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Is Wikipedia Failing? 478

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the everybody-successful-is-failing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A growing number of people are concerned about where Wikipedia is heading. Some have left Wikipedia for Citizendium, while others are trying to change the culture of Wikipedia from within. A recent essay called Wikipedia is failing points out many of the problems which must be solved with Wikipedia for it to succeed in its aim of becoming a reputable, reliable reference work. How would you go about solving these problems?"
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Is Wikipedia Failing?

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  • The problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brennanw (5761) * on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:46AM (#18010736) Homepage Journal
    ... is that they're too busy nominating webcomic articles for deletion to bother updating anything else.
  • by minus_273 (174041) <{moc.oohay.MAPS} {ta} {aaaaa}> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:49AM (#18010772) Journal
    of course having people work specifically on wikipedia requires money. It cant be free and have employees at the same time. The amount of money raised right now is hardly enough. I guess this is the point where idealism meets the real world.
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:49AM (#18010780) Journal
    Wikipedia's job is to let people look something up quickly. Need to know who the 23rd vice-president was? It's Adlai Stephenson. [wikipedia.org]
    "But someone could edit that page and change it!"
    Oh, right. Now I've linked to the static page. [wikipedia.org]
    That part seems rather hard for some people to grasp, considering how many times I've seen that used as a justification for "thou shalt not cite" bullshit.
    However, in some cases, "thou shalt not cite" is correct, not just based on reactionary BS- Wiki articles are sourced. If you cite a sourced statement from a Wiki article, you should really be citing it from the original... which is conveniently linked at the bottom of Wikipedia.
    Wikipedia isn't failing at this. It's doing this remarkably well. The failing is in reactionary academics who feel threatened by Wikipedia, and the perception these people cause.
  • by fudgefactor7 (581449) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:51AM (#18010792)
    I actually suggested this several times to them, each time it was shot down because apparently consensus is better than expertise. What happens when you have 1000 laymen hack on an article and not one of them is an actual expert is you get a close approximation of fact diluted by bias and misunderstanding.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGregory ... t ['Pal' in gap]> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:52AM (#18010796) Homepage
    Well, since I have to create an account with Citizendium just to look at the articles, I'm not too worried about it overtaking the Wikipedia just yet.

    -CGP [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • by 2TecTom (311314) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:54AM (#18010816) Homepage Journal
    IMHO, the time has come for wikipedia to return to its origins before it's too late. What made it work was its openness, now people think it can be "saved" by closing it up?

    In truth, the biggest problem with wikipedia has nothing to do with wikipedia. The problem is us, especially our greed. Article after article has become slanted by those with a special, i.e. greedy, interest. Many controversial issues have already been editoralized into one-sided oblivion.

    Top down is not going to help, so I say avoid the temptation to let the "experts" decide what we should be able to freely consider.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:57AM (#18010850)
    20 Reasons not to edit Wikipedia

    This is what I've come up with after a very short period of editing Wikipedia.

    1. Endless arguments on Talk pages. Apparently more work on Talk pages than actual pages.
    2. I'm most able to write about what I'm an expert in. That's also a conflict of interest.
    3. Reverts may undo useful changes. There are no merge-based undos, no simple application of a diff between two revisions.
    4. Improving free and open source software is both more visible and important.
    5. Publishing articles in peer-reviewed venues is more important, although less visible.
    6. Lack of a good, canonical, reference and citation system like BibTeX.
    7. Popular topics end up better written than unpopular topics. Many entries on fictional worlds.
    8. My work might get deleted altogether.
    9. Wikipedia is generally not citable itself. Not reviewed, and contents are not constant.
    10. There is no correspondance between the different language versions of a page.
    11. GFDL is possibly not the best license. I doubt most people have read it.
    12. Software screenshots must be low resolution unless the software is open source.
    13. Certain topics are taboo, e.g. Encyclopaedia Dramatica
    14. If I'm an IP address, nobody cares. If I use my real name, I have to be careful what I write. If I use a pseudonym and hide my identity, it carries less weight.
    15. Decentralization. It is doubtful that even a fraction of people take the time to read the relevant guides on editing.
    16. Same problems that USENET, mailing lists, and forums have.
    17. Neutral point of view confounded by fact that most people here are fairly left wing.
    18. Most people editing don't have any formal training in writing beyond high school. Most articles and topics need work.
    19. Vandalism, and pseudo-vandalism.
    20. Almost every other leisure activity I can think of is more rewarding; Wikipedia is just addictive.

    2 reasons to use Wikipedia

    1. It's generally better than a Google search.
    2. If you're a cultural anthropologist, here's a minefield.

    2 reasons to edit Wikipedia

    1. It's a great place to practice your translation skills.
    2. Most anything you write here appears near the top of a Google search.
  • Too Late to Fail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:59AM (#18010864) Homepage Journal
    Meanwhile, most people with a clue have heard about Wikipedia, but not about these others. Wikipedia is now an established brand. That status, more than any functional superiority (or even competence) defines Wikipedia as the success. Its problems will be solved (or not), but it's got its audience.

    Even if the competitors are superior, they will have to compete with Wikipedia's brand. Their superiority will have to be more easily communicated than Wikipedia's (eg. a better name, like "Google" vs "AltaVista") to actually beat them. It's a meme pool, and swimming counts more than smarts.

