Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Wikipedia Conundrum

You've probably noticed how often the links in my posts are to a Wikipedia article. It's like when you google and the search engine puts Wikipedia's information in a fact box, or Apple’s Siri replies with it to answer your question. They're an easy link to include to give you more information. 

I know it's not the highest scholarly source. Some articles don't even cite quality references for you to verify. Yet there is no other free resource like it. 

There are things you should know about Wikipedia itself if you don't already. 

Wikipedia's noble goal is to eventually cover every knowledgeable topic in the world. This impossible mission has made it a top ten most searched website in the world. 

But did you know Wikipedia was not the first online encyclopedia? Seven others attempted it first. And Wikipedia began as part of one of them, Nupedia

Also, Wikipedia's operation is unique. It works through a volunteer gaggle and without traditional advisory boards or editors. A contributors' pool that is prompt, authoritative and effective. 

But this force is shrinking while Wikipedia's needs have increased. Its articles have grown in length. Plus it must also defend against the worlds vandals and manipulators.

To revitalize it Wikipedia's owner developed legal and technical ways to adapt its website and software to handle this. It created new editing tools and vetting procedures. And their automatic programs now reverse incorrect format changes and warn probable vandals they're caught. These stiffer quality control measures reduce shams and hoaxes making things better for you and me, the reader and the blogger.

But the writers using Wikipedia the most Facebook, Twitter, corporations, and blogger have also consumed Wikipedia's goal. They're providing information to the world directly. Deterring it from reaching the goal it had when it began in 2001. 

If you are an SCA expert it's possible you unearthed information causing you to disagree with a Wikipedia article. Its information is not guaranteed. Its content and contributors aren't held accountable in the way peer-reviewed journals do. 

In SCA documentation and research I consider Wikipedia in the "trust by verify" category. Believe the article but check the facts. And the bibliography in that article is the place for you to start.

As much as I use Wikipedia to jumpstart SCA projects and create blog links I hope it is around for ages. Even so, this could be the best free encyclopedia we will ever get. 

Related Prior Post: 
Resource Mining  
SCA Curiosity And The Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Related External Webpage: 
The contribution conundrum: Why did Wikipedia succeed while other encyclopedias failed?
The Decline of Wikipedia

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