Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wikipedia Lecture 2/13/2009

The lecture by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was very cool, especially in his discussion of what the goals of Wikipedia are and what they are not.  Briefly, Wikipedia is based on the principles of Richard Stallman; that is, open source means the right to copy, modify, and redistribute.  It is most of all, an encyclopedia, not a data dump, library, or textbook.  This point is often forgotten by many members of the media and society in general.  Even in regards to scientific articles, no one should ever point to a particular Wikipedia article for their factual basis.  It is only meant to give an overview and any specifics should be fact-checked (Wikipedia even gives people a head start).  Simply put, Wikipedia can, has, and will be wrong at times.

This gets into a huge problem in our society: kids are not taught how to research.  It is not enough to find one source and declare this as a true statement.  Another silly example.  Blaming Wikipedia would be like blaming Britannica, which themselves are not experts on everything they write about.

However, Mr. Wales said that there is not enough academic information on Wikipedia and social sites in general, but he wants more.  He said such information would help imporve Wikipedia, but he adds, the press should not be driving such research.  What's even more exciting is that we can still learn about how Wikipedia started by looking at the 100 or so languages with fewer than 10,000 articles.  Mr. Wales points out that most of these groups really do have a goal-oriented focus in that they talk about what will get their language noticed.

No comments: