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Is Wikipedia Failing?

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the everybody-successful-is-failing dept.


An anonymous reader writes "A growing number of people are concerned about where Wikipedia is heading. Some have left Wikipedia for Citizendium, while others are trying to change the culture of Wikipedia from within. A recent essay called Wikipedia is failing points out many of the problems which must be solved with Wikipedia for it to succeed in its aim of becoming a reputable, reliable reference work. How would you go about solving these problems?"

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Editorial board... (5, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010720)

What can be done to change the system?

Now that Wikipedia has reached a critical mass, the time has come to establish a trusted editorial board that can vet articles to established experts in the field of subjects. This board could then also solicit articles by experts and find other wikis that host specialized information to link to the common Wikipedia. This will prevent much of the vandalism and uninformed disasters that seem to befall certain subjects or topics when they are edited by people who are not competent to be making edits in certain topics. As a professor in the biosciences, I've seen more than one article/entry on Wikipedia, written by an expert in that field that has been absolutely, shamefully and quite inaccurately edited or altered by well meaning individuals that absolutely have no idea what they are doing/saying.

Re:Editorial board... (4, Insightful)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010772)

of course having people work specifically on wikipedia requires money. It cant be free and have employees at the same time. The amount of money raised right now is hardly enough. I guess this is the point where idealism meets the real world.

Agreed (3, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010878)

You get what you pay for. Sure, some experts may volunteer to edit a few articles in their off time, but that is hardly enough to make most entries anywhere near credible.

I predict that WIKI will become more of a 'pop-culture' database. Forget reading properly researched and documented articles on 'global warming' or 'evolution'. Rest assured though, crazed fans will document every nuance of Babylon 5 or Star Trek info that exists. Want to know how many PIPs Data has on his shirt in the last season of stng? Go to wiki!

Re:Agreed (5, Insightful)

h2g2bob (948006) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011432)

Have you even read the global warming [] article, or the evolution [] article!? They're damn good - in fact the science articles are some of the best.

Wikipedia is just like any other encyclopedia - it should not be used as evidence, but as a starting point to find out more.

Re:Editorial board... (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010958)

Hate to say it, but Wikipedia could solve almost all their financial problems if they simply took on advertising. It wouldn't have to be anything too obtrusive (something like Google's targeted text ads would be enough). Bleeding out huge sums of cash and depending on a income strictly of donations is tough, especially when the rubber hits the road and it becomes apparent that you need a full time staff of editors.


Re:Editorial board... (3, Informative)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011392)

However, doing so would piss off a significant portion of their user base. []

Re:Editorial board... (4, Insightful)

GundamFan (848341) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011552)

OK so?

These people need to grow up, ether support your precious community so it can remain the way it is or move on and let someone who can take your place. I'm sorry but if it "pisses you off" that it requires money to run a huge public website project (that some treat as there personal playground I might add) then maybe you can make up for the money.

Besides ads on Wikipedia, given the usual high search results on Google, would be worth quite a bit of money so I doubt they would even need to put up that many.

Re:Editorial board... (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011470)

Mod parent up.

Though most would cringe at the thought of adding ads, it really comes down to how it is done. Advertising is a double-edged sword. On one hand, advertisers need their ads to be seen/heard/clicked. They need their ads to be bold, prominent, and in-your-face so that you will actually watch/listen/click them. On the other hand, users (or at least users with my viewpoint) typically prefer relevant, unobtrusive, subdued ads that don't detract from the overall experience of the page they are viewing. And that's where I think Google nailed it and nailed it well. I'm all for the inclusion of targeted, relevant, and unobtrusive ads if it will help financially benefit Wikipedia, but when the ads distract from the reason for using Wikipedia, then things break down.

Re:Editorial board... (5, Insightful)

robbarrett (84479) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010992)

Actually, most scholars contribute their writing for little or no direct compensation. In fact, some scholars pay journals to publish their articles. Instead of payment from the publishers, scholars are usually funded by their sponsoring organizations (e.g. universities, corporate research centers, etc.) to do high quality scholarship, which is funded by a variety of sources (e.g. student tuition, endowments, research grants, product profits).

Publishing high quality work is simply part of the package of being a successful scholar. So the key to getting top notch scholars to work on wikipedia is to generate appropriate reputation feedback. If it is CV-able that I wrote the definitive wikipedia article in my field, there will be competition amongst scholars to do it.

In my current field of biblical studies, scholars donate literally decades of work editing the critical editions of ancient texts, generating modern translations, writing commentaries, etc. without any additional compensation beyond their base pay. In my previous fields of physics, computer science, and computer-human interaction, the vast majority of top scholars receive very little direct compensation for the many articles, books, and reference book entries that they write. But they do receive scholarly acclaim for doing so -- and there is tremendous pressure from their sponsors to produce documentably important output.

In my experience, professional drive, fame, and dedication to the scholarly field generally drive scholars more than money, after the basic bills are paid.

Re:Editorial board... (4, Insightful)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010792)

I actually suggested this several times to them, each time it was shot down because apparently consensus is better than expertise. What happens when you have 1000 laymen hack on an article and not one of them is an actual expert is you get a close approximation of fact diluted by bias and misunderstanding.

Re:Editorial board... (3, Interesting)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010820)

Or maybe they already know exactly what will happen if they tried this because they already did. Nupedia was an unqualified disaster.

Even the experts often can't agree (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011056)

Even having to deal with competing views of experts and scholars WITHIN any given field is a nightmare. That's why textbooks produced by committee are so notoriously bland and thin. Getting two scholars who are on opposite sides of a debate to come to a consensus is all but impossible. Without one decisive voice, you either end up with with a babel or complete silence.


