Monday, June 01, 2009

The future of Wikipedia?

I've often had my doubts on the value of the Wikipedia. And yet I often find myself using it when searching for information.

My doubts on it's validity started when I saw the text on Scientology. Some true some false but constantly changing and often to the worse. In fact the whole page is quite slanted and really doesn't give a full factual view of Scientology. It's just not really what one would expect from a source that is meant to have some authority. Somehow after reading the article one would expect to have an overview of the subject. The plus and the minus equaling out and in the end being able to make up one's own mind.

What has always had me rather skeptical was how could people who randomly consider themselves experts on a subject decide to update an entry. Sure they have to base it on facts but "facts" are so easily made up.

Unfortunately this affects the dream of the web 2.0 encyclopedia.

I believe in web 2.0 and I have loved it since it started. But it works as long as nobody claims to be an authority on a subject. A blog is perfect, it's an opinion and most people can make the difference between a fact and an opinion.

An encyclopedia can't be web 2.0 its just against the whole concept. Its like calling a meeting with a thousand people and doing a dictionary with them. "The definition of the word computer is:..." and a thousand answers later we have a useless mess or something that is 168 definitions long and equally useless.

If someone were to start an article about me and decide to "factually" spread a bunch of crap about me, dig out somethings I did when I was a teenager and focus on that, I guess I wouldn't be happy. And then when I edit it I am banned from the site because it then becomes slanted? Wait a minute - who is slanted here?

Well the wikipedia has a future and in my opinion it will go either of two ways:
(a) crash and burn and the articles become more and more slanted or
(b) like any encyclopedia, they will need to hire scholars and professionals and get all their facts verified and edited before they publish them.

I hope they take the latter, because it does have some value that everyone in the world can propose articles and we could create a massive encyclopedia that would be much bigger than anything ever done before.

PS: BTW if you really want an honest view of what Scientology is, find a Scientologist and take him/her out for a coffee and find out all about it. Then read a book and make your own opinion. But that will be the subject of another post at another time.

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