    Wikipedia is no different from any other large Website: its success is defined by its scale of users, not its quality. As if you couldn't tell that by looking at Slashdot.
  • I don't get it.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:00AM (#18010868) Homepage
    Okay, maybe I missed some major shift over at Wikipedia but a little over a year ago, Slashdot reported [slashdot.org] that Nature magazine's comparison of a sample of 42 Wikipedia and Britannica articles found on average, Wikipedia had 4 errors per article while Britannica had 3, but on average, Wikipedia articles had 2.6 times as much content.

    So, from that point of view, I hardly see Wikipedia as a failing endeavor. There have been other studies that show Wikipedia to generally be quite accurate. There are exceptions, particularly in controversial topics which has been covered here a number of times, and maybe that needs to be fixed, but "Is Wikipedia Failing?" What is this? Fox News?
  • by mlewan (747328) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:00AM (#18010870) Homepage Journal
    I sick and tired of all this talk about making Wikipedia "reliable". We need something that quickly can be updated with interesting and potentially accurate information, which then needs to be verified against other sources by the reader. That's Wikipedia's niche. Let it stay that way.

    There is of course room for other slightly more reliable web encyclopaedias, but in the end all of them have to be verified by the reader to be trusted.

  • Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arcite (661011) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:01AM (#18010878)
    You get what you pay for. Sure, some experts may volunteer to edit a few articles in their off time, but that is hardly enough to make most entries anywhere near credible.

    I predict that WIKI will become more of a 'pop-culture' database. Forget reading properly researched and documented articles on 'global warming' or 'evolution'. Rest assured though, crazed fans will document every nuance of Babylon 5 or Star Trek info that exists. Want to know how many PIPs Data has on his shirt in the last season of stng? Go to wiki!

  • by Heian-794 (834234) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:03AM (#18010894) Homepage

    A related problem is the inevitable politicization of articles and their writers. If I want to read about George W. Bush, abortion, Christianity, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, etc., etc., I'm not going to trust Wikipedia because the article will be slanted one way now and the other way an hour from now.

    That being said, I find Wikipedia to be a wonderful resource for non-controversial pop culture (where there are many interested editors), all kinds of computer-related geekery (where there are interested and extremely capable editors), and simple but hard-to-find facts such as who the Chinese emperor or Pope was in a given year. Even sports-related articles, for which the intersection of internet writers and sports buffs is small, are improving.

    How can Wikipedia's biggest problem -- namely that the informed and the uninformed get the same publishing rights -- be solved without changing the nature of Wikipedia? A Slashdot-like karma system where editors with high karma can block those without from editing thei stuff?

    I suspect that Wikipedia's ultimate fate will be to abandon the idea of being a complete open encyclopedia. Either the "anyone can edit" ideal will be maintained, but without politically-divisive issues which will shift over to Citizendium or something more rigorous, or the openness will be sacrificed and a Britannica-style group of trusted editors will take the reins. Right now I'd prefer the former -- for all its faults, Wiki is a wonderful compilation of human knowledge. You just have to know what parts are unreliable.

  • From the Essay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGregory ... t ['Pal' in gap]> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:04AM (#18010908) Homepage
    There are about 1,300 featured articles. There are also about 1,700 good articles. However, there are currently 1,637,703 articles on Wikipedia. This means that slightly more than 99.8% of all the articles on Wikipedia are not considered well written, verifiable or broad or comprehensive in their coverage.

    This to me seems like the old most-blogs-are-terrible argument. I would wager that those 3,000 good/featured articles make up the bulk of what people who go to wikipedia read about.

    -CGP [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:10AM (#18010946) Homepage Journal
    A Slashdot-like karma system where editors with high karma can block those without from editing thei stuff?

    I actually really like this idea... A system where expertise can have a karma ranking system through either qualifications or community mediated promotion through contribution. This would allow experts in their fields to contribute without fear of having their contribution savaged by those who may not know what is going on.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:11AM (#18010958)
    Hate to say it, but Wikipedia could solve almost all their financial problems if they simply took on advertising. It wouldn't have to be anything too obtrusive (something like Google's targeted text ads would be enough). Bleeding out huge sums of cash and depending on a income strictly of donations is tough, especially when the rubber hits the road and it becomes apparent that you need a full time staff of editors.

    -Eric

  • by scottsk (781208) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:13AM (#18010982) Homepage

    This essay seems to be fixed on featured articles and big entries. To me the real advantage of wikipedia seems to be the huge number of small, concise leaf articles that aren't featured, and maybe rarely accessed, but provide a short, in-depth punch about a particular topic, typically an obscure one. You can look up obscure topics like the Dry Tourgas or As Easy As and get the gist. Typically, small articles are written by an expert and ignored in terms of editing, but very useful for research. If you type certain strings into google, you get the wikipedia entry and not much else worthwhile. Wikipedia is sort of a common repository of knowledge. I'd rather have an article written by someone who knows something about an obscure topic than nothing. No one can grasp or deal with the entirety of wikipedia. There's too much there. But if you need to look up something obscure, you can go directly to that article.

    What bothers me the most is all the web sites which clone wikipedia articles and add advertising. Ususually a google hit for a wikipedia entry turns up three or four other sites that just include the wikipedia article. This poisons the search engine, crowding out other hits. There ought to be a GPL version for wikipedia that allows people to mirror it only for nonprofit purposes. Down with leeches!

  • by robbarrett (84479) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:14AM (#18010992)
    Actually, most scholars contribute their writing for little or no direct compensation. In fact, some scholars pay journals to publish their articles. Instead of payment from the publishers, scholars are usually funded by their sponsoring organizations (e.g. universities, corporate research centers, etc.) to do high quality scholarship, which is funded by a variety of sources (e.g. student tuition, endowments, research grants, product profits).

