Sunday, March 25, 2007

Wikipedia, Warts and All

Although the idea may have been creative, Larry Sanger, who may or may not have been one of Wikipedia's co-founders in 2001, now wants to start something completely different: Citizendium. Thereby he hopes to avoid Wikipedia's twin problems of vandalism and inconsistency. I think the idea of Wikipedia is interesting (collaboration) but accuracy has never been its strong suit. Entries can be in a state of flux. Which may be an accurate reflection of our state of knowledge.

Someone recently polled me by email asking if I thought Wikipedia had an anti-Christian bias by which he meant favoring CE over AD referring to dates. Oh dear. I replied that problems (other than referring to BCE or BC) with Wikipedia are well known and didn't seem to me to be evidence of anti-Christian bias. However, others have objected rather more vociferously. Conservapedia, for example, has entries on falsifications of Wikipedia.

So I thought I'd take an entry relevant for today: the Annunciation. For someone who knows nothing about the topic, it seems OK. I might change some of the content (the sentence, "In the Bible, the Annunciation is narrated in the book of Luke" isn't actually correct) and grammar (just read the first two sentences). And I'd prefer another translation of Luke's gospel. Whatever its faults, however, this entry is a lot better than the one for Conservapedia. For the Annunciation itself, I'd prefer to reflect on this.


Rev Dr Mom said...

My first encounter with Wikipedia was in your class--must have been two or more years ago, and we edited an entry that was REALLY bad. I've been skeptical ever since, although I do use it, and I think it has improved.

What really surprises me, though, is the extent to which teachers allow students (high school students in this case) to use Wikipedia as a source for research given its problems (as you noted.)

Michael said...

We've been talking about Citizendium over at Highbrid Nation. Personally I use Wikipedia a lot and I don't see anything knocking it off its top spot. The features that make Citizendium better may just be the features that keep it from having the same sucess as Wikpedia. There can only be one. Who will it be?