Counterpoint on Wiki

Following the “Nothing Wrong With Wiki” post, I thought that (in addition to the comment), I should leave a more open response to some parts of it.

First off, I am a big fan of Wiki. It is excellent at providing background information, often in a very easy to understand manner. It is excellent in the breadth of articles it covers. It is, basically, very useful.

However it is certainly not authorative. As it has grown to stratospheric popularity, people are becoming to think of it as authorative. Google groups has bazillions of posts where people cite a Wiki article in support of their argument. This implies people think it is authorative. It is easy to say “well they shouldn’t” but they do.  When you look up something on Wikipedia, how often do you verify the claims? How do you verify the claims?

My take on the university comments were along those lines. The universities may well be fed up with people citing Wikipedia as a source when in reality it is little more than a shortcut through “real” research.

The previous article says:

Anything posted is immediately peer-reviewed and challenged by anyone who has a problem with it? This hardly applies to most academic journals, which are already subject to phenomena like sponsor bias and publication bloat. Noone publishes on wikipedia (so far) to keep up their publication average or because a large pharmaceutical company paid for their research.

While I would hesitate from directly accusing a specific poster of sending messages for the wrong reasons, with Wikipedia how can you ever know? How do you know if LargePharma is paying for people to write up articles? Already bands and PR firms pay people to post blogs and to forums, who is to say it isn’t happening on Wiki?

In addition to this, the flip side of no-formal-peer-review is that any crackpot can make or edit an article. Until some one who knows better can correct it, it is accepted as correct. I have read articles which are in a subject I know well and found mistakes. When I read a subject I don’t know well, how do I know that the mistakes aren’t there? tags: , , ,

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