December 16, 2005

In defence of Wikipedia

The Wikipedia/Britannica comparison in Nature has been much in the blogospheric news lately (here for example), and Will Richardson points to a very nice summary of the main issues by Danah Boyd. I'll quote the paragraph before Richardson quotes:

I am worried about how academics are treating Wikipedia and i think that it comes from a point of naivety. Wikipedia should never be the sole source for information. It will never have the depth of original sources. It will also always contain bias because society is inherently biased, although its efforts towards neutrality are commendable. These are just realizations we must acknowledge and support. But what it does have is a huge repository of information that is the most accessible for most people. Most of the information is more accurate than found in a typical encyclopedia and yet, we value encyclopedias as a initial point of information gathering. It is also more updated, more inclusive and more in-depth. Plus, it's searchable and in the hands of everyone with digital access (a much larger population than those with encyclopedias in their homes). It also exists in hundreds of languages and is available to populations who can't even imagine what a library looks like. Yes, it is open. This means that people can contribute what they do know and that others who know something about that area will try to improve it. Over time, articles with a lot of attention begin to be inclusive and approximating neutral. The more people who contribute, the stronger and more valuable the resource. Boycotting Wikipedia doesn't make it go away, but it doesn't make it any better either.

I must admit I'm on the Wikipedia side for this one. No reference source is perfect, the all have some bias, some inaccuracies. It seems to me if all the world's experts actually contributed to Wikipedia instead of complaining that it isn't any good...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love wikipedia, even when it's wrong.

Check out this joint wikipedia/google search thingy
I made for a home page.