    Publishing high quality work is simply part of the package of being a successful scholar. So the key to getting top notch scholars to work on wikipedia is to generate appropriate reputation feedback. If it is CV-able that I wrote the definitive wikipedia article in my field, there will be competition amongst scholars to do it.

    In my current field of biblical studies, scholars donate literally decades of work editing the critical editions of ancient texts, generating modern translations, writing commentaries, etc. without any additional compensation beyond their base pay. In my previous fields of physics, computer science, and computer-human interaction, the vast majority of top scholars receive very little direct compensation for the many articles, books, and reference book entries that they write. But they do receive scholarly acclaim for doing so -- and there is tremendous pressure from their sponsors to produce documentably important output.

    In my experience, professional drive, fame, and dedication to the scholarly field generally drive scholars more than money, after the basic bills are paid.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:19AM (#18011056)
    Even having to deal with competing views of experts and scholars WITHIN any given field is a nightmare. That's why textbooks produced by committee are so notoriously bland and thin. Getting two scholars who are on opposite sides of a debate to come to a consensus is all but impossible. Without one decisive voice, you either end up with with a babel or complete silence.

    -Eric

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:19AM (#18011058) Homepage
    But is there anyone here who can name one source where we would not be able to find a glaring error or even something that would be considered a flat out lie by a lot of people ?

    I mean even stuff like the BBC, that used to be the definition of reliable has been shown to flat-out lie about some topics. So maybe the problem is not with wikipedia, but with people demanding reliable sources.

    There aren't any reliable sources. Wikipedia, like the Britannica, like the Bible, like Muhammad's sayings like Shinto's roll's and like anything else is just a human's opinion. It is fallible, corruptible, incomplete, and potentially for sale.
  • by Neme$y$ (700253) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:32AM (#18011230) Homepage Journal
    Is Wikipedia succeeding in its aim of becoming a reputable, reliable reference work? To me Wikipedia is much more than an encyclopedia or a mere work of reference. Perhaps it fails the reliability test, but we must look at what it achieves. In as far at it is an experiment in the creation and indexing of information by millions of users around the world: it plain works. In as far as it is a first point of contact when doing your research: it works. In as far as it keep track of article audits: it works. Etc, etc, etc. It has taken centuries to get to where we are in terms of human knowledge. I don't know it will probably take about long time to get Wikipedia to where it's supposed to be. And it won't be by the efforts of some self-proclaimed "experts". (as an aside, if you want "reliable", whatever that means, you still have the Encyclopedia Britannicas of this world). Some are going to pull their hairs and give up at the state of Wikipedia affairs; but why don't the rest of us stick around for a decade or so, and see how this thing pans out?
  • by betasam (713798) <betasam@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:35AM (#18011266) Homepage Journal
    I see that Citizendium is uses the same Wikimedia engine. They use it with the authentication patch (which Wikipedia for "open" reasons has avoided.) There have been endless discussions on Wikipedia vs Encyclopedias. The one thing that stands out is, most Encyclopedias "restrict" information unless they can validate it. I know that "Consensus" in itself is not a part of Scientific method, but only the last resort when a conclusion cannot be reached. Any attempt to clone the success of an existing freely editable Encyclopedic Wiki (rather than an Encyclopedia itself) is bound to produce the same results. Changing those fundamental variables that made Wikipeida possible "freedom", "open", "editable" are known recipes for disaster.

    There have been numerous debates on whether Wikipedia is a valuable resource for Research. The answer is a yes. However it is not a resource that can be cited. Like numerous sites on the internet, it only points one to other material for further reading or introduces the random reader to theories that may not essentially be correct. Some people thought Wikipedia could become a fundamental instrument to facilitate research, resulting in their attempts to create "authentication", "article validation" and the likes. A book is only as good as its authors. Wikipedia is only as good as its contributors and consumers. An Encyclopedia is no different. That would explain why Encyclopedia Brittanica and Microsoft Encarta are so different. To put it simply, this article on EncycloPedia [wikipedia.org] is quite informative, yet you might not want to cite it if you are writing a thesis on them. You would need access to more Books and Information, such as those available in a Library. Wikipedia remains a source for quickly looking up information. In this usage, there are no substitutes, not even Google. It contains good pionters and sometimes Valid and credible reference material. The "Wikipedia Falling" story is simply a amplified reaction to what I term is the "Tower of Babel" effect. If there are too many people converging to one source, they tend to separate at some point; someone might understand this better. So as evolution always is, this shall happen. But Wikipedia isn't the Tower of Babel and it ain't falling.
  • Too much democracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FridayBob (619244) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:35AM (#18011274) Homepage
    Not everyone is an expert, yet at Wikipedia everybody gets an equal vote anyway. For any given field, there are alway far fewer experts than laymen. Yet Wikipedia does not give experts or otherwise reasonably knowledgeable individuals any credit whatsoever when it comes to making decisions regarding policy and content. As a result, excellent suggestions supported by solid and coherent arguments can always be voted away with simple replies, such as "No!"
  • Nuts! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:45AM (#18011382)
    Wikipedia is not broken. It works and works well for its intended purpose. It needs a little more editorial control and that's it. This issue has been rehashed over and over again here about using it as an authoritative source when it is really nothing more than a fact look-up and starting point for in depth research - like an encyclopedia (duh). This is all FUD to drive people to Citizendium.
  • by MMC Monster (602931) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:49AM (#18011426)
    Who doles out karma? It's fine here on /.. Over on wikipedia, just because you happen to know more about a subject that anyone else that is contributing, doesn't make you an expert. In fact, there are certain subjects (think: medical field) in which someone who believes that they know what they are talking about are causing more damage than they are really helping. Since no one else in wikipedia is more qualified in the subject, it's possible for wrong information to remain in the article for prolonged periods.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h2g2bob (948006) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:49AM (#18011432) Homepage
    Have you even read the global warming [wikipedia.org] article, or the evolution [wikipedia.org] article!? They're damn good - in fact the science articles are some of the best.

