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Debate: Is Wikipedia valuable?

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Is Wikipedia a reliable and socially beneficial resource?

Background and context

Wikipedia is a free, multilingual, open content encyclopedia project operated by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a blend of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites) and encyclopedia. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it is the largest, fastest-growing and most popular general reference work currently available on the Internet.
It is, by far, the largest encyclopedia in the history of the world, twenty times larger in its volume of words than its closest counter-part, encyclopedia Britannica.

As of April 2008, Wikipedia attracts 683 million visitors annually reading over 10 million articles in 253 languages, comprising a combined total of over 1.74 billion words for all Wikipedias. The English Wikipedia edition passed the 2,000,000-article mark on September 9, 2007, and as of May 28, 2008 it had over 2,390,000 articles consisting of over 1,034,000,000 words. The amazing success of Wikipedia and its implications for the future of knowledge exchange have prompted many to critique and question its model, its reliability, and its future.

The debate regarding Wikipedia's reliability and social utility center around the following questions. Is Wikipedia reliable as a reference work? Is it as reliable as Britannica? Is it better than Britannica? Is Wikipedia's openness to editing by anybody around the world a source of strength or vulnerability to non-experts, misinformation, and vandalism? Is its overall model of consensus over credentials valuable or susceptible to a kind of tyranny of the majority? Do these policies tend to cause Wikipedia to suffer from a systemic bias that gives too much priority and attention to popular, albeit insignificant topics. Is Wikipedia's policy of Neutral Point of View (NPOV) a strength or a problem?

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Vs. Britannica: Is Wikipedia better than Britannica?

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Yes

In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site. They did, however, discover a series of factual errors, omissions or misleading statements. All told, Wikipedia had 162 such problems, while Britannica had 123."
  • Trust in Britannica's credentials over Wikipedia is misplaced; human error in both. Traditional encyclopedias are based on the reputation of certain authors. These authors, though small in number, are highly interested and ostensibly qualified to find good sources for their information, and are therefore expected to produce good quality articles - however, they are not immune to human error.
  • Wikipedia is not limited as are paper encyclopedias such as Britannica. Articles are not strictly limited in size as they are with paper encyclopedias. Also, the fact that Wikipedia does not use paper is environmentally friendly, as compared to Britannica substantial reliance on paper.
  • Readers can correct errors on Wikipedia but not on Britannica. The only recourse on Britannica is to write to an editor, and the errors may be corrected in print in a few years, as opposed to minutes in Wikipedia. Because Wikipedia runs on the internet, any changes are visible to readers almost immediately. Also, using the versioning system, users can determine when and what changes were made to a specific article.
  • Wikipedia is free; Many online encyclopedias are not. What's more, Wikipedia has no ads!
  • If Wikipedia has it wrong, so too does Britannica. It's important to realize that many of the same criticisms leveled against Wikipedia can be leveled against Britannica.
  • Wikipedia opens discussion on "truth"; Britannica closes it Cory Doctorow - "if you want to really navigate the truth via Wikipedia, you have to dig into those "history" and "discuss" pages hanging off of every entry. That's where the real action is, the tidily organized palimpsest of the flamewar that lurks beneath any definition of "truth."...The Britannica tells you what dead white men agreed upon, Wikipedia tells you what live Internet users are fighting over."
  • Wikipedia is constantly updated; traditional encyclopedias are not. While traditional encyclopedias might be revised annually, current affairs articles, as well as older articles being edited, are updated thousands of times an hour. That's a big deal if your interest is in current affairs, recent science, pop culture, or any other field that changes rapidly.


