Wikipedia, good, bad or ugly?

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What do you think of Wikipedia?

It's comparable to the Britannica
4
13%
It's devoid of any scholarship
1
3%
I just use it for basic info
11
37%
I judge it on an article by article basis
11
37%
I contribute to Wikipedia
3
10%
 
Total votes: 30

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Amadeus
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Wikipedia, good, bad or ugly?

Post by Amadeus » Mon Aug 07, 2006 3:50 pm

I'm interested in knowing what textkittens think of Wikipedia. I myself like it and use it frequently, yet I have my reservations, as just about anyone can edit its pages for the better or for the worse.
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.

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William
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Post by William » Mon Aug 07, 2006 4:06 pm

I like it. The quality varies greatly from entry to entry, but for a quick overview of a person, place, or thing, it's a great place to get info.

WB

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jjhayes84
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Post by jjhayes84 » Mon Aug 07, 2006 5:04 pm

I think it is great, but I never rely on it for any type of scholarship. I use it to get quick information about a subject. All of the articles I can ever remember reading were good. I have noticed some poor information, but those instances are suprisingly rare in my experience.
phpbb

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GlottalGreekGeek
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Aug 07, 2006 6:29 pm

There is a site, Wikipeida Watch, which [understatement] has strong reservations concerning the Wikipedia [/understatement].

There was also a scandal where somebody was slandered through a Wikipeidia article. Ironically, the victim was a free-speech activist, and was conflicted whether the Wikipedia should have better monitoring or whether freedom of speech should be preserved. The perpertrator of the scandal did it as a prank and did not believe it would have serious consequences. I don't remember any details, but you can probably find more details if you want to find them.

Wikipedia has varying levels of protection for articles which are high risk of recieving abuse, such as religious issues. They range from not allowing non-registered users to edit to completely freezing the editing of an article. Also, a user can put up a notice that an article a) violates Wikipedia's neutrality policy b) needs more info c) needs sources cited d) violates a number of other Wikipedia rules, such as in-universe vs. out-of-universe writing e) is just a poor article

As for my opinion? I think the Wikipedia is great and is also working on its flaws.

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Post by easternugget » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:15 pm

I use Wikipedia more for random reading. I just start browsing through it and see what I can find, though not so much to get great information but I guess to get entertainment.

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edonnelly
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Post by edonnelly » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:34 pm

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:There was also a scandal where somebody was slandered through a Wikipeidia article. Ironically, the victim was a free-speech activist, and was conflicted whether the Wikipedia should have better monitoring or whether freedom of speech should be preserved.
The victim was John Seigenthaler Sr. who founded the First Amendment Center here at Vanderbilt.

EDIT: By the way, you can read an article he wrote about it (while it was still ongoing) in USA Today and decide for yourself how conflicted he was about it.
Last edited by edonnelly on Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library

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edonnelly
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Post by edonnelly » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:38 pm

"It's comparable to the Britannica"

I guess that option could have different implications depending upon one's opinion of Encyclopedia Britannica.

Personally, I think the Wikipedia is devoid of scholarship, which presumably is why it is so popular.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library

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Post by Carola » Mon Aug 07, 2006 10:55 pm

as just about anyone can edit its pages for the better or for the worse.
And that would have to be my reservation about it - it very much depends on that "anyone" - are they an expert or some bored 14 year old looking for something to do while on-line? However, if everyone is taught to query the information they get on-line and on TV that might make it much more difficult for the scammers and spammers to operate. And that could only be an improvement!
phpbb

Hu

Post by Hu » Mon Aug 07, 2006 11:40 pm

easternugget wrote:I use Wikipedia more for random reading. I just start browsing through it and see what I can find, though not so much to get great information but I guess to get entertainment.
That's what I mainly use it for too. I also use it for basic info, to find out more about a topic, and for the links to more reputable sources, from which the text of the article is often taken. Some articles are good, such as this one on Latin profanity, which is superb. But overall, it's useless for serious research. You can find out my opinion on most of its flaws here.

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Post by Bert » Mon Aug 07, 2006 11:55 pm

Hu wrote: You can find out my opinion on most of its flaws here.
I guess I could edit your article to say that you are girl from New Jersey.

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Post by klewlis » Tue Aug 08, 2006 12:04 am

I just use it for basic info.

