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Is Wikipedia Failing? 478

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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  • Re:Not really (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:04AM (#18010906)
    "But someone could edit that page and change it!" Oh, right. Now I've linked to the static page. 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.

    That hardly seems like a reasonable alternative. How do you know which of the many "old versions" to link to? What if useful content was added later? What if the facts that you cited actually were incorrect/incomplete and it was corrected later on? I think the issues go far deeper than you are giving them credit for.
  • Re:Not really (Score:2, Informative)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:11AM (#18010952)

    Wikipedia's job is to let people look something up quickly.
    Surely there is a second part to that - to let people look something up quickly and get accurate information. Wikipedia itself says that high quality is one of its goals [], so your assessment of Wikipedia's function does not match what the Wikipedia community itself claims to be attempting. It is the quality, not the quickness of access, that is coming under question.
  • Re:The problem... (Score:3, Informative)

    by RufusFish ( 253008 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:19AM (#18011052)
    Nominating? They're pretty much expelling them through the rapid deletion without any nomination process. I think the tide might be turning due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction from the communities that surround the web comics, but the stories I've been following, they articles are having to be resurrected after a quick delete.
  • by Larry Sanger ( 936381 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:34AM (#18011258) Journal
    Hey, we badly want to be open to the world! But it's expensive!

    I can make a little announcement. Wikis are huge resource hogs, so to grant just read access to wiki pages indiscriminately will require more resources than the big souped-up but single server we have at present. Quite frankly we have been holding out for an infusion of funds for sixteen servers. It's clear now that we can launch with less than that, with a number that we can afford with our very limited present budget. So we'll be bravely forging ahead with an only temporarily adequate number of servers!

    The Citizendium wiki [] will be launching for public read access as soon as (1) we get a few new servers set up (it'll be a small enough number to be within our budget), and (2) we make a few technical changes (e.g., change the "Citizendium Pilot" namespace to "Citizendium"; and lots of other stuff).

    Now, when will that be? Not sure; now it's a matter of getting and setting up the equipment and making those software changes, and it's impossible to predict how long it will take to do this, as we are mostly relying on volunteers (and one part-time contracter) to work on our software. But on the order of weeks, not months. If you want to help us with the software stuff, I bow to your geekiness and invite you to our forge [].

    Hope that clarifies our situation anyway.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @10:46AM (#18011392) Homepage Journal
    However, doing so would piss off a significant portion of their user base. []
  • You get... Wikiality (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:00AM (#18011544)
    I believe the term, as coined by Stephen Colbert, is Wikiality.
  • by dunc78 ( 583090 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:12AM (#18011688)
    I assume CV = Curriculumn Vita (aka a very thourough resume). Just thought others may be wondering what CV is as I just recently found out what a CV is or the other option is that I am just stupid.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Informative)

    by infaustus ( 936456 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:40AM (#18012072)
    While wikipedia articles on evolution and global warming aren't actually that bad, you're ignoring the huge number of non-controversial science and mathematics articles on wikipedia. Non-controversial!=trivial. These articles tend to be very thorough and reliable.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Informative)

    by DJCacophony ( 832334 ) <(moc.t0gym) (ta) (akd0v)> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:43AM (#18012104) Homepage
    This "citizendium" is nothing like Wikipedia, specifically because it does not allow anonymous editing. It doesn't even allow anonymous viewing. They made people register just to SEE the site, simply because they wanted to boost their registered user count to look like they are actually a notable website, instead of just another wiki.
  • by Froze ( 398171 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @11:51AM (#18012238)
    Maybe this idea has been proposed and shot down, but...

    Please comment with any constructive criticism you may have.

    The basic problem is how to know if an article is trustworthy or not. This solution is based on the philosophy that respect is a personal choice, not an authoritarian decree.

    In my opinion this can be solved with a system that is not terribly different than the slashdot friend/foe idea.
    Basically you just create a system that is capable of tracking your "friends" opinion of a particular state of an article, and maybe your friends friends to a specifiable distance.