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No

  • Nature's study of Wikipedia and Britannica was poorly conducted Andrew Orlowski. "Nature Mag cooked Wikipedia study". The Register. December, 2005 - "…Nature sent only misleading fragments of some Britannica articles to the reviewers, sent extracts of the children's version and Britannica's 'book of the year' to others, and in one case, simply stitched together bits from different articles and inserted its own material, passing it off as a single Britannica entry." Encyclopædia Britannica argued that the Nature study showed that while the error rate between the two encyclopedias was similar, a breakdown of the errors indicated that the mistakes in Wikipedia were more often the inclusion of incorrect facts, while the mistakes in Britannica were "errors of omission".
  • Nature's study showed Wikipedia to be 31% less accurate than Britannica Andrew Orlowski, "Wikipedia science 31% more cronky than Britannica's", The Register (16 Dec. 2005) - "Science journal Nature chose 42 science articles from both Encyclopedia Britanica [sic] and gave peer reviewers a blind test to find mistakes. That gave the free-for-all web site a fighting chance — as it excluded the rambling garbage and self-indulgence that constitute much of the wannabe "encyclopedia" social science and culture entries. [...] Britannica turned up 123 "errors", and Wikipedia 162. In other words, the quality of information coming from Wikipedia was 31 per cent worse. [...] Who could possibly hail this as good news? Two camps, we think. People with a real chip on their shoulder about authority, as we saw earlier this week. People with a contempt for learning, many of you say. But more broadly, only someone more obsessed by process than by the end result can regard this as any kind of victory — something all the popular press missed in their anxiety to gives us an upbeat, good news story from Planet Wikipedia yesterday."
  • Wikipedia has many stupid or irrelevant articles as compared to Britannica. Stupid articles. Wikipedia has a large number of articles which could be considered rather irrelevant for something billing itself as an encyclopedia, such as teh (a misspelling of the word the), gas mask fetishism (just one of many of Wikipedia's articles on obscure sexual fetishes), list of films that most frequently use the word "fuck", goatse (an Internet shock site), Toilets in Japan and The Flowers of Romance (band) (a band that never played live or recorded any material).
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Error-rates: Does Wikipedia have a relatively high rate of error?

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Yes

  • Criticism of the reliability of Wikipedia tends to highlight isolated examples. Among Wikipedia's nearly 3 million articles, such examples are likely to exist just from the size of this number alone. On the other hand, the few comparative studies which have been done so far have found the average factual accuracy of Wikipedia to be similar or sometimes even higher than that of traditional encyclopedias.
  • Top online encyclopedias have disclaimers and provide no warranty as to their accuracy - Britannica, Encarta and Bartleby (see Wikipedia:Non-Wikipedia disclaimers, which also includes examples from reputed news organisations). Sometimes the staff of those encyclopedias seem to forget about the disclaimers.


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No

  • Nature's study showed Wikipedia to be 31% less accurate than Britannica Andrew Orlowski, "Wikipedia science 31% more cronky than Britannica's", The Register (16 Dec. 2005) - "Science journal Nature chose 42 science articles from both Encyclopedia Britanica [sic] and gave peer reviewers a blind test to find mistakes. That gave the free-for-all web site a fighting chance — as it excluded the rambling garbage and self-indulgence that constitute much of the wannabe "encyclopedia" social science and culture entries. [...] Britannica turned up 123 "errors", and Wikipedia 162. In other words, the quality of information coming from Wikipedia was 31 per cent worse.


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Non-experts: Is it valuable or bad that non-experts can edit on Wikipedia?

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Yes

  • Amateur work can be improved by expert editors and professionals. An amateurish article to be improved later is better than nothing.
  • Other encyclopedia articles are written merely by professional writers (not experts). It is a myth that other encyclopedia articles are written by experts in the field of the article. Rather, articles are written by professional writers and journalists that are non-specialists in the field in which they are writing articles. Typically, one of these writers is given the task of writing a couple dozen articles on topics in which they have no expert knowledge.
  • Amateurs are capable of becoming expert editors. Human-beings are not static creatures that can be labeled, for their lifetime, experts or amateurs. Amateurs that enter the Wikipedia project often become experts in a particular area of interests and become, over-time expert researchers and editors. Any complaints about an amateur on Wikipedia today, may prove invalid over time.
  • Wikis fit with the idea of the web as interactive and editor-friendly. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, repeatedly mentions in his book "Weaving the Web" that the web has grown into a medium that is much easier to read than to edit. He envisaged the web as a much more collaborative medium than it currently is, and thought that the browser should also function as an editor. Wiki-based sites are closer to his vision. In fact, the first web browser was also a web editor.
  • Wikipedia seems to attract highly intelligent, articulate people (with the exception of repeat vandals) with some time on their hands. Moreover, there are some experts at work here. Over time, the huge amount of solid work done by hobbyists and dilettantes can (and no doubt will) be hugely improved upon by experts. This both makes Wikipedia a pleasant intellectual community (or so it seems to some) and gives us some confidence that the quality of Wikipedia articles will, in time, if not yet, be high.
  • Wikipedia's international editorial-base provides a strong world-view. Because the highly intelligent editors on Wikipedia come from all over the world, Wikipedia can give the reader a genuine "world view".
  • Many of Wikipedia's editors are experts or professionals in the field of coverage. Many critics of Wikipedia insist articles are written by amateurs and are not reliable, but in fact many contributors on specific matters are professionals or have firsthand knowledge on the subjects they write about. Wikipedia's mathematics section, for example, benefits greatly from the dedication of several mathematicians who are very active on Wikipedia.
  • Many Wikipedians are experts in a niche field or local area. Where else can you get lovely articles on such-and-such town or so-and-so bizarre hobby written by actual residents/practitioners?
  • Pre-selecting writers of articles is not a sound model for building an encyclopedia. Is restricting who writes about what the best way to reach and maintain high standards? Perhaps a more open way is better. Wikipedia is a good test of that proposition.