You get... Wikiality (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011544)

I believe the term, as coined by Stephen Colbert, is Wikiality.

Re:Editorial board... (2, Insightful)

Heian-794 (834234) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010894)

A related problem is the inevitable politicization of articles and their writers. If I want to read about George W. Bush, abortion, Christianity, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, etc., etc., I'm not going to trust Wikipedia because the article will be slanted one way now and the other way an hour from now.

That being said, I find Wikipedia to be a wonderful resource for non-controversial pop culture (where there are many interested editors), all kinds of computer-related geekery (where there are interested and extremely capable editors), and simple but hard-to-find facts such as who the Chinese emperor or Pope was in a given year. Even sports-related articles, for which the intersection of internet writers and sports buffs is small, are improving.

How can Wikipedia's biggest problem -- namely that the informed and the uninformed get the same publishing rights -- be solved without changing the nature of Wikipedia? A Slashdot-like karma system where editors with high karma can block those without from editing thei stuff?

I suspect that Wikipedia's ultimate fate will be to abandon the idea of being a complete open encyclopedia. Either the "anyone can edit" ideal will be maintained, but without politically-divisive issues which will shift over to Citizendium or something more rigorous, or the openness will be sacrificed and a Britannica-style group of trusted editors will take the reins. Right now I'd prefer the former -- for all its faults, Wiki is a wonderful compilation of human knowledge. You just have to know what parts are unreliable.

Re:Editorial board... (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010946)

A Slashdot-like karma system where editors with high karma can block those without from editing thei stuff?

I actually really like this idea... A system where expertise can have a karma ranking system through either qualifications or community mediated promotion through contribution. This would allow experts in their fields to contribute without fear of having their contribution savaged by those who may not know what is going on.

Re:Editorial board... (3, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011426)

Who doles out karma? It's fine here on /.. Over on wikipedia, just because you happen to know more about a subject that anyone else that is contributing, doesn't make you an expert. In fact, there are certain subjects (think: medical field) in which someone who believes that they know what they are talking about are causing more damage than they are really helping. Since no one else in wikipedia is more qualified in the subject, it's possible for wrong information to remain in the article for prolonged periods.

Re:Editorial board... (5, Insightful)

ameoba (173803) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011448)

If I were to write hundreds of innane, but interesting, articles on fluffy pop-culture bits to build up my 'cred', I could then weigh in on a serious topic & expect my earned credibility to carry over? Alternately, if I'm a newcomer and all the 'low-hanging fruit' have already been picked up, how am I supposed to get my initial reputation in order to lend any sort of permanence to my writings?

For acadaemia, this could be a problem (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011618)

The problem is that it allows for opinion of the masses. When I was in genetics (early 80s), I noticed that to come up with radical experiments and /or conclusions, you either had to have a well known name or be published in small science rags. I just wonder if it would be possible to rate the sections. i.e. allow for sections that are controlled by the top appointed academicians (not necessarily, the top academicians in the fields), as well as the entry. This would allow for the average person to search the acceptable theory type pages while still allowing for others to enter into the field.

Re:Editorial board... (1)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010910)

One persons vandalism is anothers masterpiece. At THE WIKI let chaos reign.

Re:Editorial board... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18010964)

So start this up. There isn't anything stopping you from syphoning off Wikipedia's content and setting this up yourself. I would look to for inspiration. For mathematical topics they seem to have higher average quality than Wikipedia but fewer pages.

Citizendium has the right idea (1, Flamebait)

Excelcia (906188) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011234)

This is a useful suggestion, but is something that Citizendium is really already doing. Their restriction of only allowing real-names is a breath of fresh air too. I am just waiting for the day some angsty script kiddie teeny bopper incorporate a random paper generator [] into a botnet to attach Wikipedia. With some good cloaking (first have one IP on the botnet obviously vandalize a page, then have another on the botnet "fix' the vandalization but add something from the random paper generator) the damage will be years fixing.

Say what you want for anonimity, it is turning the internet into a sewer. The number of attacks on my web server in a day is staggering, and my web site isn't all that popular. One of these days soon, someone will create an overnet on top of the internet where each site only accepts packets from users registered with a real name and real address.

Re:Editorial board... (1)

r3xt3r (868051) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011380)

Why does this headline seem like it belongs on fox news?

Wikipedia Meme - Inflection point (1)

broward (416376) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011444)

It's quite likely that Wikipedia passed through its growth inflection point in 2006. Here's the graphs. Nielson's blogpulse still shows growth, but it's a shorter term measure and may be more indicative of the current controversy than long-term growth rate. =wikipedia_meme []

Remember, the inflection point is the point of maximum growth, maximum exposure and often maximum hysteria.

Re:Editorial board... (3, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011550)

Actually, since the system keeps all the edits of the articles, why not make it possible for an editorial board to cryptographically sign an article version?

In fact, why have a single editorial board? Why not let anybody set up an editorial board, and create a virtual wikipedia over the wikipedia? You could search only the RNC blessed versions if you wanted.

The problem... (5, Insightful)

brennanw (5761) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010736)

... is that they're too busy nominating webcomic articles for deletion to bother updating anything else.

Re:The problem... (3, Informative)

RufusFish (253008) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011052)

Nominating? They're pretty much expelling them through the rapid deletion without any nomination process. I think the tide might be turning due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction from the communities that surround the web comics, but the stories I've been following, they articles are having to be resurrected after a quick delete.

Edit that article... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18010740)

Just edit the Wikipedia is Failing article to say it's fixed.

