Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wikipedia - separating baby from bathwater

A week ago I wrote an article that was critical of the Wikipedia entry on David Munrow, and that also questioned whether the collaborative ethos behind Wikipedia could survive the increasingly biased entries that were appearing.

The following email appeared in my inbox tonight.

* From : S. de Silva
To : 0vergrownpath

Subject : [On An Overgrown Path] 2/16/2006 09:27:23 PM

I'm grateful that you brought this problem with Wikipedia to our attention. Still, in my opinion it's too soon to give up on the Wikipedia concept.

Here is a possibility that the managers of Wikipedia should consider: If a contribution appears to cross the line between analysis and prejudice, the comment could remain, but be identified as opinion, and labeled with the name of the author. Of course, there has to be a mechanism for accomplishing this.

Many of the articles in encyclopedias have been highly biased in the past; if they had not been signed by an "authority", they would have been considered highly prejudiced. (Consider articles on Germany in Britannica during and immediately after WW2.) Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
*

The problem I see with this suggestion is that Wikipedia will simply become a repository for rants, with a few factual entries mixed in. Surely it has to be fact or fiction, not a mix of the two? 'Drama-documentaries' have been the ruin of intelligent TV, please don't let Wikipedia go the same way. And I am not too sure that the defence that bias is OK because encyclopedias have always been biased holds much water. So the jury is still very much out on whether collaborative working can survive the gerrymandering of US Senators and others. But is great to know that the Wiki guys read the right blogs, and are taking notice.

Image credit - Babycentre.co.uk
Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Wikipedia is remix

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