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No

  • Wikis cannot possibly be 100% reliable if anyone can edit them. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can edit Wikipedia. Because of this, not all information on wiki resources can be reliable. Not all information is accurate and "weasel editors" constantly purposely ruin pages and change information to make false. While a lot of wiki information is reliable, there will always be false and unreliable information. Millions of people around the world edit Wikipedia and other wiki resources, and not all of them can or will give accurate, reliable information.
  • Wikipedia's anti-elitism has damaged its quality and credibility Wikpedia has a very community-based ethic. This gives little credit to "experts". In fact, Wikipedians often despise "experts". This undermines the involvement of experts and scholars in editing on the site, which undermines the quality of articles as well as the credibility that the public affords to the site.
  • Amateurs with no knowledge on a subject cannot produce quality articles. Good quality requires peer review and expertise. Why should we care about articles written by an arbitrary group of people whose knowledge and ability could range from expertise to hopeless ignorance? Ignorance mixed with knowledge does not benefit knowledge.
  • Micro-contributions can lead to incoherent and uncoordinated articles. In a related problem, large articles constructed via numerous (individually reasonable) edits to a small article can look okay "close up", but are often horribly unstructured, bloated, excessively "factoid", uncohesive and self-indulgent when read through completely. In short, adding a sentence at a time doesn't encourage quality on a larger scale; at some stage, the article must be restructured. This happens nowhere near often enough. Users who try to do this inevitably encounter hostility or resistance, until they figure out that they should do it with a throwaway pseudonym, not a real name.
  • Those disaffected with humanity see Wikipedia as an outlet for their vitriol. This is rather than having to become misanthropes, terrorists or political researchers. Some people will take great pleasure in demonstrating the idiotic futility of such rubbish. This seems like a positive quality of Wikipedia, until one realizes that any sufficiently toxic or stupid view will quickly acquire more adherents, and that defenders of a particular view will tend to create factions that might soon exist offline. And that any group perceiving itself as beleaguered or disadvantaged will band together more readily, and achieve common cause more readily. Is Wikipedia the breeding ground for this century's cults?
  • Wikipedia's collectivism produces mediocre information Jaron Lanier, Digital Maoism - "The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it? The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous."


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"Encyclopedia": Is Wikipedia an "encyclopedia" or is this too strong a word?

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Yes

  • There is no reason Wikipedia can't be considered a "serious" reference. Many believe that Wikipedia can be used only as long as it is not considered a "serious reference". But, what does serious mean? Serious can mean: timely and up to date, requiring of citations and footnotes, open to change all the time, with no unalterable dogma, and immune to political or economic pressure. Wikipedia fits all of these criteria. Only a select criteria of "seriousness" could prevent Wikipedia from being considered serious. In any case, its loyal writers and readers almost all consider it to be a very serious, and historic resource. It seems that those that are not involved in the project or that don't consistently use the resource are the only ones that don't consider it a "serious" encyclopedia.


