Sunday, September 10, 2006

a couple thoughts on Wikipedia

Well, I know our Blog post for this week is supposed to concern a website's HTML, but I was doing the reading for Tuesday and a couple thoughts hit me about Wikipedia so i figured I'd share them with whoever wants to read them. I mean, that is what Blogs are for, right? Our thoughts, as they come, whenever they come, on whatever topic...

First, it is this idea of the new "casual relationship to truth" (from Stacy Schiff's New Yorker article, "Know It All: Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?" in the July 31, 2006 issue) or what Stephen Colbert would call, "truthiness" (see The Colbert Report on Comedy Central at 11:30pm ET, Mon-Thurs). This worries me that we have gotten so loose with the truth, but I am unsure how "new" of a problem this is. Now, with the Internet and the information at everyone (with a computer)'s fingertips, I guess misinformation is easier to spread as fact than it used to be. But this isn't some new idea, so let's not treat it as such.

Second, and more important for Schiff's article and history in general, is the accuracy of the online encyclopedia. According to Schiff, the magazine Nature compared 42 entries on scientific topics to those found in Britannica. The results: Wikipedia had 4 errors for every 3 in Britannica. Schiff says this was "hailed as a triumph" and I can see why. A) Wikipedia is only 5 years old whereas Britannica is 200 years old, and B) the method of making entries in Wikipedia being so populous. Then I thought, but this is science...and while science is by no means set (I remember how fluid it was when I was taking all those Quantum Physics classes in college), it is much more so than the humanities, including of course, history. So, what is their vallidity in those areas? (Also, is 42 entries really enough for a comprehensive survey???)

so, just some thoughts...


At 11 September, 2006 21:58, Blogger J.S. Bowers said...

First, thanks for the help on my blog and the props on your postings. Secondly, I have found that the spread of misinformation in places like wikipedia has also had a counter effect, 'myth busting.' It wasn't too long ago most americans thought Mikey died from eating poprocks and drinking coke. There was no easy way to debunk these silly stories. Now, there are sites completely devoted to busting urban myths. The best course of action is to question everything.
Thanks for reading,

At 12 September, 2006 13:29, Anonymous tad said...

The above post just made me want to post this site: case anyone's not familiar. It's a really fun, useful site at times.

At 12 September, 2006 18:07, Blogger Epistemographer said...

I keep waiting for someone to write a paper/dissertation on Snopes as Popular History...anyone?...anyone?

At 18 September, 2006 23:04, Blogger SaS said...

Okay, so I went to and there are some crazy rumors/legends on there. I always wondered if there really was cocaine in coke once and, according to snopes, there was! How did that come up in R&D??


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