Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wikipedia trouble

On Monday O’Reilly Radar reported about a website which orchestrates a preparation to a class action lawsuit against Wikipedia (http://www.wikipediaclassaction.org/). The basic idea is the accusation of Wikipedia that the information posted there is inaccurate and leads to defamation of some people.

The story behind this case is a long one. The summary of events (from the Wikipedia’s point of view) can be found here. It seems – at least after reading the Wikipedia’s version – that the whole “class action suit” is just an attempt of retaliation, made by some people, whose dubious business practices were accidentally uncovered by Wikipedia members. The case itself – if it will ever reach the court – might become a precedent, particularly important as we enter the world of Web 2.0 and user-generated contents.

But there is another aspect of this case, which interests me, probably, even more – and it is a question of Wikipedia’s accuracy in general. The next post on O’Reilly Radar is also dedicated to this question, since it talks about an experiment carried out by the “Nature” journal. They run 42 science articles in Britannica and in Wikipedia by a team of experts. It turned out that Britannica has on average about 3 inaccuracies per article, and Wikipedia – about 4.

Though it may seem as an impressive achievement for a team of voluntary unpaid editors, I am still not convinced in the quality of Wikipedia. The problem which concerns me lies in the area of “common misconceptions”.  Since the editing process is open to everybody, I am afraid that the real facts that contradict with some popular belief will be edited out in favor of incorrect, but widespread opinions.

Which, in turn, brings in a discussion of the changes to the process of acquiring knowledge that are brought by the Internet. Not so long ago, the answer to the question “Where do I get knowledge about X?” was “Go read a book” or “Go ask an expert”. No the answer is “Ask Google”, or “Check the Wikipedia”. The knowledge of the experts is slowly being replaced by the knowledge of the crowd. The consequences of this process for our life and our society may be quite deep, and, I am afraid, quite negative.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This might be a second Class action suit against Wikipedia :-):
http://www.wikipediaclassaction.com/

Aleksey Linetskiy said...

Thanks! This is really funny! :)

Anonymous said...

So, if I am to accept your argument ... I should disregard you as a know-nothing amatuer because I found your blog on Google. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

It's too bad you're not confident enough in your position to let the comments stand without censoring them.

Aleksey Linetskiy said...

My dear anonymous commenter,

You may regard me or disregard me as whatever you like - that's your right and that's what makes the world so diverse and so interesting.

It's a pity you didn't have time to try and understand my position. It's also a pity that you don't have enough courage to sign your comments. And, of course, it would benefit all of us if you would get the hint when I've deleted your posts and expressed your own opinion in a more polite and articulate way, so that, instead of being just a rude remark it would become a beginning of an interesting and thoughtful discussion.

Anyway, thanks for commenting my blog.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I see .. so a comment you like (such as the first) doesn't need a name associated with it .. but somehow it's important to you to know the names of people whose comments you don't like. You don't know me, so don't worry about my name.

Btw, I did read and understand your blog entry. I just don't agree with it ... and I find it rather hypocritical.

It is curious that you find opinions that disagree with yours to be rude. If you live in a glass house, then perhaps you shouldn't be hurling stones at Wikipedia.

Aleksey Linetskiy said...

Actually, I happen to know the person who left the first comment. But in general I do prefer to know the names of people with whom I want to talk. I think it makes the conversation more personal - and mor fair. After all, you know my name :)

Now, about my blog entry. I still do think that you've got me wrong. I do not want to throw stones at Wikipedia or Google - quite on the contrary, I admire both of them. (Which doesn't mean I can't criticize them!) But in this entry I'm not criticizing - I'm just expressing my worry about some social trends. If you want to discuss this topic, I will be quite happy to continue our conversation.

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