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No

  • Wikipedia is not an authoritative "encyclopedia" Robert McHenry said that Wikipedia errs in billing itself as an encyclopedia, because that word implies a level of authority and accountability that they believe cannot be possessed by an openly editable reference. He said, "to the ordinary user, the turmoil and uncertainty that may lurk beneath the surface of a Wikipedia article are invisible. He or she arrives at a Wikipedia article via Google, perhaps, and sees that it is part of what claims to be an "encyclopedia". This is a word that carries a powerful connotation of reliability. The typical user doesn't know how conventional encyclopedias achieve reliability, only that they do."[1]
  • Wikipedia is online and interactive, unlike other encyclopedias John Willinsky reported a preference for online sources over print sources - "Only four out of the 100 entries relied exclusively on print sources (and they were single–source entries), while print sources turned up in a dozen entries in total...Online sources were clearly favored among contributors, as the greater interconnectivity which the Internet represents, compared to print culture, also forms part of Wikipedia's quality as an instrument of knowledge and learning."


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Consensus: Is Wikipedia's model of consensus a good one?

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Yes

  • Collective knowledge on Wikipedia is superior to individual, small-group knowledge. Wikipedia brings hundreds of thousands of minds together to share their collective knowledge. This is compared to traditional encyclopedia's in which a much smaller number of minds are brought together. More minds have greater knowledge and have clearly produced greater encyclopedia of knowledge on Wikipedia.


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No

  • Editors form into "gangs" to impose their views on opposite minded contributors. It makes a travesty of the revert rule when one individual can simply send an e-mail alert to friend requesting a timely "revert favour" once he has reached the limit of his daily reverts. This may apply to deletion debates as well, where a group of editors may be organised so as to always vote en masse in favour of keeping article written by one of the gang, or related to the gang's main field of interest.
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Peer review: Is Wikipedia possibly better off without a formal peer-review process?

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Yes

  • Peer review processes frequently entrench the status quo. Many great advances in the social and natural sciences have come by challenging the status quo and, because of that, their contributions were ignored or belittled by their peers. For example, George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics in 2001, had his classic paper (for which he won the Nobel Prize) entitled "The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism" rejected by the American Economic Review for being trivial and by the Journal of Political Economy because it conflicted with economic theory. Only after submitting it to a third journal, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, did the breakthrough article become published. Wikipedia allows for discourse where other venues would not.
  • Wikipedia encourages using sources with peer-review. While Wikipedia itself does not have an official peer-review process, it does encourage the use of reliable published sources that involve have a strong peer-review process. It, therefore, does rely on the formal peer-review; just not its own.
  • Changing Wikipedia's open model would undermine the factors that have enabled its success. Wikipedia has achieved what success it has so far precisely by being as open as it has been. So, again, we don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.


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No

  • Wikipedia lacks the important process of peer-review Why should we care about articles written by an arbitrary group of people whose knowledge and ability could range from expertise to hopeless ignorance? Ignorance mixed with knowledge does not benefit knowledge.
  • Wikipedia should have a peer review process before edits are accepted At the moment it is entirely in the hands of an individual whether he thinks a modification he intends is an improvement, so there comes a point when a modification is as likely to damage the resource. If some system could be installed, then you would protect against crank attacks as well as misjudgment, and ensure a continually improving resource.


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Reliability: Is Wikipedia a reliable resource?

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Yes

  • Wikipedia creates reliability through the democratic check of openness. Openness and transparency are the greatest of democratic principles. Indeed, the hypothesis that openness is to the benefit of quality has already been tested, and to the benefit of the hypothesis: articles that have been worked on by many different people in the context of Wikipedia are now comparable to articles that can be found in some excellent encyclopedias. If, however, you insist on considering the hypothesis a priori, please ask yourself: which is more likely to be correct? 1. A widely circulated article, subject to scrutiny, correction, and potentially constant improvement over a period of months or years, by vast numbers of experts and enthusiasts, possibly updated mere minutes before you read it. Or, 2. An article written by a nonspecialist professional writer or scholar (as many encyclopedia articles are), mostly shielded from public review and improvement, likely over a year ago.