I find the idea fascinating, and I think that as it evolves it will become more and more useful and reliable.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:22 am

My support for Wiki goes back to last semester — in my Europaean International Relations class, one of my friends who was with me in the class had already bought the two grossly expensive books, and I offered to pay for half of them if we could share them. Most of the final was to be from this material. He agreed — but the material was so dense, and my friend was moving so slow with the more important book, all he was able to lend me was the smaller one. This all came to me as a shock one day before class began and he told me: "Uh, yeah, about the book ... I don't think I'm going to be able to lend it to you since I haven't been able to really start it yet ... I'm sorry if that's a problem for you."

I was screwed.

Naturally, all the texts had been sent back from the school bookstore, and Amazon could never get me the book before the final. I had only one recourse: Wikipaedia. I read every article and related article and thensome that I could about Europaean IR, all of the history and events and trials and wars and wars and wars. I took in all of it, cramming for weeks. It was my only option. Without a doubt, I read far more than anyone else in that class — I had to; it was the only way to make sure.

The class only had two tests, a midterm and a final. On the midterm I got a B-. But for the class, the final and the midterm together, I got an A. Wiki is to be revered.
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GlottalGreekGeek
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Tue Aug 08, 2006 3:27 am

I find Hu's opinion very interesting. I agree that Wiki is encyclopedia by mob rule but ... I think there is a place for a mob-rule encyclopedia. By sacrificing authority and reliability checks, the wikipedia drastically reduces the costs of making extensive information availble, and letting anybody edit makes it much easier (and cheaper) to reel in massive quantities information of any quality. This gives the Wikipedia the capacity to cover topics far more obscure than would ever be mentioned in the Brittanica. For example, I doubt the encyclopedia Brittanica would ever have an entry on the Haitian mizik rasin band RAM, whereas the Wikipedia article has a lot of information (though it might be inaccurate information, of course). At most, the Brittannica might mention RAM in an article on Haitian music or politics.

On the other hand, the people who are going to be checking articles on, say. economics, are most likely going to be browsed by a) people who want to learn about economics, and are not interested in editing the articles or b) people who, due to their love of economics, have learned quite a bit about it, and are qualified to make edits. There might be the random 12-year-old on a vandalism binge who might just happen to strike at an article on the Phillips Curve, but an obvious vandalism would be noticed by an economics-lover who could fix it (incidently, the wikipedia article on the Phillips Curve is marked as requiring cleanup).

Mind you, I don't think the Wikipedia should replace traditional scholarship, but I think it is a good supplement, whose strengths offset its weaknesses. And I don't think the Wikipedia should even try to replace traditional scholarship either, and if that's what they're trying to do, they are gonig to have to make serious changes.

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Re: Wikipedia, good, bad or ugly?

Post by Democritus » Tue Aug 08, 2006 6:16 am

People should always be a little bit skeptical of everything they read, and that includes Britannica.

What wikipedia lacks in scholarship, it makes up for in breadth, and speed.

Wikipedia is immensely useful, but I agree that it should not be used as a reference, in a bibliography. I don't consider it to be authoritative. But it sure is quick. In some ways wikipedia is like a cross between an encyclopedia and a newspaper. We don't normally expect newspapers to be scholarly, but we do expect them to be timely.

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Post by richc » Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:37 pm

I love wikipedia, helpful that its in many languages, like el.wikipedia.com. I believe its best
for the more obscure references. For instance I was able to do a lookup on "Menander
Protector". I was surprised I could actually find a reference there. As to its accuracy,
I suppose I'd stick with articles that werent so divisive. I seem to remember another
scandal in which an American political candidates aide doctored an article. I can just
imagine what an article on "liberals" or "neoconservatives" would have to say. Actually
I might just go and take a look and see.

For a good reference to an article by wikipedia check:
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/50902

cheers
Rich

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Amadeus
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Post by Amadeus » Tue Aug 08, 2006 9:13 pm

Hu wrote: You can find out my opinion on most of its flaws here.
Oh, good. I wanted to ask this question to a Wikipedia contributor. How is it possible, in your opinion, for Wikipedia to have experts on the editorial board and still keep the encyclopedia free? Obviously peer-reviewing must be a lot of hard work and these experts have to make a living somehow. If it's not possible for Wikipedia to do this, is the whole idea, then, of a free, yet reliable, encyclopedia even feasible?