Re:Edit that article... (2, Funny)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010810)

Did you know that the population of African Elephants has tripled in the past six months?

Re:Edit that article... (1, Funny)

maniac/dev/null (170211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011522)

Did you know that the population of African Elephants has tripled in the past penis months?

Is "community" a good thing? (4, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010994)

Just edit the Wikipedia is Failing article to say it's fixed.
You're obviously joking, but it's my sincere belief that one of the dangers facing Wikipedia is where the community, and the defence of Wikipedia from criticism becomes more important than the integrity of Wikipedia itself. This is an inherent risk with anything community-based; superficially, the effort is to support and protect the project (and those taking part may well still believe this), but in reality the loyalty is to the community or team, even at the risk of the stated aims of the project.

Another problem is edit decay, often exacerbated by Wiki-masturbation. What do I mean? Basically, edits are normally on a small scale. Lots of individual small-scale edits do not make a big article; on the contrary, I've copyedited at least one article that was fine on a sentence-by-sentence level, but messed-up, disorganised, verbose and unreadable because no-one had bothered to step back and look at the article as a whole. Thus many small edits (even if individually useful) tend to increase the structural decay of an article, and make it hard to see when something useful is being lost.

A problem occurs when minor edits are made, or an article changed several times, with little ultimate point (hence "masturbation"). It's in these sorts of pointless changes that good work gets lost for no real purpose. In such cases, it may make sense to go back to an earlier version, compare any major changes, find out why these have happened, and if there seems to have been no justifiable reason for them, to revert some or all of the article.

Should the aim of Wikipedia be change? No. The aim of Wikipedia should be changability; a subtle but very important difference. Unlike evolution in nature, we can go back as far as we like if an earlier version is better, and there's no reason we shouldn't do this. Some subjects inevitably date, necessitating change; but many do not. Changeability is about having the choice, and that includes the choice of saying "actually, the earlier version *was* better".

The WP article actually covers some similar ground to the above, but both are issues that had been on my mind for a long time beforehand.

Re:Is "community" a good thing? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011368)

it's my sincere belief that one of the dangers facing Wikipedia is where the community, and the defence of Wikipedia from criticism becomes more important than the integrity of Wikipedia itself.
X.. <---- wikipedia
~ ~ ^ ~ <---- shark

superficially, the effort is to support and protect the project (and those taking part may well still believe this), but in reality the loyalty is to the community or team
\/ <---- place hit
- <---- nail

Re:Is "community" a good thing? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011498)

Another problem for Wikipedia is regular-masturbation, which takes time away from my article editing.

one word (-1, Redundant)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010742)


Re:one word (1, Funny)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010814)

The best encyclopedia you cannot read ever!

Re:one word (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010882)

No, you can read it. I'm reading it right now. It's only open to contributors for the time being though.

Re:one word (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011006)

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Not really (5, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010780)

Wikipedia's job is to let people look something up quickly. Need to know who the 23rd vice-president was? It's Adlai Stephenson. []
"But someone could edit that page and change it!"
Oh, right. Now I've linked to the static page. []
That part seems rather hard for some people to grasp, considering how many times I've seen that used as a justification for "thou shalt not cite" bullshit.
However, in some cases, "thou shalt not cite" is correct, not just based on reactionary BS- Wiki articles are sourced. If you cite a sourced statement from a Wiki article, you should really be citing it from the original... which is conveniently linked at the bottom of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia isn't failing at this. It's doing this remarkably well. The failing is in reactionary academics who feel threatened by Wikipedia, and the perception these people cause.

Re:Not really (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18010906)

"But someone could edit that page and change it!" Oh, right. Now I've linked to the static page. That part seems rather hard for some people to grasp, considering how many times I've seen that used as a justification for "thou shalt not cite" bullshit.

That hardly seems like a reasonable alternative. How do you know which of the many "old versions" to link to? What if useful content was added later? What if the facts that you cited actually were incorrect/incomplete and it was corrected later on? I think the issues go far deeper than you are giving them credit for.

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011038)

What about it? You link to the static version of the page you are citing from. It could have a million older versions, but you're linking to the one you used so what does it matter if there are older or newer versions: you're not citing those versions. Different versions or even a printed encyclopaedia could be just as the version you're citing, but that's not the fault of the Wiki.

Re:Not really (2, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010952)

Wikipedia's job is to let people look something up quickly.
Surely there is a second part to that - to let people look something up quickly and get accurate information. Wikipedia itself says that high quality is one of its goals [] , so your assessment of Wikipedia's function does not match what the Wikipedia community itself claims to be attempting. It is the quality, not the quickness of access, that is coming under question.

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011040)

The academic response to citing isn't "Thou shalt not cite wikipedia", it's "Thou shalt not cite from an encyclopaedia, bur rather from domain-specific literature".

Simplify it! (1)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011068)

Then make it easier to do that.

Seriously. Everyone knows how to find the "live" article on wikipedia and send links to it to their friends. It takes two non-obvious clicks from there to to get to the permanent, static link. (You have to click history, and then the most recent version.) There should be a big, shiny, flaming, "Permanent link to this version" button, or every "live" page should auto-redirect to the most recent static page (so the url in the address bar is a static page), or something.

Re:Simplify it! (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011408)

I find the one, fairly obvious, click on the "Cite this article" link is just fine. Making the link shiny and flaming would just make the site ugly, IMO.

Re:Not really (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011288)

Now I've linked to the static page. [] That part seems rather hard for some people to grasp, considering how many times I've seen that used as a justification for "thou shalt not cite" bullshit.
You're right; that's a stupid reason for not citing Wikipedia. Here's a better one:- Wikipedia- by its own rules [] - isn't meant to be a primary source, and all major facts are supposed to be verifiably published by a reliable source [] , which in practice should require a reference anyway.

