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Wikipedia Rant

Posted at Jun 23, 2009 8:44:49 AM by Taylor De Luca | Share

Today, I feel the need to rant. My target: Wikipedia. I’ll begin by admitting my love/hate relationship with Wikipedia. Now, on to my rant:

wikiWhy I love Wikipedia
I love the ideals on which Wikipedia were founded. The old saying, “No one of us is smarter than all of us,” comes to mind when I think about the value that Wikipedia could potential add the Web, and to the world. I’m a firm believer in the ideal that knowledge is evolving and shared, not owned. So when Wikipedia started, I was excited at the idea that a database of knowledge was being created that was neither owned nor written by any one person, company, school, etc. Since everyone contributes, I feel that the end result could potentially be the most accurate body of knowledge on the planet.

The Dark Side of Wikipedia
Occasionally, I’ll get the urge to contribute to Wikipedia project. While I don’t consider myself an expert on a wide variety of topics, I do know a thing-or-two about a thing-or-two. Most importantly, I really only contribute when I feel that it will benefit the project. I don’t contribute just to hear my own voice, so to speak. Two major faults I see with Wikipedia:

The Knowledge Police
On Wikipedia, there are privileged groups of individuals who have the power to administer the content of Wikipedia above and beyond the average user. In short, these individuals have the power to decide whether or not content is permitted and also whether or not to block users. They also have the ability to ‘lock’ content from editing by average Joes.

The original purpose of these groups of individuals was to protect the project from SPAM and to help keep information organized. The actual effect that this policy has on the project is that individuals, not the community, ultimately make decisions about what information is ‘worthy’ and ‘correct’ and what information is ‘spam’ or ‘unnecessary’. For the most part, these guys/gals should be thanked for their efforts. Occasionally, I feel that personal biases may get in the way of good information. I realize that no system is perfect but on Wikipedia, there is no effective way to appeal decisions made by the ‘knowledge police’. Additionally, these individuals are not help accountable for their actions so there is little one can do to debate or appeal a decision. A simple voting or rating system for Wiki Administrators may be enough to separate the good from the bad.

The Rich get Richer
In general, large companies are deemed ‘significant’ per Wikipedia guidelines and thus, can have their own pages. Small, less ‘significant’ companies are often banned from Wikipedia because they are deemed insignificant. Any attempts to add information about small, lesser-known individuals are often extinguished. Example: Coca-cola is permitted to have a detailed page on Wikipedia but other small beverage companies are not. In short, Wikipedia has put yet another institution in place that supports big business and hinders small business from competing as effectively. While Wikipedia won’t likely make or break any company, there still something to be said about this ‘big business’ policy.

Wikipedia is a great project, but it does have flaws that could be improved on. I certainly hope that the founders and administrators can control the project and bring it back to its roots.

Thanks for listening

Tags: General

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