Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Wikipedia Weakness

It's often tempting to give Wikipedia a pass. After all, many of its most egregious errors get fixed over time--at least if the topic isn't controversial and the article has had enough time to "settle down" from breaking news or changing facts. But, as I've commented before here, here, and here, when Wikipedia is bad, it can be pretty bad.

Case in point, the other day I happened to run across an article on Data General AViiON servers, a topic with which I have a more than passing acquaintance. I was the product manager for the first AViiONs and handled marketing for many products of successive generations. Now this is the type of article on which one would probably be inclined to trust Wikipedia to get things more or less right. After all, it's an uncontroversial technical topic of the dead (but not too distant) past.

Don't trust those instincts. Apparently the article is also sufficiently off the beaten path that it hasn't had a chance to benefit from the Wikipedia "community" because it's rife with howling factual errors. It has SCO writing DG/UX (Data General's flavor of Unix) for example, contains basic misconceptions about Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) architectures (an important piece of the AViiON line), and its storyline about DG's historical competition with DEC is pretty far off-base. But my intent here isn't to belabor the details--many will probably be fixed eventually, perhaps by me. And, I've seen trade press articles almost as bad. But this serves as yet another cautionary tale. Even where Wikipedia "should" be good, it often is not. Exercise appropriate caution.
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