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Our Love/Hate Relationship With Wikipedia 244

Posted by kdawson
from the who-you-callin'-non-notable? dept.
netbuzz points us to a somewhat snarky Washington Post article about the Wikipedians' work in upholding a minimum standard of "notability" for the collaborative encyclopedia. Here's his take on the Post's bemusement from a NetworkWorld blog: "The Washington Post this morning gets its snickers at the Wikipedians who do the best they can to apply the minimum 'notability' standards needed to keep the online encyclopedia's 1.5 million English entries relatively free of worthless junk. 'It's also safe to assume these are people with a lot of time on their hands,' the Post writer notes... These are people doing a truly thankless job... and they deserve a few thank-yous."
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Our Love/Hate Relationship With Wikipedia

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  • It's not thankless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:05PM (#17091880) Homepage Journal
    Most wikipedia editors you ever interact with are really quite nice. Wikipedia has a good sense of community. There's also a bit of personal satisfaction of knowing that you're slowly helping expand the ammount of freely available public knowledge, without the cruft.
    • by Original Replica (908688) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:29PM (#17092072) Journal
      "freely available public knowledge, without the cruft."- why would The Washington Post which makes it's money and reputation on charging for the distribution of knowledge, ever endorse that?
      • by EMeta (860558) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @05:04PM (#17092322)
        The Post (and most newspapers) make a very small percentage of their revenue on subscription. Far more comes from advertisements; which is of course why most larger cities have free papers of some sort.
      • by Golias (176380) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @05:33PM (#17092592)
        The real question here is:

        Why is cruft a problem???

        If somebody publishes a 15,000-word wiki on the 1970s NBC show "Cliffhangers", it's not like Wikipedia suddenly takes up more space on my bookshelf. Personally, I love that there's so much obscure crap on Wikipedia. Somebody on Fark mentioned some way-out there pop culture reference I never heard of, and Wiki has me up-to-speed in a matter of seconds. How can this possibly be a Bad Thing?

        (Unless you are a journalist for a dying media with an axe to grind, that is...)
        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:25PM (#17093006) Journal
          I couldn't agree more. Wikipedia went down in my estimation when they started aggressively pruning. A couple of articles I regularly used for reference suddenly vanished because the topics weren't 'notable.' Oh, and once they were deleted, non-admins then couldn't even read the old version. In my opinion, if a single user (other than the author) finds a Wikipedia entry useful then it has value and shouldn't be deleted.

          One of the biggest advantages that Wikipedia has is that it can have a much larger scope than any print publication ever could, and it seems silly to squander this.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by rgmoore (133276)

          Why is cruft a problem???

          Because there are still limits on the system. If you let each person, group, and event in the world have a page on Wikipedia, you'll have serious problems telling them all apart. As an example, there are 38 people on Wikipedia named John Smith, and more with some variant on the name, like Johnny or Jon. And that's after trying to eliminate nobodies. If they let anyone with that name have a page, it would be a nightmare to tell them all apart.

          Then there's the problem of how t

        • by harmonica (29841) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:02PM (#17093256)
          Personally, I love that there's so much obscure crap on Wikipedia.

          My opinion exactly!

          However, disappointments come when an important (yeah, whatever that means) topic is dealt with in a sub-par article. Happens rarely, but it does happen. Some argue that time should be spent on improving the "less obscure" articles instead of putting up lengthy Star Wars character descriptions. But that's just a misunderstanding of how Wikipedia works. The people spending all that time on obscure Star Wars topics couldn't produce a decent article on Wittgenstein or sauce béarnaise. However, the philosophers and chefs who can aren't well-versed in that galaxy far, far away. And if I do want to learn about Han Solo's early years, I know that Britannica will turn its back on me and where to look instead. So everyone should describe the things they know really well and everyone will gain from that. (Mostly weight, in the case of the sauce, but hey, there's always Dieting - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wikipedia.org].)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SamSim (630795)

            I agree with everybody's points - ordinarily, there is no reason to strip "non-notable" articles and information and "cruft" from the encyclopedia. But there are some other points to consider. For one thing, Wikipedia is supported by user donations and has no advertisements. All that hosting money has to come out of somebody's pocket. If the powers that be have a choice between paying to host large amounts of information on topics of very limited appeal/use, and saving money on bandwidth and storage by remo

        • by soliptic (665417) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:50PM (#17094910) Journal
          You're talking two things here, depth and breadth.

