about me

recent thought / activity




    See the full list at LibraryThing




    loving / hating wikipedia

    I was mightily pleased by Nicholson Baker's piece "The Charms of Wikipedia," which appeared recently at/in the New York Review of Books. It's nominally a review of Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, by John Broughton, but really it's a opportunity for Baker to deliver a big love letter to Wikipedia. Turns out he not only approves of Wikipedia (which surprised me, given his legendary hatred of digital card catalogs and digital newspaper archives), but has also been a Wikipedia contributor. Hm!

    In true Baker style, the thing that lures him in is a desire to save articles that are marked for deletion. It's apparent, from reading Baker's books, that he loves even the most minute details of human existence, and it's really (charmingly) in keeping with his personality that he can't bear the thought of losing the entry on someone like Vladimir Narbut, "a minor Russian Acmeist poet whose second book, Halleluia, was confiscated by the police."

    I've done my share of Wikipedia editing, too, although the thing that often draws me in is born less of love than it is of revulsion: I stumble upon some page that is so mind-bogglingly awful that it stimulates a near-compulsory desire to fix it. This happened most recently regarding the page on (of all things) Nudity in film, which, as you might imagine, had become the repository for some rather unsavory kipple throughout its existence. (My work on it is not complete: see, for instance, the stuff about "a brief shot up Jessica Rabbit's dress" down at the bottom of the page for a representative example of the stuff I've been carving away from it.)

    I'm no expert on nudity in film or anything, but I more-or-less know how to organize and fix bad writing, which makes Wikipedia an occasionally-irresistable pasttime for me.

    Labels: ,


    Thursday, March 13, 2008
    3:02 PM


    I think a lot of people have the same feelings toward Wikipedia. I browse it quite often, more as a hobby than anything else.
    On the flip side, unless an article is adequately cited, I'd never consider using it for actual research.
    Your thoughts?
    The bit about the citation is key. Wikipedia is better-documented and more accurate than most people think, and it can be an invaluable starting point for research, even if just as a resource for locating additional sources (from more reliable outlets) on the topic at hand.

    I don't think the broad academic suspicion of / bias against Wikipedia will change anytime soon, though, so you're probably right to be wary.

    In my fantasies, there's a world where contributing to Wikipedia actually counts as academic work (that it would be something, for instance, that could help you advance in your field), but that's even less likely to happen anytime soon.
    I read somewhere (but can't find to cite) that Wikipedia's humanities sections are often laughable (particularly philosophy), but the articles on the hard sciences are more reliable, or even impressive.

    Anyway, see the Wikipedia:School and university projects (or this old article Wikipedia Signpost/2006-12-26/Wikipedia and academia) for more info on Academia's interactions in WP.

    (random addendum: The majority of the current "idealogical battles" at Wikipedia can basically be boiled down to Eventualism vs. Immediatism. The other isms listed there are also interesting. ("know thy enemy" ;))
    Oh, also, Article validation is just entering testing, and will be implemented in some form, soon. That's going to have a profound set of repercussions on the content and the community. (demo/testing at en.labs.wikimedia.org)

    Article revisions can then be marked as either "unapproved", "basic check", "good", or "featured".

    Afaik, they're still arguing over which revision to display by default (in various instances), and how to apportion these new "validation" powers.

    It's a fascinating place. I can't seem to get enough of it ;)
    Post a Comment



    2011 archive >>

    2010 >>

    2009 >>

    2008 >>

    2007 >>

    2006 >>

    2005 >>

    2004 >>

    2003 >>

    2002 >>

    rss (xml)