[Web4lib] The Wikipedia Gotcha
Rob.Styles at talis.com
Wed Feb 21 07:45:14 EST 2007
Let's also consider though how the two systems - journals and Wikipedia
- handle failures in the integrity of the work.
If I reference a Journal that has incorrect material in it both my
reference to the material and the material itself remain static. More
up-to-date material has no effect and the link remains intact in
perpetuum. An interested party reading my paper and following my
reference will not necessarily find any superseding publications.
If I reference (in print) an article on Wikipedia that has incorrect
material in it my reference may remain static but the material need not.
The article can be updated to reflect new information, corrections,
citations of newer sources. If my article achieves notoriety for,
perhaps, misquoting or misrepresenting the meaning of the Wikipedia
article the article can supplemented to correct and specifically address
visitors arriving from my reference. Those interested in what was
contained on Wikipedia at the time of my reference can refer to the
history and make their own conclusions.
In short, web-based material is able to recover from mistakes in a way
that printed material is not.
I'm not a huge fan of Wikipedia, but the medium (the web) has very
different and interesting dynamics.
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org [mailto:web4lib-
> bounces at webjunction.org] On Behalf Of Jakob Voss
> Sent: 21 February 2007 11:48
> To: web4lib at webjunction.org
> Subject: Re: [Web4lib] The Wikipedia Gotcha
> Richard Wiggins wrote:
> > What that episode caused me to realize is this:
> > -- Since anyone can publish an article on any topic, the Wikipedia
> > will grow ad infinitum. By contrast, a print encyclopedia has a
> > and articles on very obscure topics won't get published. The
> > will never offer a long tail of very obscure articles.
> There is also a lot of nonsense and obscure topics published in books
> and journal articles. So should we blame the "book and journal
> The error lies in pointing to Wikipedia as an authority - that's like
> telling "I read it in a book" or "a friend told me".
> > -- An article on an obscure topic won't be checked, and will live to
> > cited as authority someday when finally someone stumbles on it.
> If it will be cited as an authority then there was probably no better
> reliable, accesible, and comprehensible source to cite. The problem is
> not Wikipedia but lack of open access and transparent science in this
> obscure topic.
> > -- Therefore, where Wikipedia fails is in the long tail. And it will
> > an ever-growing, ever-longer tail of falsehood.
> Yes there will always be errors in Wikipedia but I am not sure whether
> it really growths. Maybe it's the case in English Wikipedia where
> Turtles get their own articles and uncited single sentences are marked
> as "article stub" instead of deleting it, but there are other
> where quality is valued more than quantity.
> By the way there are also standards of quality in Wikipedia:
> Alain D. M. G. Vaillancourt wrote:
> > Gentlemen (and ladies) we are not dealing with a mammal here, but
> > a giant amoeba, with no easily discernible head or tail and with a
> > rich symbiotic mass of life within its body. It's a social animal,
> > but not the kind who's going to lick your fingers when you come home
> > or go into the barn.
> Thanks for this wonderful quote!
> > My best source of fun in the latter comes from a study that came out
> > as an article titled "'Memex' as an image of potentiality in
> > information retrieval research and development" by Linda C. Smith.
> > her study Linda C. Smith showed, by a thorough analysis of those
> > articles which cited Vannevar Bush's 1945 "As We May Think" article,
> > that shcolars quoted what they wanted in order to prove what they
> > wanted regardless of the original intent of the author, Vannevar
> > and the presence of contradictory statments in other places in the
> > text.
> I included this information in the German Wikipedia article on
> Frankly speaking I have not read Linda's article. So am I a bad
> Wikipedia editor? Do I add falsehood to Wikipedia? Will readers trust
> Wikipedia because they trust me as a Wikipedia editor and I trust you
> you and you trust Linda and Linda trusts her own research?
> Jakob Voss
> P.S: People would like to have a reliable leader they can blindly
> in aspect. Wikipedia does not even pretent to be such a guide! There
> warning signs, you should know that everyone can edit etc. - but
> still want it to be an omniscient source - maybe thinking and
> uncertainty is just too uncomfortable?
> Web4lib mailing list
> Web4lib at webjunction.org
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