          If somebody publishes a 15,000-word wiki on the 1970s NBC show "Cliffhangers" - Depth
          some way-out there pop culture reference I never heard of, and Wiki has me up-to-speed - Breadth

          My personal view is that Wikipedia shouldn't be shy of breadth. One of the things I think it has going for it (versus traditional encyclopaedias and "knowledge stores") is that it can document that trivial, the everyday and the disposable, which would not be deemed worthy enough to be worth the paper-space in Britannica or book-length analyses by academics, but may still be very interesting to future generations.

          On the other hand, when it comes to depth, I think pruning is probably for the best. A 15,000 word dissertation on a niche topic doesn't really deserve to be in Wikipedia - it deserves to be published in full elsewhere, and summarised / referenced / linked as appropriate to an encyclopaedia article.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I love that there is so much stuff on Wikipedia. The encyclopedia at the library doesn't have hardly any of the things that people will need these days. Case study: I got called "leet." I had no idea what it meant, and the person wasn't doing a terribly bang-up job of explaining it. I wasn't sure whether to sue him for libel or to be deeply complimented. I looked it up on Wikipedia and found out. Marvelous.

          Wikipedia also has many valuable tidbits of information. Example: They have a wonderful artic
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by McFadden (809368)
          Why is cruft a problem???


          It's not. That's why there is already a Wikipedia with all the cruft you want. It's called The Google.

      • by StikyPad (445176)
        They do charge, yes, but the charge is mainly to the advertisers -- much like online. What you pay for a newspaper subscription only covers the distribution infrastructure. You likely pay for distribution of your online news as well, unless you have free internet access. The benefit of the latter is obviously that you get as much information as you like from as many sources as you like. The benefit of the former is that it's conveniently portable and the signal to noise ratio is usually a bit better.
    • by fm6 (162816) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @05:50PM (#17092738) Homepage Journal

      Without the cruft? Your definition of non-cruft would seem to be very broad.

      "Nice" or not, most Wikipedia editors I worked with had very set notions about the "right" way to do things. Even if you have the official guidelines on your side, it's very hard to get anybody to change their minds. When I participated in the "request for deletion" discussions (I think they're called something else now) people mostly had their notions of what was notable and what wasn't, and that was that. Sometimes they'd even refuse to explain their opinions.

      It really doesn't matter whether the discussion are polite or not, because they never go anywhere. It's a myth that Wikipedia is edited by consensus. Content is controlled by those who outstubborn everybody else.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:28PM (#17093024) Journal
        Why is parent moderated as funny? This pretty much sums up how Wikipedia works, in my experience. One article I saw was marked for deletion. The discussion eventually came to the conclusion it shouldn't be deleted. A fortnight later, it was marked for speedy deletion, no new points were raised, and it was deleted. I still have no real idea why, and once the page is deleted non-admins can't even get at the discussion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kingrames (858416)
        Where can I nominate "Outstubborn" for the "new word of the year" award?
      • by Scorchmon (305172) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:57PM (#17094950)
        Absolutely. I participated in one of these discussions as well, and none of the established Wikipedia editors would consider the discussion for why to keep the article. They simply throw out that the article is not notable, and when you reply with links and quotes from Wikipedia rules explaining what makes something notable, they flat out ignore you. What's even funnier is when people join the discussion who aren't established editors and the editors/admins start throwing around terms like "sock puppet" and "meat puppet" to make your contributions to the discussion dismissible. They even go so far as to go back and change their opinion from "keep" to "delete" if they decide they don't like the people arguing for the side of keeping the article.

