionally spammers insert stuff, it's usually rapidly deleted).

    • Professors are not the ones who will decide whether Wikipedia will make the grade or not. The populus will.

      I think this really depends on the definition used for "making the grade". Just because something succeeds doesn't make it great, or even good, if you happen to measure greatness by a different metric. The populace determines a lot of things, including an adequate quality of television, and an adequate quality of elected government legislators. I don't agree that either of these meet my own expect

  • Here's a thought I haven't seen before ... allow each page to have a static copy that has been independantly verified by approved moderators. When a moderator (e.g. a professor, expert, significant contributor, etc.) finds a page with problems, (s)he can make corrections and then flag it as 'static' ... or if they find a page that is fine, they can just flag it as Verified. Internally it could work kind of like source code control, where you have tons of revisions that may or may not make it into a releas
  • As a professor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by selil (774924) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:29PM (#16618832)

    As a professor the primary problems I see with Wikipedia:

    1) The content is in flux and what a student sees today may not be the same tomorrow.

    2) Wikipedia makes a good resource to find other resources.

    3) I don't allow any web based content to be a primary resource (stand alone), nor am I interested in seeing papers based on encyclopedias (only) either.

    4) My limited forays into Wikipedia left a poor taste I'm not interested in dealing with the general social software scene nor turning over peer reviewed research to have it edited by who knows who.

    • by Raindance (680694) *
      No encyclopedia is going to be perfect, but I would recommend that you check out Citizendium [citizendium.org] once we're officially launched. I believe it'll deal with most of the concerns you bring up.
    • Please feel free to email me (zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com) and we can talk about Citizendium, where we're currently recruiting experts to help approve articles. It will help address a lot of your issues. Since approved pages are the first ones that are displayed to readers, pages will change less often, and we won't be publishing vandalism to un-logged people. You could go and approve the page yourself before your students look at it. While I think professors and students alike agree that encyclopedias
    • Re:As a professor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by theLOUDroom (556455) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:00AM (#16619954)
      1) The content is in flux and what a student sees today may not be the same tomorrow.

      This is a non-issue. Click "Cite this article" link. You will be provided with a citation for a non-changing version of the article in just about every bibliographical standard imaginable. Try it.

      2) Wikipedia makes a good resource to find other resources.

      This is a problem how?

      3) I don't allow any web based content to be a primary resource (stand alone), nor am I interested in seeing papers based on encyclopedias (only) either.

      That's a shame. It's really silly for you have such an irrational bias. If the sources themselves are questionable that's one thing but disallowing web sources is just stupid. What if I'm doing a paper on some draft IEEE specification that hasn't even been published in print form?
      What if the online source IS the primary source? I'm supposed to cite something else because of your personal bias? That's pretty unprofessional.
      You are living and the past. Teach your students how to judge the credibility of sources not arbitrary biases against specfic media formats.
    • by Mike Peel (885855)
      From the sibling posters, it seems that the Citizendium people are out in force at Slashdot at the moment.

      I think the biggest strengths of Wikipedia are that it's continually updated - meaning that it's (hopefully) fairly up to date - and that it serves as a starting point to more in-depth research into a topic. I'd agree that it should never be cited, except possibly as "A good introduction to the subject can be found at Wikipedia", using a full reference to a static non-vandalized version.

      I'm pretty worri
  • Wikipedia isn't perfect. Nothing is, after all.