    Wikipedia is just like any other encyclopedia - it should not be used as evidence, but as a starting point to find out more.
  • by ameoba (173803) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:52AM (#18011448)
    If I were to write hundreds of innane, but interesting, articles on fluffy pop-culture bits to build up my 'cred', I could then weigh in on a serious topic & expect my earned credibility to carry over? Alternately, if I'm a newcomer and all the 'low-hanging fruit' have already been picked up, how am I supposed to get my initial reputation in order to lend any sort of permanence to my writings?
  • by GundamFan (848341) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:01AM (#18011552)
    OK so?

    These people need to grow up, ether support your precious community so it can remain the way it is or move on and let someone who can take your place. I'm sorry but if it "pisses you off" that it requires money to run a huge public website project (that some treat as there personal playground I might add) then maybe you can make up for the money.

    Besides ads on Wikipedia, given the usual high search results on Google, would be worth quite a bit of money so I doubt they would even need to put up that many.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:06AM (#18011618) Journal
    The problem is that it allows for opinion of the masses. When I was in genetics (early 80s), I noticed that to come up with radical experiments and /or conclusions, you either had to have a well known name or be published in small science rags. I just wonder if it would be possible to rate the sections. i.e. allow for sections that are controlled by the top appointed academicians (not necessarily, the top academicians in the fields), as well as the entry. This would allow for the average person to search the acceptable theory type pages while still allowing for others to enter into the field.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:08AM (#18011632)
    Disclaimer: I edit Wikipedia in my spare time with around 2000 edits so far.

    1. Endless arguments on Talk pages. Apparently more work on Talk pages than actual pages. ... and I'd argue that this is a good thing. Lots of work on talk pages generally means that the articles themselves are being carefully scrutinized for accuracy.

    2. I'm most able to write about what I'm an expert in. That's also a conflict of interest.
    Isn't this true everywhere else in life? You can write about anything you want, but unless you are an expert people won't listen to you, and justifiably so. Do you want non-experts contributing to articles that really do require expertise? I agree that there is a potential conflict of interest, but I don't see a way around it that doesn't put article quality in jeopardy.

    3. Reverts may undo useful changes. There are no merge-based undos, no simple application of a diff between two revisions.
    I agree that the diff system needs some serious improvement to make rolling back changes easier for editors. I need to look into browser extensions sometime to help me with this sort of thing.

    4. Improving free and open source software is both more visible and important.
    This is an opinion presented as fact. Personally I think creating a database of all human knowledge is more important than creating new software, although software needs to be there to help us, and I can contribute my programming skills to that small niche.

    5. Publishing articles in peer-reviewed venues is more important, although less visible.
    I agree that the peer-review process is important for many disciplines. Wikipedia isn't about original research; it's about summarizing what is already known - read the NOR policy.

    6. Lack of a good, canonical, reference and citation system like BibTeX.
    Yes, this needs improvement, and they need programmers. Want to help?

    7. Popular topics end up better written than unpopular topics. Many entries on fictional worlds.
    Articles about fictional worlds are valuable insofar as the relevant books, or summaries of them, may eventually become difficult to find, and they capture what humans were imagining at the time they were written. Of course popular articles will get more editorial attention and thus be better written, but I think this is true outside Wikipedia as well.

    8. My work might get deleted altogether.
    That's because your work might be nonsense. If you don't think it is, you have the option to talk about it on the Talk page and explain your reasoning.

    9. Wikipedia is generally not citable itself. Not reviewed, and contents are not constant.
    False. You can cite static versions of articles by using the "History" feature and copying the resulting URL. I don't know what you are looking for in "not reviewed", so I can't comment on that. The contents of static articles that you link to are in fact constant. The only articles that aren't constant are the current (read: most "bleeding edge") versions. Those can have problems, just like beta software.

    10. There is no correspondance between the different language versions of a page.
    Sometimes there is, and sometimes not. It depends on availability of translators. You could always ask someone on Wikipedia to translate it for you.

    11. GFDL is possibly not the best license. I doubt most people have read it.
    Agreed.

    12. Software screenshots must be low resolution unless the software is open source.
    Isn't this to avoid copyright problems? If so, that's just a legal impediment, not Wikipedia's fault. It's probably the case that other websites need special permission to post full-size screenshots.

    13. Certain topics are taboo, e.g. Encyclopaedia Dramatica
    Not familiar.

    14. If I'm an IP address, nobody cares. If I use my real name, I have to be careful what I write. If I use a pseudonym and hide my identity, it carries less weight.
    That goes with the territory. Do you expect to be able to anonymously say thi
  • by Catil (1063380) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:09AM (#18011638)

    Why has the system failed to produce a quality reference work?
    According to a survey by Nature Magazine in December 2005, Wikipedia performed better than Encyclopaedia Britannica. Out of 42 randomly chosen articles, experts found respectively six profounding mistakes in each reference, but Wikipedia scored slightly better in all other criterions. I don't think it got worse in the last year.
    So if Wikipedia isn't a quality reference work, then Britannica apparently isn't either.