Vale!
Last edited by Amadeus on Tue Aug 08, 2006 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Lisa: Relax?! I can't relax! Nor can I yield, relent, or... Only two synonyms? Oh my God! I'm losing my perspicacity! Aaaaa!

Homer: Well it's always in the last place you look.

Hu

Post by Hu » Tue Aug 08, 2006 10:09 pm

Amadeus wrote:Oh, good. I wanted to ask this question to a Wikipedia contributor. How is it possible, in your opinion, for Wikipedia to have experts on the editorial board and still keep the encyclopedia free? Obviously peer-reviewing must be a lot of hard work and these experts have to make a living somehow. If it's not possible for Wikipedia to do this, is the whole idea, then, of a free encyclopedia, yet reliable, even feasible?

Vale!
I don't really contribute anymore, but the idea of a "free encyclopedia" as comprehensive as Wikipedia wants to be is quite ridiculous. Yes, there's all that talk about "knowledge being free" - which it is, to a great degree, as you can simply go check out books on any range of subjects from a public library. Even textbooks are available in any university library, which (for public universities at least) are usually open to the community to use.

But compiling knowledge is something few are willing to do for free, unless they have no lives and want to spend time writing things on the internet for the good of all. Few people are that charitable, and as I said knowledge is reasonably "free" anyways.

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Post by Kopio » Wed Aug 09, 2006 3:14 am

I voted, "I just use it for basic info." I had never really used it till I got a Mac (one of my smartest moves to date!) and I got the widget for my dashboard. I use it quite often now, but I think I would probably look other places for serious scholarly info.

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Post by cdm2003 » Fri Aug 11, 2006 2:20 am

I find it quite helpful for basic info but I think the entries need to be taken with a grain of salt. I've had this discussion with my son, who swears by wikipedia. I agree wholeheartedly that it is an incredibly useful, free tool. You can't argue with that fact. I just think anyone who uses it needs to be aware that the information is not necessarily of "peer reviewed" quality, though they do have a nice system of fact verification.

I also agree with the above statement about the different language formats available...it is undeniably quite cool.

Like I said, I use it often for getting basic information...things I'm too lazy to look up in either a dictionary or my 40 lb. encyclopedia. On the other hand, I've seen graduate student papers with it cited. :cry:

Just my two post-Anastasius-reform-decanummi worth,
Chris

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Post by Michaelyus » Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:52 pm

I can't view some of the languages on Wikipedia; this old computer here is just not cut out for so many different languages. :cry:

I quite like to use it for the most basic of information. If someone told me to research something that I'd never seen before, Wikipedia would be first step, to give me an overview of the subject. Then I'd sift through other websites.
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Post by Agrippa » Sun Aug 13, 2006 1:09 am

I like reading wikipedia in other languages. I always read l'encyclopédie libre and l'enciclopedia libera to brush up and learn some varied vocabulary.

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Post by annis » Sun Aug 13, 2006 5:36 pm

Amadeus wrote:Oh, good. I wanted to ask this question to a Wikipedia contributor. How is it possible, in your opinion, for Wikipedia to have experts on the editorial board and still keep the encyclopedia free? Obviously peer-reviewing must be a lot of hard work and these experts have to make a living somehow.
One might ask the very same question about the free-ness of Textkit, or of the many other free sites devoted to the classics.

Wikipedia contributors are often motivated by a passion for the subjects they write articles on, which can be both strength and weakness. Enthusiasm is no replacement for hard work, and it's no trouble to find articles on Wikipedia demonstrating how easy it is to cross the line from passionate to fanatical.

As for paying contributors or editors, I'd mention that academics writing papers for journals are rarely paid for their work in cash, but the call of κλέος ἄφθιτον ("imperishable fame") is not only answered by Homeric heroes. I've been on program committees for technical conferences, which involves quite a lot of peer-review work, and I didn't get paid for that either. But it looks good on a resume. So, there are different ways to benefit from hard editorial work, not just cash payment.

I have modified or created a few Wikipedia articles on a few topics I know a little about. When I do, I try to include references to to more standard works, including journal articles, whenever possible.

On a range of technical topics the Wikipedia references are pretty good. But for anything else, I take great care. On our own favorite topic the articles are often not current with recent research.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;

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