        Wikipedia policy itself is a joke. They have rules and policies set forth to suit most editors' purposes, but when their agenda doesn't sit nicely with established policy, they pull this card out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:IAR [wikipedia.org]
  • by dgg3565 (963614) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:06PM (#17091892)
    Didn't the MSM take something of a similar attitude toward blogs once they first emerged as a real force? And Wikipedia has been gaining "critical mass" in the same way blogs did a two or three years past. Setting all that aside, the tone of the article is somewhat unprofessional if your evaluating a new idea.
    • Academics who sniff at Wik's uncredentialed content certainly don't get it. But the loudest Wik snipers are undoubtedly scared to death of the incredible magnet that the site has become.

      Don't put Wik into the encyclopedia box. It's really a social knowledge network where opinion is just as entertaining as fact. It's engaging and addictive, especially around controversial topics. I think I spend more time on the Discussion pages than on the main pages. I enjoy (like many, I suspect) anonymously correcting l

      • by fotbr (855184) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @07:23PM (#17093460) Journal
        Don't put Wik into the encyclopedia box.

        The Wikipedia project tried VERY HARD to put ITSELF into that box, beginning with its very name and slogans. Don't get pissy now that people see it in that box, and have certain expectations as a result.

        "Main Page - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"
        "Welcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."

        And from the about page:
        "This Web site is a wiki, which means that anyone with access to an Internet-connected computer can edit, correct, or improve information throughout the encyclopedia..."

        It may be all those things you mention IN ADDITION to an encyclopedia, but an encyclopedia is CLEARLY what they are trying to be.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FooAtWFU (699187)
        A gripe.

        You called Wikipedia 'wik'. Wik is actually the name of a user on Wikipedia... a banned user, as a matter of fact. (And somewhat controversial in his day.) But even more than that, even when people call it 'Wiki', it's roughly analogous to calling The New York Times 'Newspaper': "Oh, hey, did you see that cool article in Newspaper the other day?" Wiki [wikipedia.org] is a variety of software. There were wikis before Wikipedia.

        Appropriate terms for Wikipedia include Wikipedia (but please not WikiPedia - or do you sa

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Merusdraconis (730732)

        You're assuming that everyone who criticises Wikipedia hasn't had much to do with it. This isn't exactly the case.

        There's communities that have had articles deleted for 'notability' reasons when they've been notable to the community, while articles on similar subjects have stayed intact. They start to wonder that if it happens to them, how many other subjects does it happen to? Is notability defined by how much that one editor cares about a subject?

        There are people who have seen Wikipedia arguments spil

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by wik (10258)
        Please don't take my name in vain.

        Thanks.
  • by s20451 (410424) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:12PM (#17091926) Journal
    Here's his take on the Post's bemusement from a NetworkWorld blog:

    "Bemuse" is a synonym for "confuse". It is not a synonym for "amuse".

    Yes, yes ... evolving language, etc.
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jott42 (702470)
    I do not see the need for the stringent notability criterion on Wikipedia: it is not as that the book will be to thick and expensive to sell if every article would be allowed to stay. (Bandwidth-costs must outweigh the cost for harddisks as it is mainly text.) What would be the harm of being a repisotory of every article that somebody had the energy to write? Still keeping the wiki methid: anybody can correct any article at any time. (I do not see the reason for necessarily keeping the articles short, eithe
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Reality Master 101 (179095) <`RealityMaster101' `at' `gmail.com'> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:28PM (#17092056) Homepage Journal

      What would be the harm of being a repisotory of every article that somebody had the energy to write?

      Because we already have the web at large for that. The point of an Encyclopedia is not be the repository of all knowledge, but to be a summary of all notable subjects. The "repository of all knowledge" IS all published knowledge.

      • What would be the harm of being a repisotory of every article that somebody had the energy to write?

        Because we already have the web at large for that. The point of an Encyclopedia is not be the repository of all knowledge, but to be a summary of all notable subjects. The "repository of all knowledge" IS all published knowledge.


        Back when we didn't have an Internet and people actually turned routinely to books and encyclopedias for information, the point of an encyclopedia was its breadth and accuracy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ubernostrum (219442)

        The point of an Encyclopedia is not be the repository of all knowledge, but to be a summary of all notable subjects.