    In a Nut Shell: Abe looks at an article and votes that it is accurate. Betty looks at the same article at a later time and also thinks it is accurate, then Betty is given the option to include Abe in her list of peers. repeat for users C. D. E. ... If anyone disagrees they just don't include Abe et al. in their list of peers. Eventually there will be clusters of people who all agree on a particular representation of the information. When Betty looks at another article and sees that Abe approved of it then there is a reasonable degree of certainty that the material is acceptable. Betty is also given a view of (if any) differences that have been inserted since Abe signed off on the article and can approve or not of each change. Abe and Betty can automatically reciprocate with regard to the information.

    Once this is set up, users can subscribe to "peer clusters" with a given radius of friends of peers. Eventually you will have well recognized and respected groups of friend/peer/editors that are then the de facto authority on any set of articles. As an arbitrary user you can view the article in either the latest edit or the latest reviewed edit and determine for yourself if you agree with any changes.

    Now, there is the possibility of waring peer clusters, in which case the user simply determines which faction they agree with and no further action by an oversight committee is required. In short, since this is user based content, let the users decide who they trust. "Of the People, by the people, and for the people".
  • by Spaceman40 ( 565797 ) <> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:27PM (#18012756) Homepage Journal

    They made people register just to SEE the site,...

    Just a note: The citizendium will be opened to the public [] after the public launch. The pre-release registration is to keep people from happening upon it before the general release -- sort of a voluntary beta test.

    While I'm rather neutral about the entire concept, this seems to be a common misconception about their model. Hope you check it out when it goes public.
  • by Gracenotes ( 1001843 ) <wikigracenotes@gma i l . com> on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @12:33PM (#18012844)
    Actually, the foundation [] that runs Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wiktionary, and the like does currently have six staff members []. By "free", Wikipedia means that its content can be freely distributed, and nothing else really, although Wikipedia does lean towards free, open source software (it runs on MediaWiki []). Having several paid encyclopedia-writers could be troubling, though, because it promotes inequality and even envy in the community, possibly driving away or discouraging those that put their free time into improving Wikipedia, or promoting elitism. Check out this page [] for a perspective on that; and think of the further problems that would result if this forced elitism applied to article writers!

    Often, it's easier to write a featured article about something like this [] than something like this []. As far as I am aware, there have been no repeat Featured Articles on the Main Page, so that means that featured articles keep on coming... but some are also being defeatured due to quality concerns. There was a net gain of four featured articles this week—gained nine, lost five. Often vandalism gets in the way of constructive article writing, and people have to spend more time on that, rather than on content-producing.

    Finally, one of the goals of featured articles [] is to get an article to a place where it is incorruptible... but not unimprovable. (Motivation is another goal.) So if someone helped bring an article to featured status, they might notice [] any factual errors that were introduced. Wikipedia certainly has dynamic... but it's losing some of that. With a team of vandal-fighters and no content-writers, Wikipedia will only be able to preserve integrity -- not improve it.
  • by AxelBoldt ( 1490 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @02:43PM (#18014632) Homepage

    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.
    When reading Wikipedia articles on controversial topics, you also have to look at the article's history and the article's Talk page. If you do that, you are likely to get a much richer picture of the debate and the positions and rhethoric of the involved parties than you could ever get from more traditional sources, such as Encyclopaedia Britannica or The New York Times. Articles on controversial topics, if read together with their history and their Talk pages, are the big strength of Wikipedia.
  • by AxelBoldt ( 1490 ) on Wednesday February 14, 2007 @05:24PM (#18016630) Homepage

    but it seems very unlikely that the current course of action is going to sustain Wikimedia for the duration.
    Well it seems not unlikely to me, given that it has worked wonderfully for the last six years, donations keep increasing and traffic is leveling off []. Obviously the Wikimedia chairperson has to say things that bring in donations, but based on their own numbers, they need only $75,000 per month [] to pay salaries, hosting and bandwidth, so they are good to go until at least April 2008, even if donations completely dry up.

    Advertising is immoral because it raises demand and therefore raises everybody's prices, even for those people who don't benefit from Wikipedia. I prefer that only people who like Wikipedia pay for it.

Loose bits sink chips.