If an article (or at least one or more major assertions within it) is lacking references, then... it may well still be usable, but unless you're able to determine who made the statement, its veracity and the person's reliability, you probably shouldn't be citing it. (The effort and quagmire involved in doing so for an encyclopedia anyone can edit being the reasons that WP instituted No-Original-Research and Verifiability rules in the first place).

Re:Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011540)

Wikipedia isn't failing at this. It's doing this remarkably well. The failing is in reactionary academics who feel threatened by Wikipedia, and the perception these people cause.

Author feels his opinion is so important that he states it as fact. And the slashtards fall for it by rating his crap as "Insightful".


Well... (5, Insightful)

CGP314 (672613) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010796)

Well, since I have to create an account with Citizendium just to look at the articles, I'm not too worried about it overtaking the Wikipedia just yet.

-CGP []

We will be launching as soon as possible (5, Informative)

Larry Sanger (936381) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011258)

Hey, we badly want to be open to the world! But it's expensive!

I can make a little announcement. Wikis are huge resource hogs, so to grant just read access to wiki pages indiscriminately will require more resources than the big souped-up but single server we have at present. Quite frankly we have been holding out for an infusion of funds for sixteen servers. It's clear now that we can launch with less than that, with a number that we can afford with our very limited present budget. So we'll be bravely forging ahead with an only temporarily adequate number of servers!

The Citizendium wiki [] will be launching for public read access as soon as (1) we get a few new servers set up (it'll be a small enough number to be within our budget), and (2) we make a few technical changes (e.g., change the "Citizendium Pilot" namespace to "Citizendium"; and lots of other stuff).

Now, when will that be? Not sure; now it's a matter of getting and setting up the equipment and making those software changes, and it's impossible to predict how long it will take to do this, as we are mostly relying on volunteers (and one part-time contracter) to work on our software. But on the order of weeks, not months. If you want to help us with the software stuff, I bow to your geekiness and invite you to our forge [] .

Hope that clarifies our situation anyway.

Argument to the contrary? (0)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010798)

I don't think the question should be, "Is Wikipedia failing?" Rather, "is there a credible argument that Wikipedia is not failing?" The linked article is pretty damning.

Uhh... (1)

NickCatal (865805) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010812)

Remove anonymous posting and put ads on the search results to hire paid full-time expert researchers

Re:Uhh... (1, Flamebait)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010884)

Remove anonymous posting

Yes, let's leave all writing to the kind of people who have nothing better to do with their time than create accounts on every single website on the internet. This will certainly increase quality.

Re:Uhh... (3, Funny)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010976)

Oops, looks like I offended some people who have nothing better to do with their time than create accounts on every single website on the internet.

scrap editorial boards (4, Insightful)

2TecTom (311314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010816)

IMHO, the time has come for wikipedia to return to its origins before it's too late. What made it work was its openness, now people think it can be "saved" by closing it up?

In truth, the biggest problem with wikipedia has nothing to do with wikipedia. The problem is us, especially our greed. Article after article has become slanted by those with a special, i.e. greedy, interest. Many controversial issues have already been editoralized into one-sided oblivion.

Top down is not going to help, so I say avoid the temptation to let the "experts" decide what we should be able to freely consider.

reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18010850)

20 Reasons not to edit Wikipedia

This is what I've come up with after a very short period of editing Wikipedia.

1. Endless arguments on Talk pages. Apparently more work on Talk pages than actual pages.
2. I'm most able to write about what I'm an expert in. That's also a conflict of interest.
3. Reverts may undo useful changes. There are no merge-based undos, no simple application of a diff between two revisions.
4. Improving free and open source software is both more visible and important.
5. Publishing articles in peer-reviewed venues is more important, although less visible.
6. Lack of a good, canonical, reference and citation system like BibTeX.
7. Popular topics end up better written than unpopular topics. Many entries on fictional worlds.
8. My work might get deleted altogether.
9. Wikipedia is generally not citable itself. Not reviewed, and contents are not constant.
10. There is no correspondance between the different language versions of a page.
11. GFDL is possibly not the best license. I doubt most people have read it.
12. Software screenshots must be low resolution unless the software is open source.
13. Certain topics are taboo, e.g. Encyclopaedia Dramatica
14. If I'm an IP address, nobody cares. If I use my real name, I have to be careful what I write. If I use a pseudonym and hide my identity, it carries less weight.
15. Decentralization. It is doubtful that even a fraction of people take the time to read the relevant guides on editing.
16. Same problems that USENET, mailing lists, and forums have.
17. Neutral point of view confounded by fact that most people here are fairly left wing.
18. Most people editing don't have any formal training in writing beyond high school. Most articles and topics need work.
19. Vandalism, and pseudo-vandalism.
20. Almost every other leisure activity I can think of is more rewarding; Wikipedia is just addictive.

2 reasons to use Wikipedia

1. It's generally better than a Google search.
2. If you're a cultural anthropologist, here's a minefield.

2 reasons to edit Wikipedia

1. It's a great place to practice your translation skills.
2. Most anything you write here appears near the top of a Google search.

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (1)

Saxmachine (1045648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011122)

2. I'm most able to write about what I'm an expert in. That's also a conflict of interest.

I've seen this statement before, and I just don't understand it. How is it a conflict of interest for one to hold forth on a subject in which one is experienced?