        And yet... notability as a criterion for inclusion is not and never has been an official policy of Wikipedia. It is, at most a disputed guideline [wikipedia.org], and the Wikimedia Foundation's own fundraising materials [wikimediafoundation.org] include the statement, "Imagine a world in which every person has free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." Not "the sum of all notable human knowledge" or

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rakishi (759894)
      Because most of them will be unverifiable and probably down right wrong. IF there are no outside sources for verification and only 1000 people in the world who know anything of the article's subject then you have a single person writing the article probably. Not to mention that the larger the wikipedia the more energy is needed just to maintain some sort of coherence in the articles and remove obviously wrong crap (which means other articles will suffer as this is a finite resource).

      I'd prefer a limited wik
      • This is really the only good reason for the "notability" standards, IMO. It doesn't 'hurt' WP to have articles on obscure subjects, except insofar as they become impossible to verify once you get below a certain 'critical mass' where you can reasonably expect to find people who are going to know something about the subject.

        Part of the benefit of Wikipedia is that it has articles on a wide variety of things, far more than a paper encyclopedia ever could. If I wanted to read Encyclopedia Britannica, I'd just
  • slashdot entry (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mushdot (943219)

    I don't see why there can't be room for any kind of articles as you only come across what you search for - it's not like you are holding a 1 metre thick book where you have to wade through a million random articles to find what you want. Although initially sceptical of Wikipedia I do actually find it quite useful these days as a starting point for many a piece of research.

    Funnily enough, the slashdot subculture section has become a victim and been removed. It's through that article on Wikipedia that I got a

    • Re:slashdot entry (Score:4, Informative)

      by mdd4696 (1017728) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:47PM (#17092214)
      If anyone and anything were given articles on Wikipedia, you *would* have to wade through millions of junk articles to find what you want.

      One important requirement for articles on Wikipedia is that they are verifiable. That means providing sources for the information in the article, allowing others to ensure that the article is accurate. If there are no published sources which contain information on the subject of the article, there would be no way of evaluating it. I doubt that the authors of an article on some kid's garage band could provide a reference from outside of their circle of family and friends.

      Wikipedia is a tertiary source. Not a primary source, not a secondary source. Articles on Wikipedia are written about what is already published elsewhere. This is an attempt to keep Wikipedia neutral, and minimize the influence that a particular editor's biases might have.
    • Re:slashdot entry (Score:5, Informative)

      by interiot (50685) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @05:04PM (#17092326) Homepage
      One answer is that there are many wikis [wikipedia.org] out there. For almost everything that Wikipedia says it's not [wikipedia.org], there's another wiki out there that will cover the information you're interested in working on. For many of them, Wikimedia itself hosts those wikis, so it's not always a matter of DELETE DELETE, sometimes it's a matter of finding the right wiki. For instance, Wikipedia might not like to have really detailed programming guides on its site, but the content would be perfectly suitable for Wikimedia's Wikibooks. Wikipedia is a little too straight-laced sometimes, but there's Uncyclopedia if you want to add a joke to an article or otherwise go overboard with a subject. Wikibooks no longer takes game walkthroughs, but there's Strategy wiki for that.
  • by HarryCaul (25943) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:30PM (#17092074)

    First among them, The Long Tail, and why it would benefit the site to take advantage of it rather than ignore it.

    The whole "notability" criteria seems very much like 1980s thinking. So many lessons of the internet being ignored there.
    • by Jott42 (702470)
      Exactly! The removal of "non-notable" articles makes Wikipedia less usable, not more.
      (And to argue that the non-notable information is available on the internet anyway is strange: in that case we don't need Wikipedia at all, as we have Gooogle.)
      • Sometimes brevity is a virtue.. Yes you can search, and the tools we have today are incredible, but ultimately there is a big pile of information to slog through, and the less slogging you have to do to get to information you want the better.

        It's akin to "feature bloat" in computer programs. Yeah some of those whiz-bang features might be useful to a handful of people, but to the majority they just clutter up the interface and can potentially slow the program down. Encyclopedias should give you a brief
    • by llywrch (9023) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:05PM (#17092846) Homepage Journal
      You're missing the point of notability. Obscure subjects can be notable, for the simple reason that "notability" on Wikipedia is a shorthand for whether it's believable that someone would actually want to read an article on the subject in question. All species of life are considered notable, for example, as are items in a few other areas.