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No

  • Anyone can delete huge amounts of text from Wikipedia articles or even the entire article itself, ruining lots of work. This is referred to as "blanking" by those in the Wikipedia community, and is considered vandalism. Such "blanking" is typically fixed (by reverting to the previous version of the page, before the text was removed), within minutes. However, within those few minutes, or in the few cases where such blanking is first noticed by a viewer who is not aware of the history feature of Wikipedia pages, a page may seem to be severely lacking information, or be otherwise incomplete, due to this deletion.
  • Anyone can insert huge amounts of text into an article, destroying readability and all sense of proportion. Attempts to redress this are often futile and occasionally result in warnings, due to the inherent bias in the Wikipedia community that bigger is somehow better.


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Self-improvement: Does Wikipedia's model tend toward refinement and perfection?

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Yes

  • Wikipedia is a work in progress and self-correcting. Articles seem to be getting steadily more polished. Articles have a tendency to get gradually better and better, particularly if there is one person working on an article with reasonable regularity (in that case, others have a tendency to help). There are some articles we can all point to that started out life mediocre at best and are now at least somewhat better than mediocre. Now suppose this project lasts for many years and attracts many more people, as seems perfectly reasonable to assume. Then how could articles not be burnished to a scintillating luster? Also, how could the model itself not continue to evolve and improve?


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No

  • Good articles can be worsened on Wikipedia. Dross can proliferate, rather than become refined, as rhapsodic authors have their articles revised by ignorant editors. Anyone can add subtle nonsense or accidental misinformation to articles that can take weeks or even months to be detected and removed.


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Standards: Does Wikipedia have strong standards?

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Yes

  • Wikipedia does have strong standards - the ones followed by each contributor, and in some cases, these are very high standards indeed. (For example, we encourage all contributors to cite their sources.) As traffic increases, so will expert help, and as gaps are filled in, the only way remaining for Wikipedia to improve will be in quality and depth. This, in turn, is likely to attract more experts, who follow their own very high standards.
  • Standards are always improving on Wikipedia. To make a claim about what standards Wikipedia follows is to make a claim about what standards present and future Wikipedia contributors follow; the current standard is always changing. To say that such people have no standards is baseless.


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No

  • Encyclopedia Britannica has higher standards than Wikipedia, for what they put into their publications, both online and offline. Wikipedia has no such standards, so it's bound to be low quality.


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Completeness: Is Wikipedia a complete encyclopedia with articles on appropriate topics?

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Yes

  • Some articles on Wikipedia are only stubs that should be full articles. There are many "stub" entries on Wikipedia that are insufficient. But, this should be recognized in the context that there are over two million articles in Wikipedia's English version, as compared to only around 80,000 articles in Britannica. In other words, Britannica is one-twentieth the size of Wikipedia and has many more articles missing that you might believe it should contain. Also, stubs can be made into comprehensive articles over time. It is better to have an incomplete article than none at all.


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No

  • Many incomplete stub articles persist on Wikipedia.' Many people attack "stub" instead of finding information to add to a topic, which causes Wikipedia to contain an abundance of articles which are merely a line or two long. Editors who find stubs are often not experts in the subject but want to learn more. Consequently, if they do actually add any content, it might lack in quality.
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Vandalism: Does Wikipedia handle vandalism adequately?

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Yes

  • Wikipedia's consensus model smothers cranks and mis-informants with reasonable minds. Although cranks do contribute material to Wikipedia, it's easy to delete patent nonsense as soon as it appears on the Recent Changes page. Some websites say the first moon landing was staged in a movie studio, or describe supposed perpetual motion machines. It is impossible to correct those websites, no matter how wrong they are, because their authors demand complete control over their work. They fail miserably on Wikipedia. Because no one owns the information in Wikipedia, misinformation can be fixed. In the best case, cranks who are unable to accept critical editing of their writing will find they have no platform and leave; those willing to present their interests in less-biased ways become valuable contributors.
  • Vandalisms aimed at "demonstrating" Wikipedia's unreliability are invalid. Those that are involved in the Wikipedia debate often attempt to sabotage or vandalize Wikipedia articles in order to prove their point regarding Wikipedia's alleged unreliability. Yet, these vandalisms are invalid demonstrations in the sense that they arise from a self-fulfilling prophecy; that should be demonstrated to be unreliable by making it unreliable through vandalism.
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No