    As the article notes, hard science is a strong point for Wikipedia. If you are a troll, it's more fun to insert random flamage into the article on George W. Bush than it is to hack up the discussion of the Fourier Transform or something; and science geeks are more likely to be comfortable with computers than English teachers are. Another strong point of Wikipedia is pop culture. What's the name of Spiderman's secret identity? I don't know that the Encyclop
  • by Umbral Blot (737704) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:32PM (#16618856) Homepage
    Wikipedia is OK for most people on most subjects. However when you want information on a specialized topic it is better to find other sources. For example when I need to look up something about philosophy I go to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [stanford.edu] whose articles are contributed by people with PhDs about their area of expertise. It also has copious references on each topic. Such a source will always be better than wikipedia, at least if you need the most accurate information.
  • by silkstorm (1018576) on Friday October 27, 2006 @09:35PM (#16618876) Homepage
    My wife, a professor at a local community college, has used Wikipedia a few times to quickly gather sources on a topic she's not too familiar with. Then, she'll use the article to sort out primary [wikipedia.org] and secondary [wikipedia.org] sources if there cited in Wikipedia. She never actually relies on the entries *themselves*. During her work on her Masters Degree, she took a class on Historiography [wikipedia.org]. By studying how History is written, not just what is true and false, she learned a lot about how to tell the difference between well thought out writing, and poor writing [in text books, in others thesis, etc...] and the importance of citing *primary* sources in those entries, and not to rely on secondary sources unless they are known to be trustworthy, or primary sources aren't available anymore (destroyed, stolen, etc.). Wikipedia articles should never be used as a primary or secondary source in the academic world, as I can guarantee if one of her students cites Wikipedia entries in a bibliography on a paper, she will probably laugh and that student will need to work harder finding better sources on the next paper.
  • Wikipedia can never be used in research work with an authoritative citation, since it is constantly changing. If I use a wikipedia article in a research paper's footnotes or bibliography, the article is likely to change before anyone goes back to check the references. Sure you could go back through the history file and try to reconstruct the article as it existed when the citation was taken, but that just adds a whole new level of difficulty to citations, now the author must cite the date and exact time whe
    • by interiot (50685) on Friday October 27, 2006 @10:12PM (#16619074) Homepage
      By clicking on the history tab, you can generate a URL for a specific article version, and you cite that specific URL [wikipedia.org] in your references. Special:Cite [wikipedia.org] is a tool that helps with this (it used to be linked from every page, I'm not sure why it went away)
      • by sakusha (441986)
        I will await a ruling from Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Handbook, and other stylebooks, as to acceptable methods for accurately citing web pages that are constantly changing. It took them long enough to establish rules for plain old static URLs. Of course even an accurate time-stamped cite won't help establish any specific point in the history as any more or less accurate than any other point.
    • by Pedrito (94783)
      the article is likely to change before anyone goes back to check the references.

      Okay, I hate to state the obvious, but have you heard of printers? -CLICK- Hardcopy. Isn't going to change. Granted, if you cite Wikipedia a lot, your appendix might be thicker than the work itself, but c'est la vie.

      I don't cite Wikipedia for papers, but I often use it and sometimes go to the sources it cites. It does have a phenomenal amount of good information. And if I found a compelling enough reason to cite Wikipedia, I'd
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Wikipedia can never be used in research work with an authoritative citation, since it is constantly changing.

      That could be easily solved if Wikipedia provides easier facility to link to a specific version of an article.
      It's basically like citing a specific edition of a regular book encyclopedia, except you have more revisions. And that's not bad, in the fast world we live in.

      Don't reject, adapt.
    • by Brickwall (985910)
      Wikipedia is just going to make this problem worse. I hope that scientists with PhDs know better than to use wikipedia for research, but then, your average 7 year old kid in elementary school might end up as a PhD or M.D. one day, do your really want the surgeon who might operate on YOU someday, to have learned his basic science from possibly-vandalized articles in wikipedia?

      What a remarkably vapid comment. This kid who "learned his basic science" on Wikipedia, if he's going to become a surgeon, is going

    • Wikipedia can never be used in research work with an authoritative citation, since it is constantly changing.

      This is 100% false.

      It is possible to cite a SPECFIC, NON-CHANGING version of a wiki article. Wikipedia will even provide the reference in standard MLA format for you. It's actually really easy. Theres a link right there on the page that says "Cite this article" for fucksake.


      now the author must cite the date and exact time when the research was taken.