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011580)

In my case I'm likely to slant whatever I write towards supporting my particular point-of-view. It's almost impossible not to do this. This is not only because I think my point-of-view is better (obviously it is, since it's my POV), but also because I'm somewhat ignorant of the other views, most because I don't have a lot of time to research them deeply. Also, I did say "expert" and not "experienced". I'm experienced in plenty of things; I'm an expert in one, maybe two. If several other contributors to the topic were experts too then it would be fine, but then it would be a peer review, and we already have a different process for that in academia.

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011210)

17. Neutral point of view confounded by fact that most people here are fairly left wing.

Really, why is this so? I'm not questioning you, I've seen the same thing, there, on Digg, and elsewhere?
I wonder why it's the case when the US population seem to be quite evenly split.

( note: I'm a foreigner so if this is "obvious" knowledge to any American, please excuse me :-) )

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (1)

Frequently_Asked_Ans (1063654) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011264)

7. Popular topics end up better written than unpopular topics. Many entries on fictional worlds. []

^Case in point

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011346)

5. Publishing articles in peer-reviewed venues is more important, although less visible.
The two should be complementary. Peer-reviewed journals should be for new work that is to be judged, whereas WP has a "no original research" policy; i.e. the exact opposite.

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011404)

Not all peer-reviewed stuff is original research. Peer-reviewed literature reviews are important, and generally high quality.

Re:reasons (not )to (edit|use) wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011590)

> minefield

I do not think it means what you think it means.

Too Late to Fail (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010864)

Meanwhile, most people with a clue have heard about Wikipedia, but not about these others. Wikipedia is now an established brand. That status, more than any functional superiority (or even competence) defines Wikipedia as the success. Its problems will be solved (or not), but it's got its audience.

Even if the competitors are superior, they will have to compete with Wikipedia's brand. Their superiority will have to be more easily communicated than Wikipedia's (eg. a better name, like "Google" vs "AltaVista") to actually beat them. It's a meme pool, and swimming counts more than smarts.

Wikipedia is no different from any other large Website: its success is defined by its scale of users, not its quality. As if you couldn't tell that by looking at Slashdot.

Re:Too Late to Fail (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011028)

The question posed in the article is whether Wikipedia is failing in its stated purpose, which is to create a reliable encyclopedia, not whether it's failing to become a popular website. Why not just replace the entire site with a myspace-clone social networking site, build a huge userbase, and declare the project a huge success?

Re:Too Late to Fail (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011168)

The essay ends with the "Open Question":

Does this matter, given that Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world?

The question "why not create a perfect reliable encyclopedia that no one uses" is a corollary that might shed more light on the dynamics here.

Re:Too Late to Fail (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011348)

I'd argue that since the site's run by a non-profit with a particular goal, it's fairly obvious that it does matter and that the popularity of the site is what doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter if MySpace is a steaming pile of horribly-coded junk with millions of unreadable pages as long as it's popular enough that someone will pay half a billion dollars to acquire it. The purpose of Wikipedia is not to be popular.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) with a vision to bring a free and accurate encyclopedia to every single person on the planet. This includes people who currently do not have electricity, computers, Internet access, or even clean drinking water. All proceeds from donations, as with all proceeds from all Foundation fundraisers, are fully dedicated to that charitable purpose.

I don't get it.... (4, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010868)

Okay, maybe I missed some major shift over at Wikipedia but a little over a year ago, Slashdot reported [] that Nature magazine's comparison of a sample of 42 Wikipedia and Britannica articles found on average, Wikipedia had 4 errors per article while Britannica had 3, but on average, Wikipedia articles had 2.6 times as much content.

So, from that point of view, I hardly see Wikipedia as a failing endeavor. There have been other studies that show Wikipedia to generally be quite accurate. There are exceptions, particularly in controversial topics which has been covered here a number of times, and maybe that needs to be fixed, but "Is Wikipedia Failing?" What is this? Fox News?

Re:I don't get it.... (1)

Rydia (556444) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011110)

The Register ran an extremely concise rebuttal to that study. To whit: it's crap. I'd be interested to see any other studies, but I am fairly certain that there are none. Sorry I don't have a link, that was all a looong time ago.

Re:I don't get it.... (1)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011286)

I think the problem with the Nature study is that the coverage of significant science concepts/personalities in Wikipedia is one of its strengths and doesn't represent its overall accuracy/completeness.

Who would want anything reliable? (4, Insightful)

mlewan (747328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010870)

I sick and tired of all this talk about making Wikipedia "reliable". We need something that quickly can be updated with interesting and potentially accurate information, which then needs to be verified against other sources by the reader. That's Wikipedia's niche. Let it stay that way.

There is of course room for other slightly more reliable web encyclopaedias, but in the end all of them have to be verified by the reader to be trusted.

Actually not (0)

robcfg (1005359) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010890)

It's not the Wikipedia itself what is failing here, it's actually people. As in many aspects in life there will be idiots everywhere looking forward to mess something that could be useful for everybody.

From the Essay (5, Insightful)

CGP314 (672613) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010908)

There are about 1,300 featured articles. There are also about 1,700 good articles. However, there are currently 1,637,703 articles on Wikipedia. This means that slightly more than 99.8% of all the articles on Wikipedia are not considered well written, verifiable or broad or comprehensive in their coverage.

This to me seems like the old most-blogs-are-terrible argument. I would wager that those 3,000 good/featured articles make up the bulk of what people who go to wikipedia read about.

-CGP []

Is this an RTFA test? (-1, Flamebait)

finarfinjge (612748) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010926)

Seeing as this seems to come up from time to time, I must assume that this is an RTFA test and the first person to find the "penis" wins a prize. If you read the article, carefully, you would understand.