  • Wikipedia falls prey to determined abusers and vandals. Editors who vandalise content ruin the site for honest users. Most people only write reliable facts when editing wikis. The majority of people will want to help grow wikis for the public good. There are only a few people that want to cause harm. Unless they are blocked, they will put others of editing.
  • Many vandalisms on Wikipedia are not corrected for months While most instances of page blanking or the addition of offensive material are soon reverted, less obvious vandalism has remained for longer periods. For example, a user made several racist edits to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that were not reverted for nearly four hours.[54] Columnist Sujay Kumar commented: "While Wikipedia says that most vandal edits are removed within five minutes, some falsities have managed to go unnoticed. An outlandishly fake entry about Larry King's uncontrollable flatulence was posted for a month."[2]


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Libel/misinformation: Does Wikipedia safeguard well against these problems?

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Yes

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No

  • Wikipedia falls prey to libel and character assassination Libel and character assassinations are a real concern on Wikipedia. Who is held accountable when a biography is altered to attack the character of an individual? The problem is that there is no accountability (Wikipedia and Wikimedia cannot be held legally liable for user-generated content), so the risks are very high to public figures with biographies on Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia's popularity makes the spread of misinformation/libel common. Because Wikipedia is widely used, often showing up high in Google searches, and its dangers are not well understood by many people, misinformation in Wikipedia articles can easily spread to other external sources. In turn, the external source (which may not have cited the Wikipedia article) may be used as justification for the misinformation in future revisions of the Wikipedia article. This is sometimes called an echo chamber, and some well-known Wikipedians including Wales have done it.
  • Wikipedia is an ideal target for smear campaigns. Wikipedia, especially as it is propagated widely, presents an ideal target for smear campaigns and vicious rumors against individuals. While such smears can be found and edited, the rumors sometimes continue to exist in page histories, on Wikipedia mirror sites and in web-caches.
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Anonymity: Is Wikipedia's policy of anonymity a good idea?

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Yes

  • Wikis need more users to help them grow. Without new users, wikis would stop growing as quickly as they currently are. Ideas like these discourage new users.
  • User identity is impossible to enforce on the Internet User identity is impossible to ensure on the Internet. A site with "real" user identity, therefore, will not actually be any better than a site with a policy of anonymity. Lest a site desires to have an unreliable and unenforceable policy of user identity, it is better to acknowledge the problem and simply adopt a policy of anonymity.


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No

  • This will remove the issue of vandalism When only established users can edit, there will be very little vandalism as established users are all working in the interests of the project.
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Systemic bias: Does Wikipedia avoid systemic bias?

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Yes

  • Less significant articles on Wikipedia don't hamper significant ones Critics of Wikipedia concede that the encyclopedia's coverage of pop culture does not impose space constraints on the coverage of more "serious" subjects, as spelled out in the "Wiki is not paper" article. As Ivor Tossell noted: "That Wikipedia is chock full of useless arcana (and did you know, by the way, that the article on "Debate" is shorter than the piece that weighs the relative merits of the 1978 and 2003 versions of Battlestar Galactica?) isn't a knock against it: Since it can grow infinitely, the silly articles aren't depriving the serious ones of space."


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No

  • Wikipedia suffers from systemic bias; disproportionate coverage Wikipedia has been accused of systemic bias, a tendency to cover topics in a detail disproportionate to their importance. As an example, Stephen Colbert once faux-praised Wikipedia for having a "longer entry on 'lightsabers' than it does on the 'printing press.'" Some call this "geek priorities". There are many long and well-written articles on obscure characters in science fiction/fantasy and very specialised issues in computer science, physics and math. Other topic areas are less active.
  • Wikipedia suffers from a liberal bias Those that participate in Wikipedia as editors, and citizen journalists in general, tend to be more liberal. Therefore, the vast majority of Wikipedia's editors tend to have a liberal bias that pervades the content of the site.


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Editor-experience: Is Wikipedia good/fun/healthy for its editors?