    What can be done to change the system?
    Is radical change required, or just small adjustments to the current set-up?
    I guess Wikipedia will continue to constantly improve in many ways, but the system that everyone can edit anything should stay at all costs, even if some articles written by experts are sometimes edited by people who think they know it better, but unfortunately don't. At the end you will still have the biggest reference with the most recent informations available, just a day behind the news, which is a very big achievement on it's own. Here on Slashdot, every piece of news gets torn apart in the comments-section and often leave all those "well researched" articels with incorrectnesses behind. Wikipedia will probably always suffer from the same amount of false information.

    Does this matter, given that Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world?
    Of course it does, but this is not a problem as long as you understand two things:
    1. Wikipedia can only be accurate to a certain degree which, however, won't differ from any other reference work.
    2. Sometimes, especially on complicated topics, it will maybe only represent what the mayority thinks is correct.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:12AM (#18011692)
    I think Wikipedia does a good job for articles like "Newtonian mechanics" and "Pythagorean theorem". Some of the editors really understand the topic and have expertise, and the majority of editors will band together against a few stray editors who want to make unusual, non-encylopedic edits on these types of pages. Wikipedia has eight "master categories", and articles in these two fields, science and mathematics, are often among the best.

    On the other hand, on the other end of the spectrum are the categories History and Society. Wikipedia is horrible at such articles. You have two conflicting sides fighting over an article. Let's take a look at the current protected pages. "2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict" and "Taba Summit" are both protected. Semi-protected is "1972 Summer Olympics", "Zionism" and other similar articles. Israelis and Palestinians are shooting each other over there, and such a thing spills over onto Wikipedia. It even spills over onto Slashdot - the last time I said this about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on Slashdot, in a pretty neutral and moderate tone, someone lambasted me for "taking sides".

    Jimbo Wales is not politically neutral. He ran the Ayn Rand mailing list for years. His appointees to the Arbitration Committee are people like JayJG, who could not get voted in and who had over 100 votes against them during elections (including me). He says he uses Friedrich Hayek's theories as a model of how to run Wikipedia. He has personally harrassed people like Secretlondon. He is not a fanatic, or Wikipedia would have never taken off, but he is biased, and his bias is reflected. The Wikipedia "cabal" is sort of cultish - check out the Criticism of Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] page and how obsessed the "cabal" is with criticism they can not control. Dozens of people have tried to link to the Wikipedia Review web site and the link is removed over and over. It is really cultish behavior, the idea that criticism of Wikipedia can happen which they can't control drives them crazy.

    I know the society and history articles will always be crap, unless it's something like 1755 Lisbon Earthquake or something which no one cares much about any more. But by and large they are junk and not encyclopedic. The solution I think is for these types of articles to move onto other wiki encyclopedias. This has already happened. I've written a number of articles elsewhere that people put back into Wikipedia. Some of the ones I have done I know could never be put back because they are of the "Taba Summit" type. There is only one wiki encylopedia now, which makes sense, but this will not continue and in fact Wikipedia already has some minor competition in Demopedia, dKosopedia, Internet Encyclopedia (Wikinfo), Red Wiki, Anarchopedia and so forth. This trend will continue.

  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:25AM (#18011882)
    Wikipedia is at best flawed, at worst dangerous.

    It rejects "experts" in favor of consensus. Finding facts is not a democratic process. It is often an intrusive and offensive process. "Facts" have to be protected from people with ulterior motives.

    Most people think they are safe in a car from lightening because of the rubber tires. General consensus where critical thinking and science are involved is typically wrong.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:29AM (#18011940) Homepage Journal
    Ultimately any such decisions are in the hands of the Wikimedia foundation, and I don't pretend to speak for them. I do believe when your entire catalogue of products is produced by a set of volunteers, you do have to consider the opinions of said volunteers on matters like this. The users who declare their stance either for [wikipedia.org] or against [wikipedia.org] ads on Wikipedia are ensuring that the Foundation knows their feelings on the matter, leading hopefully to an informed decision. I don't see why people "need to grow up" for contributing what they can to this process.
  • by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:35AM (#18012024) Journal
    Let the logged in users vouch for "I've read through this revision and it looks OK to me", along with a rating of "How expert" they are in the field in question, and a comment.

    Ratings could be something like

    5. I'm a generally recognized expert working the field 4. I work in the field 3. I've studied the field at university/college level 2. I'm a generally interested bystander, having done self-study of the field to some depth 1. I'm a generally interested bystander having tried to follow the field for a few years

    Comments could be something like what sources you have checked against, or a deeper description of qualifications.

    Ratings like these would allow us to do a lot of stuff. We could turn users that seem to do a good job of voting in their particular areas (and staying off voting in other areas) into an officially sanctioned editorial board retroactively, for instance - by just giving their ratings weight. Or we could let people look at "Last version of article vouched for by a 5-authority", or show the differences from that version, or whatever we feel like.

    The important thing is to start collecting the data. And that can be done NOW, trivially.

    Eivind.

  • Re:Agreed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drsquare (530038) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:38AM (#18012056)
    Become? It's already at that state. Even serious, factual articles have huge sections at the end listing all the times they were referenced in Star Trek or Futurama.
  • by Grendel Drago (41496) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:39AM (#18012066) Homepage
    So, you decided against calling it Nupedia this time? Perhaps "Just As Good As Wikipedia Except I'm In Charge" next time? Or "Sour Grapes-o-Pedia"?

