Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wikipedia's Bad Rap

The little encyclopedia that could is finally getting the last laugh.

Does anyone else remember for pretty much every single paper we ever had to write in high school, our teachers telling us that we needed like ten sources?  Oh by the way, Wikipedia doesn't count.  I don't know about you guys, but I'm nearly choking on the irony now.

First of all, many pages, especially the ones that we would've had to write papers about, have at least ten reliable sources who offered the information on the page.  This, of course, begs the response, "But Joe, what about all the people who post incorrect information?"  I look at this practically.  First of all, people who edit Wikipedia pages are either nerds (affectionately: smart people) who know a ton about the topic and wouldn't post incorrect information, PR peons who are focused on pumping up and cutting down certain things, or morons who are just writing to see what they can get by Wikipedia's editors.  I will deal with each group in turn.

To the first group: thank you.  You have simplified my search for information tremendously, and it's time someone recognized you for all your hard work Web-crawling and data-mining.  Keep up the effort, in the information age you're making the world go round.

To the PR sharks, I appreciate what you're trying to do.  I understand you have a job to do.  However, I'm trained with a pretty good opinion sensor, and I hope you'll understand that your unsolicited viewpoints permeating the factual information I seek is useless to my life and my paper.  As such, the best case scenario is that it will be ignored; the worst case it will be reported or, even worse, backfire in my mind driving me away from your product.  A simple fact check allows us to handle the opinion dealers.

The morons dont get a response.

Finally, I just wanted to share a thought that I just had.  The New York Times is one of the most credible sources that our teachers could have asked for.  If the Times is wrong, it takes time for them to offer a correction.  Wikipedia?  Could be fixed in a matter of minutes.  Just throwing it out there.

1 comment:

  1. On the point about ten sources, each of those sources may well have other sources, and those sources have other sources, so it is a question of level.