Re:Is this an RTFA test? (1)

ynohoo (234463) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011248)

yo moderator, RTFA before you mod flamebait. Someone has indeed inserted a rude word into the article. Checking the history, the same weiner has been vandalising other articles in the same way.

well... (1)

Frequently_Asked_Ans (1063654) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010948)

i think its gonna be like the whole "BSD is dying" thing....

"The Wikipedia has failed"

Netcraft confirms... (3, Funny)

chazzf (188092) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010980)

...that Wikipedia is dying.

Too many leaves to grasp the tree (4, Insightful)

scottsk (781208) | more than 7 years ago | (#18010982)

This essay seems to be fixed on featured articles and big entries. To me the real advantage of wikipedia seems to be the huge number of small, concise leaf articles that aren't featured, and maybe rarely accessed, but provide a short, in-depth punch about a particular topic, typically an obscure one. You can look up obscure topics like the Dry Tourgas or As Easy As and get the gist. Typically, small articles are written by an expert and ignored in terms of editing, but very useful for research. If you type certain strings into google, you get the wikipedia entry and not much else worthwhile. Wikipedia is sort of a common repository of knowledge. I'd rather have an article written by someone who knows something about an obscure topic than nothing. No one can grasp or deal with the entirety of wikipedia. There's too much there. But if you need to look up something obscure, you can go directly to that article.

What bothers me the most is all the web sites which clone wikipedia articles and add advertising. Ususually a google hit for a wikipedia entry turns up three or four other sites that just include the wikipedia article. This poisons the search engine, crowding out other hits. There ought to be a GPL version for wikipedia that allows people to mirror it only for nonprofit purposes. Down with leeches!

Re:Too many leaves to grasp the tree (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011144)

Down with leeches
And here I was thinking WP was the "free encyclopaedia". Must have read it somewhere...

Re:Too many leaves to grasp the tree (1)

christurkel (520220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011172)

You must be thinking of What Wikipedia would look like with ads.

It's biased anyway and useless (2, Interesting)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011000)

The day they allow the "Everywhere Girl" to remain posted is the day I will change my mind about them.

No (2, Interesting)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011012)

The article is just a bunch of complaining.

Wikipedis is failing to be exactly what the article writer wants it to be. It's succeeding perfectly in being what it is.

The article writer values his opinion more than reality. He's undoubtedly disappointed a lot.

Possible Problem: Regular Contributors (1)

LittleImp (1020687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011022)

I use Wikipedia from time to time, and once I found an article, that needed some work. So I rewrote some of the chapters, added some links to sources and added some information that I thought would fit well into the article. Unfortunately it lastet only a few hours and some registered contributor who wrote the original article reversed it all. I guess that's why they have a discussion page, only the original contributor won't give in and let anyone change "his" article. My point is: I think many regular contributors to wikipedia are very stubborn and only want it done their way, which turns away people that maybe only contribute once or twice and don't have time for endless flamewars.

Re:Possible Problem: Regular Contributors (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011374)

"Unfortunately it lasted only a few hours and some registered contributor who wrote the original article reversed it all."

Same experience here. So, I go there when I need general information (When was Buster Keaton born?) but usually go to multiple sources for anything 'important'.

I like Wikipedia OK, though. I don't think it is 'failing'. It's just that one must use it like any other resource - It should be one stop on the trail when researching something.

Most criticism of wikipedia miss their mark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011026)

There are 1.6 million articles of poor quality that are unreferenced simply because Wikipedia makes no effort to make sure new editors know anything about Wikipedia policy. New editors don't know what Original Research is, or even NPOV. They've never read [[WP:RS]], [[WP:V]], [[WP:OR]], or any of the Wikipedia policies. Editors about blogs and websites are fully unaware of notability requirements such as WP:WEB and WP:NOTABILITY.

Wikipedia is failing because editors are not forced to educate themselves about the main pillars of Wikipedia policy.

If new users had to go through a tutorial it might have saved Wikipedia. Now I fear it is too late.

Re:Most criticism of wikipedia miss their mark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011334)

I'm tempted to start a crusade through WikiPedia, removing any content that violates [[WP:OR]].
I think the number of articles on WikiPedia would decrease signficantly, or at the very least,
the articles would decrease in size.

good lord shut up (1, Troll)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011054)

the sky isn't falling and wikipedia seems to be working just fine.

They raised 1.3 MILLION DOLLARS in 2006. I'd say that should be enough to run a website. Even if it cost them $25K a month to host (which I would argue should be more than enough) that's only $300K a year. If $1.3M/year isn't enough for a non-profit website, chances are they're not spending their money right.

The quality of the majority of articles is FAIRLY HIGH, and yes, it's not finished yet but in time it will get more and more articles. I didn't RTFA because I don't want to give yet another doomsayer ad impressions. Shut the fuck up already.

Please stop posting senseless adladen rubbish on the front page. It does nothing but encourage bunk sensationalism. And that's the job of not slashdot.


Everybody keeps talking about reliable sources (3, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011058)

But is there anyone here who can name one source where we would not be able to find a glaring error or even something that would be considered a flat out lie by a lot of people ?

I mean even stuff like the BBC, that used to be the definition of reliable has been shown to flat-out lie about some topics. So maybe the problem is not with wikipedia, but with people demanding reliable sources.

There aren't any reliable sources. Wikipedia, like the Britannica, like the Bible, like Muhammad's sayings like Shinto's roll's and like anything else is just a human's opinion. It is fallible, corruptible, incomplete, and potentially for sale.