    I kid, I kid. Honestly, variety is good (insert Gnome/KDE flamewar here); we already have enough problems with Wikipedia articles being replicated around the internet so that it becomes hard to find anything else. There's a serious free-encyclopedia vacuum out there, and it can only help to have another batch of people doing work independently of Wikipedia.

    I think you're doomed to failure due to scalability issues and the likelihood of POV-pushing from your chosen elite, but I'd be very happy to be proved wrong on that one.
  • Re:The problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blincoln (592401) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:44AM (#18012112) Homepage Journal
    This is moderated funny (and it is), but it is also a good point. There is some awesome content on Wikipedia, but IMO they have their priorities all screwed up. (Again, IMO) if they allow sci-fi dorks to post reams of material on completely fictional topics, they have no basis for deleting any factual article, no matter how obscure or rarely-viewed.

    I wandered into an editorial discussion once on what a high school needed to do to qualify as "noteworthy" enough to not have an article about it deleted. I'm sorry, but any high school in the real world is more "noteworthy" than the Treaty of Algeron [wikipedia.org], Pikachu [wikipedia.org], or the E-Wing Starfighter [wikipedia.org].

    I really feel like Wikipedia is a brilliant idea that's going to be killed off or crippled by the nerdy bureaucrats who seem to control the editorial process. I know I have no interest in posting content there given their criteria for deleting articles.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:57AM (#18012314)
    I'm sorry but if it "pisses you off" that it requires money to run a huge public website project (that some treat as there personal playground I might add) then maybe you can make up for the money.

    Ads in themselves don't piss off the users, but it is the fact that many of them have already donated money in order to keep Wikipedia alive without commercial sponsorship.

    Imagine the outcry if NPR or PBS started having 5 minute commercial breaks even after they had all those annoying fund raisers they do.
  • by NickFortune (613926) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:04PM (#18012430) Homepage Journal

    OK so?

    It's a community project. If wikipedia pisses off too many of its contributors, the project will die. Some people would see that as a bad thing.

    These people need to grow up, ether support your precious community so it can remain the way it is or move on and let someone who can take your place.

    Do they?

    For one thing. the allegation that wikipedia is failing is far from proven; there may not be a problem to fix. For another, the wikipedians opposed to advertising are probably not the ones voicing doubts about the project's long term viability.

    It's also worth pointing out that the author of TFA seems to define failing as not achieving excellence as fast as he or she would like. So there doesn't seem to be any terribly compelling reason to make an unpopular change, while there are good reasons for leaving it as it is. "If it ain't broke..."

    Besides ads on Wikipedia, given the usual high search results on Google, would be worth quite a bit of money so I doubt they would even need to put up that many.

    In which case, I'd expect answers.com to be making Google scale money. They're keeping awfully quiet about it if they are.

  • by joto (134244) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:04PM (#18012434)
    The trouble is that wikipedia articles arent' "authored". They are "edited", by several wikipedians. Having written an excellent article, it can be unrecognizable a few months later. Academics that want CV-able material *could* continue to monitor their article forever, reverting harmful changes, and actively participating on the discussion page. However, this takes a lot of time, and is better suited for unemployed wikipedians. If you want to improve your CV, it would be better to write your articles only once, and be done with it. This can be done by writing real journal articles, real magazine articles, real books, real websites, or even real blogs.
  • by CrazyTalk (662055) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:10PM (#18012516)
    Except, if Wikipedia asipres to be a "real" enyclopedia, having advertising would adversely affect the objectivity (or percieved objectivity) of the site.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:16PM (#18012586)
    Real encyclopedias charge money to access their content.

    -Eric

  • by edremy (36408) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:26PM (#18012740) Journal
    Imagine the outcry if NPR or PBS started having 5 minute commercial breaks even after they had all those annoying fund raisers they do.

    As a long time NPR listener (and donator), they *do* have commercial breaks. Lots of them. I even bought some of them to advertise a speaker on our campus. Others are bought by local companies, or people who like to mention birthdays, anniversaries or the like. They tend to be low key- speech only by the announcer, no music, no screaming and I suspect that they are edited for taste, but they are most certainly ads.

    Do I like it? Of course not. But the alternatives on one side (no cash = no NPR) or the other ("Y'ALL GET DOWN TO JIM BOB'S TRUCK EMPORIUM RIGHT NOW!") are so bad that I'm happy to put up with it, even though I *also* donate money every year. Rational people know that running an enormous website or paying the electricity bill for a 50k watt transmitter costs real money and that you have to find some way to pay. If the bulk of Wikipedias find this idea distasteful they are welcome to try and find some other way of getting the money, but don't be surprised if you simply can't raise enough donations.

  • by jidar (83795) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:28PM (#18012758)
    Wikipedia needs to realize that it's not going to be a reputable source, ever. There is just no way you can be a good source of research and maintain public user submisssions. Not gonna happen.

    There is nothing wrong with that though.

    Wikipedia right now is a great resource that you have to take with a grain of salt, that is fine. It's great the way it is. If I want to know some bit of trivia then Wikipedia is the place, if someone makes a reference to something I'm ignorant about in a conversation for instance, or if I'm just mildly curious about something I read in a news article, I can at least find out what's going on with a quick check to Wikipedia. These are things that in the past I might have to search Google for and then possibly wade through a few pages of the things before I get to the bottom of it, now with Wikipedia my questions are usually answered much faster, easier, and more in depth than if I had just used Google.

