Tempest In A -Pedia

Dave has been calling attention to drawbacks in the openness of the Wikipediafirst in conjunction with the Adam “The PodFather” Curry vs. Kevin “The Humble But Firm Pioneer” Marks fiasco, then in conjunction with the more weighty problem of horribly slanderous allegations against John Siegenthaler.

Two consequences of these demonstrations: First, I think Rex Hammock is quite right that we should “use Wikipedia as a gateway to facts, not a source for them.” If one knows nothing about a topic, the Wikipedia can be a great place to start — but one absolutely ought not stop there. A lot of people with strong opinions have a great motivation to insinuate biased or erroneous positions into this ostensibly NPOV (“neutral point-of-view”) reference source, whereas people who know a lot about such things tend to have other things to do. I observed something of this when working on linking Wikipedia entries to a Disseminary project. Good place to start, but by all means, check it (I’m looking at you, GOE-takers).

Second, there should be a space for professional societies to maintain moderated local-pedias on their areas of demonstrable expertise. That would be a tremendous step forward, wouldn’t infringe on Wikipedia’s turf, and would provide much more reliable information. Someone set up the Disseminary with the bandwidth and some small stipends, and we’ll show you how to do it.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. What concerns me is the notion that any reference can be considered completely neutral — history is constantly re-written with fresh perspectives; I’ve never known a field expert (technology, biology, etc) to be satisfied with how their field is represented in the “main-stream” media.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with Wikipedia is that it’s everyone’s sandbox…

  2. Seigenthaler was my old boss at the Tennessean for 15 years. He is a remarkable man who was up to many things over the years, none of them remotely like the events detailed in the Wikipedia biography. His stiffest competitor once noted: “If John Seigenthaler told every story he knew, The Tennessean would be selling at $2 (1985 bucks) a copy.”

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