While doing research for the upcoming issue of The Review, I proposed to Executive Editor Scott Glabe that Wikipedia, a free communal encyclopedia, is a terrible resource. Since anyone can change any entry, a user cannot know whether the current version is accurate. Scott retorted that the encyclopedia's communal nature meant that all errors would be corrected in minutes.Although I have somewhat mixed feelings about Wikipedia "vandalism" even for valid research purposes and calling it a "terrible" resource seems overstatement, the data point still seems valid enough. (The "vandalism" in question inserted a common incorrect answer from The Dartmouth Review's recent poll of Dartmouth students about various Western cultural questions.) The highly democratic Wikipedia community implies both profound strengths and significant weaknesses.
It turns out I was right: it took almost 24 hours for users to notice and correct a deliberate error that made out Benjamin Franklin as the inventor of the printing press.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Although I've picked and probed at Wikipedia here and here, I find it a useful tool. But I think it important to understand its limirtations and boundaries. An interesting post from Nathaniel Ward at Dartmouth in that vein:
Posted by Gordon Haff at 10:39 PM