My problem with Wikipedia (1)

JNighthawk (769575) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011062)

Notability: Wikipedia should encompass the whole of human knowledge, not just what some consider notable. I've been involved in too many AfD's (discussion about whether an article should be deleted) where the only reason someone wants to remove the article from Wikipedia is because the subject is considered non-notable. My response to that is "So what?" Who cares if it's non-notable?

I'm part of the "Inclusionist" movement on Wikipedia. I feel that, generally, edits should only be made to Wikipedia in which no information is lost.

Re:My problem with Wikipedia (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011394)

My main problem with Wikipedia is not that too much information is in, but rather there are too many entries, especially about fictional subjects. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine needs one entry. You don't need entries for each character, each race, each planet, etc. It taints the whole encyclopedia itself to have detailed, individual entries on things that in terms of the collection of human knowledge are so important.

Letting the original mission get in the way (1)

Stick_Fig (740331) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011092)

If you read up on your history of Wikipedia, you know that it started out as a way to push the open-source and Richard Stallman free gospel through an encyclopedia.

But that's clearly not what Wikipedia has become. It's become a strong source for pop-culture knowledge and trivia, as well as everything else under the sun. The thing that draws people to it is not its original openness, but the fact that it's a microcosm of what people are actually interested in.

But try telling that to some of the people who work on the site, who are so obsessed with trying to make the site GFDL-compliant, above all else, that they've basically been willing to sacrifice the quality of the site by pushing for free resources over what's available legally.

This is largely a problem with images. Most media companies put out fair-use promotional images for products and shows, along with people, but because we follow the rules so closely to the T, these images aren't available for us. In the example of people, the standard is so high as to when it's okay to allow for a fair-use image - if a person's alive, no matter how hard they are to get in touch with, there's enough possibility to allow for a license-free image that we can't even put a fair use image on the page. Identifying a person isn't a good enough reason to put a fair-use image on the page, even though that's pretty much the point of putting a photo of a person on a page.

The logic is that fair-use images discourage free images, and since Wikipedia's trying to be free, we need to get rid of fair-use images. They discourage resale of content as books down the line, even though its Web form is far more useful.

As a result of all this, there are a handful of editors out there who have made it their mission to remove these images wholesale, no matter how much average users protest. It's just silly.

I work in the media for a living, and I haven't found anyone with tighter, more unrealistic standards about content than Wikipedia. The site is in its own way a member of the media and needs to start playing by the same rules as everyone else, or quality is going to suffer. They need to make calls to PR people. They need to agree to licensing standards when grabbing photos. They need to understand that there's a limit to what free can do, especially in an industry known for copyright. And this problem stems from the top - Jimbo Wales has a fairly hard-line view on copyright that many editors are picking up.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but I didn't get into Wikipedia for the free-as-in-speech part. I got into it because was freely-editable and easy for the average person to improve. But because of a draconian interpretation of a rule, many articles are having a difficulty improving. The average user is getting forgotten because the original mission is incompatible with what Wikipedia has become, and the people pushing for the original mission have clearly lost sight of this.

I hope they realize their mistake before Wikipedia bleeds quality any further.

political articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011096)

Most of the technical articles are (very) good. Anything that's political gets edited from the extremes from both sides. Sources being removed because one side says they aren't reputable enough, but can't back up the claim why they aren't, etc... There are some problem editors who usually works together to edit articles to their liking. I left Wikipedia for this reason.

One of Wikipedia's failings (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011198)

is that *anyone* can edit it without creating an account. This can cause a problem in the UK when a popular DJ will mention an article on Wikipedia and then suddenly everyone's a comedian, changing the page and writing any old shit on it until an administrator locks the page.

The one thing I'd do to improve Wikipedia would be to require you to create an account and activate it. It would remove a large chunk of the vandalism very quickly.

Re:One of Wikipedia's failings (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011406)

You can already nominate pages for protect and semi-protect status (the latter preventing edits only from new accounts).

I agree with another poster that there seems to be little respect for authority (on subject matters) but you can always just insert your content and then nominate it for semi-protect status.

Most articles I check up on (around software/crypto) seem fairly stable and don't get vandalized much. Most vandalism I see are for icons of pop culture and other shit that not really encyclopedic anyways.

The problem with this article [from the summary] is that people are quick to jump to conclusions without really investigating anything. Sure Wikipedia is open, but it isn't like there aren't millions of eyes looking at the site.


Sum greater than its parts (2, Insightful)

Neme$y$ (700253) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011230)

Is Wikipedia succeeding in its aim of becoming a reputable, reliable reference work? To me Wikipedia is much more than an encyclopedia or a mere work of reference. Perhaps it fails the reliability test, but we must look at what it achieves. In as far at it is an experiment in the creation and indexing of information by millions of users around the world: it plain works. In as far as it is a first point of contact when doing your research: it works. In as far as it keep track of article audits: it works. Etc, etc, etc. It has taken centuries to get to where we are in terms of human knowledge. I don't know it will probably take about long time to get Wikipedia to where it's supposed to be. And it won't be by the efforts of some self-proclaimed "experts". (as an aside, if you want "reliable", whatever that means, you still have the Encyclopedia Britannicas of this world). Some are going to pull their hairs and give up at the state of Wikipedia affairs; but why don't the rest of us stick around for a decade or so, and see how this thing pans out?