      The concept of "notability" was created because Wikipedia is constantly bombarded with new articles about someone's significant other, garage bands who have yet to relase an album, businesses looking for free advertising, and crackpot theories. Some people think that having an article on Wikipedia is a passport to fame & credibility. What we try to do on Wikipedia is report what other people believe is notable. And most -- I'll freely admit, not all, we do make mistakes -- of the articles that fail the notability guidelines are obviously of no interest except to a very few people -- if anyone beyond it's original author.

      We are not an arbitor of importance: we're just trying to write an encyclopedia about topics people want to read, not include every last possible scrap of information conceivable. Unfortunately, with Wikipedia's high Alexa rating, too many people think that an Wikipedia leads to fame.

      Geoff
    • First among them, The Long Tail, and why it would benefit the site to take advantage of it rather than ignore it.

      Believe me, Wikipedia understands the long tail. They have over 1.5 million articles in the English language encyclopedia alone, dramatically outpacing every other available encyclopedia. They built their entire model on the long tail.

      However, in an effort to be a reliable source of information they have standards like "verifiability". Some topics are too obscure to be able to be indepen

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:32PM (#17092094)
    With notability comes verifiability. If I submit a Wikipedia article about my cat, filled with adorable pictures and tales of the cat's day-by-day exploits, it may fit into the "room for everything" model that some snubbed band members might believe is right, but who's to say that all that drivel about my cat isn't just a bunch of lies? But if it turns out that I'm the President of the United States, then my cat [wikipedia.org] becomes notable, because there are undoubtedly numerous verifiable news reports from reputable agencies detailing various events in the life of my cat.

    It amuses me that most of the people complaining about the "notability" requirement are the same people whose vanity-based Wikipedia articles were seen for what they are - self-aggrandizement - and subsequently removed.

    Also, for the record, I don't have a cat.
    • by Jott42 (702470)
      And I have never had a Wikipedia article about myself. But please tell me: what is the harm if I would put up an article about my (hypothetical) cat, filled with lies? As the cat does not exist, it would not really matter. And very few, if any, would find and read the article. And any outrageous claims that would surface to the general knowledge, could easily be corrected by other editors.
      • And I have never had a Wikipedia article about myself. But please tell me: what is the harm if I would put up an article about my (hypothetical) cat, filled with lies? As the cat does not exist, it would not really matter. And very few, if any, would find and read the article. And any outrageous claims that would surface to the general knowledge, could easily be corrected by other editors.

        OK, how about we take a cat, and write a Wikipedia article on that cat, and THEN we put the cat in a steel box with a

      • In other words, if a lie falls in the forest, will anybody catch it?

        You wouldn't expect that from an encyclopedia, would you? I mean, somewhere hidden in that shelf full of dusty volumes might be an article about some Britannica editor's cat. And while you may not care about the cat - and might not ever see that article - you still expect everything in that encyclopedia to be true, whether you can personally verify it or not.

        Well, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia also. By its wiki nature, the truthfulness (t
        • by Jott42 (702470)
          OK. Point taken. Lets remove the outright lies, and only keep the things that are verifiable. That will let existing rock bands keep their pages. Where is the problem then? (I am not arguing against neutral point of view.)
          • How do we know whether the material in the "Megatronic Flying Squid Faces from Hell" article is true, or whether the band even exists? Once you've removed all the unverifiable stuff, there would be no article left, and that's why such articles get deleted.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Jott42 (702470)
              Verifieable how? Websearches exlusivly? In published works? In any language? Or verifiable by interviewing the subject? Which the definition of verifiability are you arguing? The band can easily pass the Wipipedia definition and still get removed, if all the articles are published locally in Ottawa and not available on the web, as the US editors will find nothing about them in their local newspapers. But they may very well still have a verifiable existance.
              • If you're an Ottawanian (?) and want to go to the library to research an article in a reputable source of information like the local newspaper, more power to you. Just remember to cite the source so that someone else can go verify it if they want. There are numerous articles on Wikipedia whose sources are not online.