      This is not new. This is why you inc
  • Someone is taking steps. See the lowdown on the Citizendium project [citizendium.org].
  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Friday October 27, 2006 @10:01PM (#16619014)
    Scholars joining Wikipedia in the hopes of fixing the thing is a mistake. The great migration(s) from Wikipedia have been primarily experts who are chased off by griefers. Getting a new batch involved will just set things up for another exodus.
    • by gnalle (125916)
      Good scholars know references to a lot of technical literature to prove their claims. How helpful is it to add such citations to Wikipedia articles? Can technical citations prevent an article from being reversed?
  • My opinion follows. I don't really have scientific measures to back up my opinions... but anyway...

    I've noticed (in the past 6 months, especially) much more academically-inclined admins getting deeply involved in supervising the content. While the admin process sometimes bogs down in nit-hair-splitting contests, the majority of the time, the content comes through pretty clean and well thought out.

    The further evolution of publishing/entry standards, and their enforcement, has resulted in far cleaner and
  • The real issue is quality, not accuracy. This afternoon, for instance, I hit these two articles:
    1. Circular motion [wikipedia.org] - Like nearly all physics and math articles on Wikipedia, this one seems to have been written by grad students trying to show off how smart they were. I have a PhD in physics, so I can understand it, but the average reader will have no idea what it's about.
    2. Jane Austen [wikipedia.org] - A very short article for such an important literary figure, and has a cleanup tag at the top.

    Articles like #2 can be fixed

  • Wikipedia is a triumph. Amazing breadth and depth of info at your fingertips for free, updated and improved thousands a times/day.

    Generally it is control freaks and central authorities, or unsurprisingly members of "old media" that dislike wiki. I set one up at work, and many in management didn't want to put info in it because "anyone" can change it. That is the advantage not the weakness. Because the wiki continues to be updated, because anyone can do it. Our centrally controlled work pages always died of
  • On topics that only a few people know about, it is good. For example, the Alpa camera article is good, though unfinished. Why? Only a few people have bothered with it (and yes, I put in the photos). There is only one controversy in the whole thing, and those of us working on it came to a consensus.

    Go to a hot topic, and the biased admins can't even get all the facts right. Take John Kerry for example. I had to go get some data off the way back machine to prove to them the simple fact that John Kerry
  • In many cases, it's futile. I'm a medical doctor, cellular and molecular biologist, and have training in genetics. Nevertheless, I have ABSOLUTELY NO assurance that any contribution that I might make to Wikipedia isn't edited to hell and back by someone who doesn't have those qualifications. In other words, that means that most of the people most qualified to edit many of the articles won't bother (and no, I don't mean articles on "Britney Spears" or "Aerosmith").

    I don't know how Wikipedia can address thi

  • As it stands, Wikipedia will never "make the grade" in academic circles for a simple reason: Academic citation is meaningless without authority -- almost by defintion -- and allowing anyone to modify entries removes any guarantee that the entries themselves are authoritative. (This situation is actually somewhat worse than that: On account of the free editing policy, any article can contain contradictory statements are different times, or even at once.) Whether Wikipedia has the qualifications for acade
  • by arodland (127775) on Saturday October 28, 2006 @01:03AM (#16619962)
    they'll find out what everyone else already knows -- wikipedia is prejudiced against people who actually know what they're talking about. The best information will be removed on the grounds that the submitter is biased and unreliable (never mind the tenet of criticizing the message, not the messenger). Not only is Wikipedia not interested in finding the truth, you're not even allowed to suggest that it exists.
  • I really get tired of hearing this claim by dedicated Wikipedians:

    But fans of Wikipedia, like Mr. Meeks, argue that scholars must adapt to the aggressive, transparent approach to scholarship favored on the Web.

    "Professors who get worked up about Wikipedia, and say it can never be anything but a poor source of knowledge, don't realize that these sort of hardscrabble open-source projects have been incredibly competitive -- for example, in the software industry," he says.

    The most successful FOSS projec

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