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December 27th, 2007

11:28 PM

Criticizing Wikipedia

Oh dear, it looks like Wikipedia isn't such a good idea after all, in light of recent drama over the fact that one of their more senior administrators lied about his credentials. This is on top of most amusing revelations of internal politics and other embarrassing shenanigans that you can only get when you put together useless middle-management people and a bunch of seventeen-year old basement-dwelling teenagers in the same room.

Wikipedia drama first comes my way when I come across an entry on Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light blog where she faced harassment for attempting to make some corrections on an entry concerning herself. Further link-clicking leads me to Wikipedia Review with plenty of credible-sounding allegations of administrators behaving badly. Even more amusing is the blog of former administrator Kelly Martin who had since then moved on from being one of its most hated administrators to one of its most strident critics beloved of her former detractors. You may correctly suppose that Kelly Martin has a grudge to bear, but she has no problems exposing the embarrassing misdemeanors of the people behind Wikipedia.

Whether or not you find Wikipedia useful, you have to admit, I'm sure, that it is not reassuring to find that many of the articles in Wikipedia are written by kids who have yet to graduate from college. Where articles were once written by scholars, administrators (who have the power to edit and overturn edits made by lowly mortals like you and me) have since rewritten things until they bear little resemblance to the original version.

Wikipedia operates on the fallacy that the principle of everyone having the right to obtain knowledge is interchangeable with that of everyone having the right to disseminate knowledge, which as we all know, is not the case. You need credentials, education, and experience to qualify as a scholar in a particular field. And yet, Wikipedia allows anyone to make edits on their pages, a fact which heavily dilute the value of the articles as a result.

Ah, but anyone can correct inaccuracies in the Wikipedia articles, right? Think again. Judging from well-documented cases on Wikipedia that were linked to from the sites I've mentioned above, Wikipedia is now dominated by people who have the right to overturn any edits made by anyone other than them, and the people in charge are... well, there's no polite way to say this, but these people are the ones who can spend over 20 hours a day playing at being smart. And the people who do this tend to be either kids or unemployed adults. Indeed, a check through the admins' personal pages will reveal that many of them are either teenagers or adults with mental issues like depression. I have nothing against depressed people, of course, but when you have administrators who admit to having clinical depression telling someone who try to get a detail about her bio corrected on Wikipedia to "go fuck herself", something is really wrong here. Then we have the case of the crazy teenage admin who hated what movie producer Don Murphy apparently did to his precious Transformers in the movie version so he dogged the man hard as poor Mr Murphy tried to get allegations of him being a sex crime offender on his biography removed.

Common sense will tell anyone that putting teenage kids in charge of a task of ensuring accuracy in an article is crazy. But when we have foul-mouthed kids running the show... yikes. And then there are the most hilarious scandals of the "overqualified theologian" who turned out to be actually an underqualified bum, who was then defended by the founder of Wikipedia after his cover was blown. Let's not forget documented accounts of People With Agendas who guard "their articles" zealously against interlopers when it comes to loaded articles under topics like religion, global warming, 9/11, PETA, and politics. We have administrators who actively harass and ban anyone who tries to make any changes in the articles that they have made sure to reflect their point-of-view. It's their articles, their playground, and anyone who disagrees will get all kinds of verbal insults before being banned.

I have to laugh at all this, though, because everyone, both the critics and supporters of Wikipedia, is acting as if Wikipedia matters. Does it matter? I suppose, yes, it matters to the CEO who naturally wants to keep up his comfortable lifestyle. It matters to the legion of kids who view their sacred "responsibility" at Wikipedia as a validation of their basement-dwelling acne-scarred young life. It matters to the overly enthusiastic college student who believes that having an article on her favorite Cause of the Week reflecting her view point is a sign that she is Making A Difference.

But Wikipedia has zero credibility when it comes to anything but pop culture references. And even so, the morons running the show are now deleting away those pop culture references in a ridiculous attempt to gain some credibility, but that's another topic for another day. Many teachers do not allow Wikipedia to be used as research material. And frankly, any halfway decent college student should know that you do not use encyclopedias as research material - you go straight to the source. Wikipedia has zero credibility - ZERO - when it comes to serious academic relevance.

And the fact that it persists in allowing anonymous maladjusted kids and adults to play at being intellectuals when they can barely spell on their own user pages will ensure that Wikipedia will never gain any credibility in the long run. Especially when Google is coming up with an online reference source that promises articles written by scholars who use their real names, with the members of the public allowed only to contribute by rating the usefulness of these articles.

Wikipedia, at the end of the day, is just another website. Perhaps a lesson can be learned from DMOZ. Once the open directory project could rule the Web with an iron fist because it was one of the very few ways to get onto Google's database. Now, however, it is much easier to get onto Google so DMOZ begins and continues its descent into irrelevance. Now, Wikipedia's articles dominate Google search results, but I doubt Google will allow this to continue once their own online reference project is up and going. When that happens, those kiddies and mentally unstable people that currently have Wikipedia in their iron grip will have to find somewhere else to play.

3 comment(s).

Posted by Karen Scott:

Wow, I think I learned something new today!
December 28th, 2007 @ 2:04 AM

Posted by veinglory:

I still find it a useful jumping of point on topics about which I know nothing. The admins can be prats but my few entries (on subjects where I am expert) for the most part stayed up. There does seem to be a growing clique of wikicrats that are getting out of hand--hopefully someone will do some kind of audit and clean them out.
December 28th, 2007 @ 7:01 AM

Posted by Teddypig:

Only use it for the reference links and even then I tend to Google after I get the verbiage down.
December 28th, 2007 @ 11:50 AM