                Interviewing the subject of an article would not be sufficient to be considered verifiable, unless you got your interview published in a reputable external source. There's a rule against putt
      • It matters because Wikipedia is not Blogspot or Livejournal, and filling up WP with garbage is not cool.
    • by interiot (50685)

      For what it's worth, the set of topics that are Notable is a subset of the topics that are Verifiable... they're not the same thing. [1] [wikipedia.org] Verifiable facts include that 923049123581435834435803984 is an integer, the data on my passport, and the gross income of Walmart in February 1982. However, most of those aren't generally considered encyclopedic, and if we open up the possibility for storing all those, Wikipedia would eventually have over a billion pages, and it might be hard to maintain all of them (ra

      • There are other policies that distinguish topics whose non-notability is evident by their non-verifiability from those whose non-notability is simply because there are better ways to present information. For example, Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information [wikipedia.org]. Sure, 923049123581435834435803984 may be an integer, but that information is already conveyed on the page for integer [wikipedia.org] by definition. In fact, many integers do have their own articles, in particular those with unusual properties [wikipedia.org] th
    • by hey! (33014)

      With notability comes verifiability.

      This may be true. But it has no bearing on notability. I assume the point of "notability" is to prevent Wikipedia from morphing into a social networking or advertising site.

      Wiktionary defines Notable as "Worthy of notice; remarkable; memorable; noted or distinguished." Note there are two alternative definitions within this definition: a normative one ("You should take notice of George Orwell") and descriptive/empirical one ("Jango Fett is a noted fictional character in

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Merusdraconis (730732)

      In the webcomics world, they've butted heads over notability so much that most commentators have advocated abandoning Wikipedia for a dedicated webcomic wiki.

      The problem appears to be that a webcomic is usually considered notable by reputation and influence, things that traditionally are hard to provide sources for (not least because the first response when someone asks about it is "you don't know Girly?!") This has led to several entries of exceedingly notable webcomics being deleted from Wikipedia, incl

  • by tttonyyy (726776) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:37PM (#17092130) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot, in true tradition, misses the current happenings in Wikipedia world.

    The big story at the moment about linking to external videos on YouTube [wikipedia.org] (and other video sources).

    This is all started with Fox serving takedown notices to Quicksilverscreen [quicksilverscreen.com] for linking to YouTube videos, under the assertion that linking to copyright infringing material is, in itself, illegal. Hence the repercussions for Wikipedia (and, pretty much any site governed by US law).

    C'mon slashdot, keep up!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by interiot (50685)
      The legal issues weren't the only issue with YouTube links. YouTube links are generally not reliable sources (just because a video has the CNN logo in the corner doesn't mean the video hasn't been modified or fabricated, whereas if it comes from cnn.com, that's much less likely to happen). Also, Wikipedia in general tries to be very respectful of copyright. WP:EL [wikipedia.org] does mention the contributory infringement issue, but as much as we internally argue over fair use gray areas and open content, it seems like i
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:39PM (#17092140) Homepage

    Wikipedia's problem is bloat. Most of the articles about anything important were created before article 500,000. At 1.5 million, most of the articles are junk. It's bottom-feeder stuff now.

    Popular culture is a significant problem. There are far too many Star {Wars|Trek|Gate} articles. There's a Wikipedia article for every Star Wars comic book. For a while, someone was trying to create one for each character in each story in each comic book, but that was beaten back.

    Then there's the ongoing effort to put every musical composition available in Wikipedia. A wiki is the wrong tool for that job. CDDB/Gracenote and IMDB have real databases for that sort of information, with useful linking and searching, but Wikipedia doesn't have the structure for that.

    Wikipedia bloat impacts quality. It takes a huge number of contributors just to undo vandalism and clean up messes. Those contributors are now stuck cleaning up a mountain of dreck. They're falling behind.

    That's hard on a volunteer effort. There are a few editors for whom Wikipedia is their day job, but the only one known to be full time is a political lobbyist. The thing just isn't staffed to deal with all the dreck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlGrinch (1018644)
      I use wikipedia all the time. I thoroughly enjoy the information. I think it is a great of example of what is good about the internet. A community of people donating the time and knowledge to betterment of us all. Like any source of information you must be a critical thinker and verify its validity, yet I find it to be very good for the most part. I would consider being critical if I was paying to use the service. I find it unreasonable to be too critical of something that is free.
    • by stud9920 (236753) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:24PM (#17092998)
      Popular culture is a significant problem. There are far too many Star {Wars|Trek|Gate} articles. There's a Wikipedia article for every Star Wars comic book. For a while, someone was trying to create one for each character in each story in each comic book, but that was beaten back.
      How better would the Wikipedia be if these articles were not present ? That's the point of an Internet encyclopedia : information that is not pertinent to YOU does not hurt financially or otherwise by just being there.

      If some music nerd wants me to know John Lennon was wearing green socks on 4 April 1967 when he recorded A Day in the Life, it's not going to change dramatically the price of the Wikipedia. Heck, if I clicked through the hierarchy until I reached the article "Clothing of John Lennon during the SPLHCB session of 4 April 1967", I may be the only person who ever clicks the links, so it's virtually costless.

      What if that data was actually in the "Great Britain" article because the music nerd thinks everyone who is interested in Great Britain should know about the colour of the socks of John Lennon during each recording session of Sergeant Pepper ? Guess what, YOU can edit the page to remove it (most authors won't actually mind) or move it to a more appropriate page (most authors would understand).

      IMO there is no such thing as too much information.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yusing (216625)
      Most of the articles about anything important were created before article 500,000. At 1.5 million, most of the articles are junk. It's bottom-feeder stuff now.

      "Anything important"?? That's a completely subjective measure. The first 500, 000 entries were probably the most obvious ones. But much of what's "important" isn't obvious. (I'm sure you haven't scanned the next million articles to ascertain that they're "bottom-feeder" stuff. And equally sure that you're not qualified to make that judgement for al
    • by oliderid (710055)
      Let's see...How did I use Wikipedia today:

      Wikipedia helped me to select my DIVX in the Stargate Season 10 torrent.
      I found their summary quite helpful. There are few episodes completly disconnected from the main plot and I didn't want to see them.

      I have also used Wikipedia to document myself on Ottoman Invasions in Hungary. And Alliances between Polish and Hungarians crowns to face it.

      The great thing about it is that it gives information about anything you wish. And in my case, I prefer it remains that way.
  • I'm notable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:40PM (#17092158) Journal

    According to the strictest definition of Wikipedia's notability guides [wikipedia.org], I'm apparently notable by Google. Searching for my real name shows mostly matches for me, and a few hundred of them at that; that's a specific notability criteria [wikipedia.org].

    I've also published 4 LWN.net articles; but that's not a direct route to fame. Also I'm Security+ certified; apparently CompTIA claims that over 25,000 people hold the cert, which is fewer than Mensa can claim (I'm part of a small but well-known group in the market?).

    On the other hand, I'm jobless and have no real achievements. I speak a lot on mailing lists and publish articles and such and sometimes get a little attention. Be careful how you define "Notable."

  • by maidix (803080) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:43PM (#17092180)
    What Wikipedia editors determined wasn't worthy of an entry, Washington Post editors deemed worthy of an article. Much like in the accuracy comparison with Encyclopedia Brittanica, Wikipedia has once again demonstrated that they are the ones practicing higher standards. Sure, the newspapers and the encyclopedias and everyone else who's losing eyeballs to Wikipedia will tell us all why it can't happen... each and every day that it's happening.
  • by Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:53PM (#17092250)
    Whilst the casual description of the deletion process, illustrated with random examples, is presented in a fairly lighthearted manner, it is an admission that there are some quality procedures in place at Wikipedia.

