Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Great Wikipedia Debate

To tell you the truth, I haven't paid much attention to the Wikipedia until a few months ago. Sure I read the article in Nature magazine comparing Encyclopaedia Britannica with the Wikipedia --result being very close to a tie. And Britannica's cry of foul condemning the quality of the Nature research. One of those excellent academic debates that don't make the headline news.
And the Library instruction list has been buzzing lately with Stephen Colbert's reverse-spin take off on the social construction of knowledge demonstrated in Wikipedia. But an article in July 31 New Yorker by Stacy Schiff, "Know It All" distilled many of these arguments and added other dimensions worth considering. EB has 120,000 entries. Wikipedia has 1,000,000, many of them on places, people and topics, like "the forty-five-minute Anglo-Zanzibar War or Islam in Iceland." Sudoku might never be considered worthy of the EB, but a lot of curious people would like a clear, concise explanation without having to troll through lily-pads of adverts on hundreds of webpages. But obviously "peer review" takes on greater weight when an editor may be a bored 14 year old hacker enjoying a prank on the world.

Should we not use Wikipedia, because it is untrustworthy? No one is keeping the scholars out of editorship. As a matter of fact as a non-profit, donation-only supported noble effort, I think scholars, students, and even librarians have an super opportunity to add to the world's knowledge. This is about the easiest place to do it. Won't count as a publication. Won't count for a grade. But if you know more about something than anyone else, and we all do about something (our hometown, local folklore, an ancestor) then maybe we have a responsibility to share it or at least fill-in what others have started. (Called STUBS)

I just noticed that Felicity Huffman's page mentions nothing about her theatre experience. I added her OBIE, but need to make the time to go back and fill in with more. js

The Wikipedia
The Britannica is available as Britannica Online under Electronic Reference Books link on the U. Lib Homepage.
The New Yorker article is available to South Alabama community through Gale/Infotrac's Expanded Academic ASAP. Go to Articles, Indexes, Databases link and choose the first database on the left.
Stephen Colbert video:

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