Citizendium? What's changed ... ? (2, Insightful)

betasam (713798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011266)

I see that Citizendium is uses the same Wikimedia engine. They use it with the authentication patch (which Wikipedia for "open" reasons has avoided.) There have been endless discussions on Wikipedia vs Encyclopedias. The one thing that stands out is, most Encyclopedias "restrict" information unless they can validate it. I know that "Consensus" in itself is not a part of Scientific method, but only the last resort when a conclusion cannot be reached. Any attempt to clone the success of an existing freely editable Encyclopedic Wiki (rather than an Encyclopedia itself) is bound to produce the same results. Changing those fundamental variables that made Wikipeida possible "freedom", "open", "editable" are known recipes for disaster.

There have been numerous debates on whether Wikipedia is a valuable resource for Research. The answer is a yes. However it is not a resource that can be cited. Like numerous sites on the internet, it only points one to other material for further reading or introduces the random reader to theories that may not essentially be correct. Some people thought Wikipedia could become a fundamental instrument to facilitate research, resulting in their attempts to create "authentication", "article validation" and the likes. A book is only as good as its authors. Wikipedia is only as good as its contributors and consumers. An Encyclopedia is no different. That would explain why Encyclopedia Brittanica and Microsoft Encarta are so different. To put it simply, this article on EncycloPedia [] is quite informative, yet you might not want to cite it if you are writing a thesis on them. You would need access to more Books and Information, such as those available in a Library. Wikipedia remains a source for quickly looking up information. In this usage, there are no substitutes, not even Google. It contains good pionters and sometimes Valid and credible reference material. The "Wikipedia Falling" story is simply a amplified reaction to what I term is the "Tower of Babel" effect. If there are too many people converging to one source, they tend to separate at some point; someone might understand this better. So as evolution always is, this shall happen. But Wikipedia isn't the Tower of Babel and it ain't falling.

Too much democracy (2, Insightful)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011274)

Not everyone is an expert, yet at Wikipedia everybody gets an equal vote anyway. For any given field, there are alway far fewer experts than laymen. Yet Wikipedia does not give experts or otherwise reasonably knowledgeable individuals any credit whatsoever when it comes to making decisions regarding policy and content. As a result, excellent suggestions supported by solid and coherent arguments can always be voted away with simple replies, such as "No!"

Public perception (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011284)

Sadly, this is a case where perception defines reality.

I know of two kids who in the same week both got downgraded on papers because they referenced wikipedia as a source, with the comment (2 different teachers, same school) "Wikipedia is not considered a factual reference" and "Perhaps you should look for a more reliable source than Wikipedia".

These were not for deeply controversial facts. One referenced wiki as a source for the factual statement "Plants need CO2 to live", and the other referenced it for Bill Cosby's birthdate.

Personally, I think this is idiotic. Had the original instructions said not to use it, that's one thing. But to post facto condemn this as a source smacks of knee-jerk - the kind of knee-jerk dismissal that will kill Wiki in the end.

We all know Wiki's weaknesses, and perhaps schools would be better off in using that as a teachable moment regarding 'internet facts' in general. Have one kid write a paragraph about their school without signing their name. Then allow 30 others to edit it freely and anonymously over a week or more. With the class, review the evolution of the 'facts' presented.

Wiki is at its strongest as a very timely resource for general facts; it's best when those facts are footnoted or linked in a useful way to source material. To ignore it as a reference is simply Luddism. To recognize it and use it in context is where value can be found.

Typical American (1)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011342)

Sheesh, don't be so impatient. The problem is being solved as we speak. All you need is some patience.


at this rate, it will take 4,380 years for all the currently existing articles to meet FA criteria.

Yeah, really... (1)

SolitaryMan (538416) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011372)

...left Wikipedia for Citizendium

You should have used this link to Citizendium [] here to make "article" even more ridiculous.

Personally, I see only technical problems with Wikipedia: lack of Open API of some kind, ease of static-linking (to protect yourself from content modifications), bad data format (at least for my taste), but as an idea of an open social encyclopedia I would say it is _extremely_ successful.

Nuts! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18011382)

Wikipedia is not broken. It works and works well for its intended purpose. It needs a little more editorial control and that's it. This issue has been rehashed over and over again here about using it as an authoritative source when it is really nothing more than a fact look-up and starting point for in depth research - like an encyclopedia (duh). This is all FUD to drive people to Citizendium.

Yes, it is failing. (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011464)

I've said in the past that the model upon which WikiPedia is based is a flawed one. It is good to see that others are beginning to view the majority of WikiPedia as what it really is: unsubstantiated documentation of pop culture fads.

Different kind of reference (3, Interesting)

Nelson (1275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011594)

So the relatively low number of well written articles compared to the total is that sign of this failure?

Don't get me wrong but that really misses the point. Take, for example, Voltron. I can plug that into Britannica and Wikipedia. Britannica doesn't know who or what Voltron is. Wikipedia has a fairly detailed explanation. Accurate? Well written? I'd be shocked if that article fell in to the 2000 or so "well written" articles. I doubt it's verifiable in any credible way. Also, I don't see Britannica ever having an article that talks about Voltron. It's not a scholarly article because it's not a scholarly subject. That doesn't change the fact that when I couldn't remember the names of the pilots of the lions and for whatever reason I wanted to remember them, wikipedia provided an answer and a whole lot more where most other sources wouldn't provide anything. That's the beauty of it.

I don't know that you should read a candidates wikipedia article and decide off of that alone if you will vote for them. I don't know any single sources that you should use for that. I also don't know that I'd read about global warming on wikipedia and use it as an exclusive guide to your own beliefs on it; again, there is no good single source on such an important subject. However if you do want to look up who's driving for each F1 team next season or Voltron, or what looks like well over a million other articles, wikipedia is probably ok. The alternative is either nothing or you scour the web for some hobbiest that cares enough about Voltron or whatever to put up a webpage of his own and provide a detailed document on it.

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