Saturday, January 27, 2007

Getting Beyond "Wikipedia: GOOD!" and "Wikipedia: BAD!"

Mark Bernstein has some excellent insights on Wikipedia's strengths and weaknesses, spurred by a controversy over the biographies of science fiction authors. Mark writes:

Where is wikipedia best? The most effective articles share some common properties:

  • Of potential interest to a wide audience
  • Of vital interest to very few
  • Impersonal

Following the links back through the conversation about sci fi bios is rewarding. This observation by Jed Hartman is extremely useful in understanding Wikipedia's process:

...I gradually came to understand that Wikipedia is intended to be a very specific sort of document: it’s intended to be a compilation and summary and organization of material that publishers have already vetted. (There are other criteria too, but that’s a major one.) In some cases that approach seems highly counterintuitive if you think Wikipedia’s goal should be to be true or accurate in some objective sense (“Why can’t I say X in that article? I personally know that X is true, and I’m an expert!”), but those aren’t its goals. If you have a belief, even a very strong belief, but nobody has ever published that belief in a venue that Wikipedia considers reliable, then that belief probably doesn’t belong in Wikipedia. If you have a personal experience about the history of sf, but nobody’s ever written it up in one of those Wikipedia-trusted venues, then it still probably doesn’t belong in Wikipedia.

And coincidentally, in reference to Mark's football questions from earlier this week, I discovered that Wikipedia's entry on Tampa 2 is very good.

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