Friday, 3 February 2006

How to make Wikipedia better (and why we should)

via OLDaily

By the very name of the website (Online Journal Review), we can almost guest the initial position of the author. Stephen is right that if Wikipedia has adopted the suggestions

forcing editors to register, demanding references and reasons for changes, clearing copyrights for all materials prior to posting

there is only marginal improvement to the quality and will also kill the project in the first place.

There are several facts which I like to draw your attention before you come to any conclusion.
  1. In terms of rate of error, Wikipedia and Britannica has no statistically significantly difference [Nature Magazine's research released last December]. So the current process of producing articles have roughly the same quality of those by paid "experts" picked by non-domain editors as the "self-nominated" wikipedia contributors.
  2. In terms of speed of correction to reported errors, Wikipedia has a significant advantage compared with Britannica.
  3. In term of scope or coverage, it is generally agreed that Wikipedia, given that it has no size limitation, has a boarder coverage with significantly more content.
  4. In terms of speed of reacting to news (e.g. 2004 Tsunami), Wikipedia was reported to be very good. [I heard Jim Wales talked about this in one of the podcast, but I can't find the reference right now.]
  5. As I have argued earlier, today's information is dynamic and changing quickly. "When there is no SINGLE best manifestation of any knowledge, the next best thing we can have is a dynamic manifestation of that knowledge domain, maintained by the community involved with that knowledge domain and have a short self-correction cycle."

One comment I would like to make on the 6 suggestions is about the last one. "Settle copyright disputes before questionable material is published" First of all, I believe citing material in wikipedia falls within the fair use provision. Secondly, if there is any large scale copyright violation, that can be remedied in short life-cycle, unlike print medium in which withdrawal is lengthy and problematic.

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