    Now I realize that what I'm reading might be biased, someones opinion, and in a lot of cases just flat wrong, but that's okay because that would have been even more true with Google searches. I realize that if I really need hard information about a subject then Wikipedia is little more than a lead to actual references at best, but it still serves a purpose.

    If you ask me, the thing Wikipedia can do to improve would be to stop deleting articles because they aren't "notable enough". Seriously. Why the hell should there not be an entry for my local highschool in there? I know few people would want to read it, but so what? If Joe Johnson down at Johnsons gas station wants to write about the history of his family gas station, let him! Who is it hurting? Besides, I might know Joe and be interested in reading it.

  • by forgetmenot (467513) <atsjewellNO@SPAMonebox.com> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:34PM (#18012868) Homepage
    If you're aiming for low hanging fruit just to establish credibility, then I may be inclined to think you don't have anything credible to contribute, period.

    What wikipedia 'needs' and is failing to achieve, accordinging to the opinion in the link, are excellent quality articles in a few 'core' fields of knowledge that are considered necessary to be considered an encyclopedia. What does wikipedia does not need is yet another laymen with no specific area of expertise editing a lot of articles because he/she 'thinks' she writes well.

    If you are an expert in a given and you contribute articles pertaining to your field then it will show. No need to worry about establishing 'street cred'. By the same token, if you're an expert in your field and articles have already written for the things you're an expert on you can still contribute by helping preserve article's original quality (for example, by removing the laymen garbage that inevitable creeps in). Or you can sit back and do nothing, comfortable in the knowledge that your field is adequately covered. After all, sometimes the best contribution is knowing when something is good enough and just leaving it alone.
  • Re:The problem... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dyftm (880762) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:36PM (#18012904)
    Although creating an article seems to be free, it is not. Aside from the tiny actual cost of hosting it, there is a significant opportunity cost: time taken ensuring that it is up to scratch, free of vandalism, not violating copyrights etc. While (imo) Wikipedia's main strength is the long tail of articles about obscure subjects, a requirement of basic notability is reasonable. So then, the question is, are high schools notable? I would say yes, an institution that forms the main part of thousands of people's lives should count as notable. But an article detailing the maths building should not, unless there is some special reason.
  • Re:The problem... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jtheisen (893138) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:47PM (#18013086) Journal
    That's plausible. How many people know about or want to learn more about the three admittedly obscure things you mentioned? And how, in comparison, do so for a specific (presumably American) highschool?

    Would you also rule out articles about, say, fictional myths by Homer? Wikipedia, as any decent encyclopedia, is there to suit what people care about. It shouldn't make any judgement about how justified that interest is.
  • by StarvingSE (875139) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:55PM (#18013214)
    Not if you go to the library... how many people do you know that have a personal collection of encyclopedias in their household. Encarta doesn't count...
  • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:59PM (#18013282)
    Jimbo Wales is not politically neutral. He ran the Ayn Rand mailing list for years.

    It was hardly "the" Ayn Rand mailing list--in fact it was small and hated by most of the "objectivist" community, to the extent that IIRC members were banned from some other fora. In contrast to those closed-minded groups, Jimmy's MDOP list was the only forum available at the time where Rand's work was discussed intelligently by people who knew something about philosophy. It spawned a number of fruitful discussions and collaborations, some of which resulted in new and interesting work, and all of which any true-blue objectivist nutter would hate.

    So if by "ran the Ayn Rand mailing list" you mean Jimmy ran a productive and collegial list for the discussion of a famously contentious topic, then yes, he did indeed do that.
  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @01:01PM (#18013300) Homepage
    If the measure of Wikipedia's success is merely "A lot of people view and edit this site" then Wikipedia is successful on the same level as MySpace. And indeed, there are numerous parallels to be drawn between the two, which I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.

    However, if the measure of Wikipedia success is "Useful, timely, and relatively correct information" then the project is in danger of failing. Numerous articles are poorly written (I like to say that "This Wikipedia is NOT English), contain outdated information, or have content that is flat-out wrong. The oft-repeated mantra "anyone can edit it" doesn't seem to be the solution to these problems. Indeed, I'd offer that while it cuold help correct them, it is also the source of many of Wikipedia's problems.

    There are a number of possible solutions for the problems that Wikipedia has in the areas of utility and accuracy (all encyclopedia's have issues with currency) but I question whether the folks who "run" Wikipedia (the content contributors and editors) woul be willing to enforce the kind of processes necessary to fix them. I tend to be of the mind of an earlier poster who suggested that Wikipedia will eventually evolve into an encyclopedia of current events and entertainment trivia.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcgamez (40751) * on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @01:57PM (#18014062)

    Typically they fail to put things in context, use too much math too early, and focus on irrelevant equations and derivations rather than the important concepts.
    And how this is different from your average textbook?
  • by chris_eineke (634570) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @01:59PM (#18014088) Homepage Journal

    Not if you go to the library...
    Libraries are financed through taxes, or tuition, and donations.
  • by Gulthek (12570) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @02:31PM (#18014462) Homepage Journal
    And library fines.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @02:48PM (#18014692) Homepage
    People aren't making tons of money off of it?
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @03:11PM (#18014938) Homepage
    The only people who tend to take any notice of a high-school are located in a very small area surrounding the school. Unless someone gets killed in it.

