Reports suggest that an over-enthusiastic wielding of the banhammer by a high-ranking Wikipedia admin has blown the lid off of a secret internal mailing list used to maintain the control of a central cabal of editors.
I don’t find the existence of website power-cliques particularly surprising; I can’t think of one forum or blog I’ve posted on where an ecosystem of rank and authority hasn’t emerged from the community. In most cases, nor do I find it particularly worrying.
Wikipedia is a special case, however – simply by dint of its claims to impartiality and universal editorial access – and it will be interesting to see what comes of this story. I’m also taking it with a pinch of salt – while it’s doubtless based on fact, there are a lot of folk with axes to grind against Wikipedia for various reasons, and most reports about it are at least as biased as the average Wiki article. And therein lies the crux of the issue, which The Register’s article sums up nicely:
“If you take Wikipedia as seriously as it takes itself, this is a huge problem.”
I use Wikipedia quite a bit, but never as a primary source, and never to research issues or persons of a controversial nature. What about you – is Wikipedia a valuable resource or a waste of bandwidth? [Image by Leonard Low]
7 thoughts on “Cliquey Wiki – Wikipedia inner circle outed?”
I like Wikipedia, and I find it very useful. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to defend it – especially with paranoid nonsense like this Bang Bang ban. Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling promise – Wikipedia’s openness has resulted in so many attacks that a siege mentality has come into being… and that has quickly mutated into outright paranoia. Maybe this is why governments talk about “transparency” but do their damnedest not to put it into practice 🙂
That’s interesting social commentary, Ian. I smell a wikipedia article in the making…
I find it very reliable, even in highly technical areas (like plasma physics and numerical modeling, my specialties). Where there is doubt, the articles are often flagged by warnings that the “neutrality” of the article is questioned.
In other technical areas, for example the structure of organic chemicals with diagrams in the public domain, I find no peer on the internet.
Agreed, docduke – subjects like that tend to be pretty safe as far as factual details are concerned. I think the issues become more fraught when political subjects are involved, or biographies of specific persons.
If I want to know about comic book characters, I’ll head for Wikipedia first. Anything else, and I treat the place like a jumping off point for other sources of information.
But the problem with having a volunteer editing pool is that you’ll start attracting people with tons of free time and an uncle who owns an axe and grindstone factory.
I teach freshman composition at a state university, and it is AMAZING how many students believe that Wikipedia is a legitimate and reliable source for their research papers (I repeatedly tell them why it’s not, but, huh, they don’t seem to listen).
Even worse, some of them seem to think that I don’t know how to use the internet, and they plagiarize entire Wiki entries for their essays.
I personally love Wikipedia, though; but only as a jumping off point, as Adam said. It’s a good place to get a feel for a subject before delving into deeper sources.
I third that — Wikipedia is the best possible place to get past the initial “what the heck is X” moment and where to get more information if you need it.
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