    You do have to wonder if they chose their examples to try and give them the notability they lack.
  • by Arnold Reinhold (539934) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @04:55PM (#17092258)
    The Post article quotes Jimmy Wales as saying that the decision to exclude an article is based on "a discussion among known editors." The article goes on to ask who those editors are and answers its own question "these editors are called 'administrators' and they get their jobs after being nominated and voted in by the great mass of Wikipedia contributors." Well, that is wrong on two counts. The discussions on deleting articles are in no way restricted to admins. Admins do determine what the consensus of the discussion is after a fixed time period and have access to the tools to actually delete the article, but they have no special role in the discussion. The second error concerns how admins are selected. There is no vote by "by the great mass of Wikipedia contributors." There is a nomination and review process and the final decision is made by an even smaller group known as "bureaucrats." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_fo r_adminship [wikipedia.org] . That's two errors in a single paragraph, but I suppose with tight budgets in the newspaper business these days, they can't afford the kind of scrutiny for accuracy that Wikipedia articles get.
  • I have a beef with their vanity page/notability policies. If they were more candid, they would make this their policy:

    We at Wikipedia honestly have no idea which people deserve a wiki page and which do not. We have no criteria about how to judge which poets, programmers, bloggers, painters, philosophers, singers, musicians, sculptors or choreographers will be worth remembering 100 years from now. For that reason, any profile of you without a link to any corporate product will automatically be deleted. How

  • by ms1234 (211056)
    When do we start to see spam in Wikipedia? I guess that will be the final blow for "everyone-can-edit-it".
  • The original article sneeringly states:
    It's also safe to assume these are people with a lot of time on their hands.
    It looks like the Washington Post's columnist thinks that having free time on your hands that you can dispense as you please, perhaps even helping volunteer efforts like Wikipedia, is the beginning of a slippery slope. I guess he's worrying will come next. Free thought?
  • They do a good job of reformatting answers.com and howstuffworks.com. It shows how reformatting other text from answers.com and howstuffworks.com is now more valuable than writing original text.

    • ...answers.com copies Wikipedia, something it is legally allowed to do under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:07PM (#17092864) Homepage Journal
    In their effort to better mirror "published" references, wikipedia staff has of late been acting very elitist. They will remove material that is not cited in published sources. That is very anti-web. Publishing is old-school. Authors of newer information are not even bother to publish anymore because it is easier to stick it on the web (perhaps with ads to make a buck).

    If they want to give special status or marks to citations of published material, that is fine with me. However, deletion of non-published material is going overboard. Status: okay. Deletion: Not.

    Time for a wikipedia revolt.
  • For 14 months I've tried to get my bio taken down because I'm not notable. They just laugh at me, and by now there are six long "Talk" pages associated with my bio that are full of insults. It all gets indexed in Google. I'm so non-notable that they cannot find a picture of me anywhere on the web. It doesn't make any difference. When the teen-age admins on Wikipedia decide that someone needs to be punished for challenging their right to be anonymously obnoxious and invade my privacy, nothing stands in their
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stick_Fig (740331)
      That's because you're an extremist idiot and you are notable as a result. Just sayin'.
  • Fair use images (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stick_Fig (740331) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:30PM (#17093038) Homepage
    Wikipedia is falling under the bureaucratic knife here. Currently there is a major campaign being put on from a handful of editors to remove fair use images -- that is, free to use but copyrighted -- in favor of copyright-free images. They've removed something like 30,000 fair use images from biographical articles and have been replacing them with lower-quality photos. In one case, they tried to use a really atrocious cell phone photo instead of a promotional shot. Jimbo Wales for some reason supports this insanity.

    Bureaucracy is slowly turning Wikipedia into a not-very-fun place. Editors are ruining great articles by being too overzealous. The notability thing is just one example.
  • Info Junkies (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @06:33PM (#17093058) Homepage Journal
    Worthless junk? That's what Slashdot and the Uncyclopedia [uncyclopedia.org] are for.
  • ...on a talk page there recently, Wikipedia is run by a legion of genuinely soulless pedants. It's also entirely safe to assume, as the Post says in TFA, that such people are completely devoid of lives. Wikipedians are the type of people who, when they do manage to find employment, it's invariably in such glorious fields as tax collection or accounting.

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