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Yes

  • Users edit according to their interests and passions on Wikipedia. On Wikipedia, there are no required topics and no one is setting assignments. That means that anyone can find part of the encyclopedia they're interested in and add to it immediately (if they can do better than what's already there). This increases motivation and keeps things fun.
  • Wikipedia is not for individual prose, but superior collective knowledge. - Wikipedians don't try to own the additions they make to Wikipedia. They are working together on statements of what is known (what constitutes free human knowledge) about various subjects. Each of us individually benefits from this arrangement. It is difficult to write the perfect article single-handedly, but it becomes easier when working together. Hence the saying "Many hands makes light work."


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No

  • Wikipedia is cultish and repels minority points of view The so-called "Wikipedia:community ban" (a form of lynching) will be imposed to ensure that no view seriously challenging that of the majority will ever manage to "stick" on Wikipedia pages. Even if it's correct. Especially if it's correct! Truth is not the criterion for inclusion in Wikipedia.
  • Despite claims to the opposite, Wikipedia is a bureaucracy, full of rules described as "policies" and "guidelines" with a hierarchy aimed at enforcing these and with many individuals promoting instruction creep. It is asserted that this has been used to delete useful information and informative images and to deface articles through over-application of bureaucratic processes. Debates as part of the bureaucratic process divert individuals from editing and improving articles.
  • There's a culture of hostility and conflict, rather than of good will and cooperation. Even experienced Wikipedians fail to assume good faith in their collaborators. Fighting off the barbarians at our gate is a higher priority than incorporating them into the community.
  • Wikipedia is creating large numbers of wikipediholics These people could be doing something more useful. Calling them addicts or cultists might not be entirely incorrect.
  • Authors cannot claim authorship of any article. This makes it hard to use even the authorship of astonishingly good articles as a credential, in part because they may change before anyone looks.
  • Editing Wikipedia is tedious in the case of conflicts. There is no assistance to users caught in it, which is terrible for newbies.
  • Wikipedia is losing good editors at an alarming rate. But who can blame them for leaving?


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NPOV: Is Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View (NPOV) sound?

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Yes

  • Wikipedia enables the presentation of arguments in a neutral context. Responding to concerns that "Wikipedia will end up like Usenet (newsgroups) — just a bunch of flame wars." This problem is a bit larger, but it is dealt with fairly handily by the Wikipedia's social mores, known as Wikiquette. Arguments on article pages are moved either to a corresponding talk page (e.g., Talk:Theory of relativity) or to a new article page presenting the arguments within a neutral context (e.g., operating system advocacy).
  • Wikipedia promotes philosophies of making the world a better place Wikipedia involves Thousands of people, all over the world, from all cultures, working together in harmony to freely share clear, factual, unbiased information. It involves a simple and pure desire to make the world a better place.


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No

  • Wikipedia's NPOV policies contradict inherently opposing views Many philosophers have argued that there is nothing that is completely true for everyone in all contexts. Therefore it might be so that Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy is doomed to fail because no chunk of text will be considered perfectly neutral to everyone. Even the idea that a NPOV is achievable is in itself a POV. Cory Doctorow (in a response to other criticisms by Jaron Lanier) emphasized the value of transparent history: "being able to see multiple versions of [any issue], organized with argument and counter-argument, will do a better job of equipping you to figure out which truth suits you best."
  • NPOV is difficult for the ordinary reader to filter. This doesn't help the casual reader and certainly would not help one equipped only with a static CD or print version in some future 3rd world village. Doctorow acknowledges that: True, reading Wikipedia is a media literacy exercise. You need to acquire new skill-sets to parse out the palimpsest. He argues it's fun, but he writes for a living and studies these things.
  • There's no way to split irreconcilable POVs You might have to work with people who believe the polar opposite to you on a given subject, and their opinion might win the day for reasons other than being correct. For example, a monomaniac, no matter how ignorant or even malicious, may "win out" eventually, because non-monomaniacs have other things to do than argue with them.
  • Politics defies and cannot easily be handled by NPOV. Most, if not all, contributors have a political bias, even if they pretend not to or think that they don't. Effectively, they are all working to subvert articles one way or another, as politics defies NPOV. Yet attempts to define Wikipedia:political disputes continue to fail in part because people who pretend to be "not political" claim it's just editorial problem, not a real world issue creeping in.
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Notability: Is Wikipedia "notability" policy appropriate?

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Yes

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No


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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No


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Pro/con videos

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Yes


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No

See also

External links and resources

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