Wikipedia created by teenage male computer nerds

Martin Cohen, philosophy lecturer and editor of The Philosopher, writes in Times Higher Education 28 Aug 2008 about Wikipedia and calls it encyclopedia Idiotica and says it’s created mostly by teenage male computer nerds.

“Journalists doing research turn to Wikipedia. Students write essays based on its entries. Professors grab lecture notes from it”.

Yes, beside of students I also see to many journalists using Wikipeda as a source. It’s sometimes okay if it’s not that kind of “trivial” subjects like hockey. In this swedish news article from NWT.se they refer to the Butterfly style. Okay for me. But here in Dalarnas Tidningar they refer to an author entry in Wikipedia and here in Helagotland.se they refer to a wikipedia entry on Creosote.

Martin Cohen has similar statements as Wikipedia critics like Andrew Keen and Tara Brabazon:

“Wikipedia’s version of reality has already become a monopoly. And all the prejudices and ignorance of its creators are imposed too”.

And he also finds doubtful information in Wikipedia entries:

“…on Wikipedia we must learn that Mao’s political philosophy is essentially the use of violence to suppress dissent, that Socrates was “Plato’s teacher” who left behind “not very many” writings, and that Hitler greatly admired Russian Communism, saying: “The whole of National Socialism is based on it.”

And the most terrible in Wikipedia is the way of referring to sources:

“Because, on Wikipedia, knowledge is tracked instantly via Google searches, online newspapers and other internet encyclopaedias, not so much by consulting primary sources as ‘tertiary sources’ – other internet sites”.

So, what do I think about Wikipedia. It’s a great tool for finding information, not knowledge, fast and get on further in your research.

It’s not a great tool to use as it was a primary source and a source to refer to, especially by journalists.

Many, many Wikipedia entries has terrible references. Often it’s not primary sources and often it’s biased sources.

Journalists, students, professors should use Wikipedia, but not as a single source and not as something you can refer to as a source, doesn’t matter if it’s a news article, paper, thesis or dissertation you’re writing on.

Leksikon.org discussed in Denmark

Jack Andersen, lecturer at Danmarks biblioteksskole, discussed in his blog in April this year the Danish free webencyclopedia Leksikon.org, on the grounds of an article published in Weekendavisen March 19-27 this year [PDF].

According to the article and Danish Wikipedia the encyclopedia is left-minded and was established by left wing parties Enhedslisten and Venstresocialisterne. They call their encyclopedia for The encyclopedia for the 21th century and explain their motives sincerely on their website: Can we trust the Internet?.

“It’s always the winners that write the history. That’s why encyclopedias nearly always are published by well-established publishers. Now where doing an exception! The encyclopedia for the 21th century is an alternative Danish encyclopedia which a bigger circuit of authors been updating since 1998”.

Jack is critizing the WA article because it seems they are assuming that encyclopedias are neutral. This is what leksikon.org says about being neutral.

“The encyclopedia is not neutral, because the neutral is not existing. Instead we try to present varoius bids and interpretations of the ideas explained. The reader doesn’t get an explanation but several. In that way it’s not dogmatic and for that reason our motto is; be in doubt of everything”.

Jack says in his blog again:

“It’s important to put the search engines, the encyclopedias and databases and their cultural context in the public eye”.

Also read the Jack Andersen column in Berlingske Tidene 26 August 2007 with title: Can we trust the Internet? Or use Google Translate for an english translation.

Leksikon.org has taken inspiration from the Norwegian encyclopedia Pax Leksikon.

Accuracy of Wikipedia compared to other encyclopedias

Okay, this study was published in early 2008 but I didn’t discovered it until recently. “Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles” by Lycy Holman Rector published in Reference Services Review vol. 36, häfte 1, 2008, s. 7-22.

Nine Wikipedia articles, only historical entries, were compared against articles in Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Dictionary of American History and American National Biography Online to compare Wikipedia’s accuracy. and the conclusions as expressed by Holman Rector:

“Wikipedia’s accuracy rate was 80 percent compared with 95-96 percent accuracy within the other sources. This study does support the claim that Wikipedia is less reliable than other reference resources”.

Though there has to be made more comparisons in other disciplines, preferably biograhies I think, to get more results it shows that the Nature-article, comparing Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, so many pro-wikipedians refer to need more accessorial research like this.

Rememeber also that Rosenzweig, R. (2006), “Can history be open source? Wikipedia and the future of the past”, Journal of American History, Vol. 93 No. 1, pp. 117-46. found:

“…Wikipedia to be less comprehensive and detailed than American National Biography but more so than Encarta”.