    Star Wars, Star Trek and Pokemon, on the other hand, are all integrated into our culture, and we are likely to see references to them everywhere. References we might want to look up. That is noteworthy, and that is what an encyclopedia is for.

    Of your three examples, the E-Wing probably shouldn't be included, it is from "the expanded universe", which has a much lower impact. The Treaty is borderline, the Romulans is an important race, but not one everybody knows. Pikachu should obviously be there, it is the most recognizable figure from the Pokemon universe.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EsbenMoseHansen (731150) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @03:16PM (#18014994) Homepage

    but a real encyclopedia is full of good articles.

    You obviously personally feel something for the good old encycleopedia, and find them very useful. In my personally experience, a encyclopedia is full if outdated stuff, and lots of worthless history. To me, they were only marginally use, and are now only a curiosity. The difference is probably related to differences in our interests, and I do not bemoan these differences.

    However, I do find arguments about Wikipedia's usefulness a bit weird. It is obviously useful for a lot of people. It is so because it is correct or close enough (almost) all the times those people have looked something up, otherwise those people would've been burnt too often to find it useful. So... from where I am standing, you are arguing with facts, which is a foolhardy thing to do. Unless you are religius, anyway.

    Note that I am sure that your description is true from your point of view... but you seem to have this idea that because wikipedia is useless for you, it must be useless for everybody. I have made countless of lookups on wikipedia, often as starting points, and I have yet to encounter an article that turned out to be wrong. Thus it is useful to at least one person --- and I happen to know a few more people that find it useful.

    I am sorry you feel that wikipedia is dragging other encycleopedias through the dust... but "an online encycleopedia that everyone can edit" describes wikipedia so concisely and precisely that you will just have to live with it. I don't think any users of wikipedia is unaware of the "anyone can edit" part, nor do I truly believe that they are not aware of the consequences of this, or the difference betwen the old hide and paper work (which these days probably are hide and paper no more).

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @04:43PM (#18016082) Homepage
    A lot of the Wikipedia bashers and nay-sayers have one unique problem: they don't get it. They want academic rigor and precise accuracy in something that is not edited exclusively by academics, experts and elites. Wikipedia is a look in to the hive mind of humanity - and reflects the daily winds of change in the common consensus and the fact that people perceive reality differently.

    Wikipedia isn't broke and I hope it stays donation supported for a long time.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by raphae (754310) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @04:47PM (#18016140)
    Interesting what people say here, because I have found that the discussions [wikipedia.org] around controversial subjects [wikipedia.org] are precisely one thing that Wikipedia has which makes it more useful than standard encyclopedias and other reference sources. They add a whole new meta level so that you can see not only information about a topic, but how that information itself can itself become interpreted as being politicized or prone to distortions and influences.

    Not only do you get information about a topic, it can take you into a whole other sociological dimension about a subject.

    One other thing I would add here, is that it was not until only very recently that I myself registered with Wikipedia in order to be able to make minor edits and cleanups of web pages, after seeing some with bad edits, vandalism, or minor typos which annoyed me enough to want to fix them. Now that Wikipedia has been around for a while it may take time for "late adopters" like myself who have begun to rely on Wikipedia a lot to become motivated to the point where they bother to register and learn some basic wiki markup. Maybe the snowball still has a long way to roll.
  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @06:04PM (#18017096)
    Wikipedia can't reasonably be the repository of all human knowledge. At a certain point, the storage costs exceed the usefulness to the general public. It's just a matter of practicality. I have a feeling that Wikipedia would simply collapse under it's own weight if it were flooded with a significant portion of the world's minutia / trivia.

    Besides, nowadays, it shouldn't be too hard to look up the name of a specific school - just Google it. What information would Wikipedia provide that a direct link to the school's home page couldn't provide?
  • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HuguesT (84078) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @07:48PM (#18018138)
    Perhaps you could edit it yourself a little bit to make it more pedagogical and less useless ?
  • by DavidShor (928926) <supergeek717.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @08:57PM (#18018830) Homepage
    If they are using Google ads, then advertisers have no idea whether they are advertising on Wikipedia or not. Care to explain Google ads will compromise independence?
  • Re:Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chucken (750893) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @09:24PM (#18019084)
    Generalizations are always dangerous ...

    Nice generalization there, chum.
  • by Spazmogazm (231171) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @12:01AM (#18020074)
    Why not have an option to view adds. Then it's sort of like I'm donating my willingness to view a few adds on the site rather than sending in cash.
  • by DavidShor (928926) <supergeek717.gmail@com> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @08:59PM (#18033152) Homepage
    "That's a loss of the business, not of the consumer. Advertising harms the consumer."

    No, it is a loss to society.

    "The ad just increased the price of pogo-sticks for the rest of us."

    Yes, by keeping knowledge of pogo-sticks secret. If the person is kept from buying his pogo-stick, then the economy is no longer Pareto-optimal. This is... unpleasant.

    "As an industry produces more, the cost per item goes down, obviously. That doesn't mean that the price per item goes down; it just means that profit goes up. No rational business (and certainly not the market as a whole) will lower prices in the face of increased demand. Increased demand means: consumers are willing to buy more items at a given price. The rational (i.e. profit-maximizing) answer to increased demand is to increase price."

    In a monopoly/oligopoly perhaps. But in a competitive market, increased demand will cause cost of production to decrease, which in turn will cause a increase in production. In the long term, the increase in production from every firm leads to higher supply and lower prices.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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