What's right or wrong with Wikipedia?

Submitted by effinglibrarian on Mon, 06/25/2007 - 01:29

It's nice of Wikipedia to have an entry on Wikipedia.

As I read the entry, I came across this criticism:

"The site has also been criticized for...favoring consensus over
credentials in its editorial process..."

I don't know what Wikipedia's current editorial process is, but I think it's pretty open, allowing any registered user to post and/or edit any entry. And then it would be up to any one of the rest of us to correct that entry or make a claim that's it's inaccurate or complete bullshit.

This is the core of the democratic process. Present an idea and allow the masses to judge its value. And this is what seems to be good about Wikipedia. The people decide what is right or wrong.

And this is the state of much of the Internet. The people decide. If I blog something and you blog something and others blog similar somethings, the Internet will become filled with our ideas. And if we say similar things, then similar ideas will dominate.

Now I trust my own level of susceptibility to stating crap. But how can I be sure that you don't say complete crap? And if you or I have more free time to post our crap, then won't the Internet just be filled with your or my crap? Even if your intentions are good, are you or I qualified to load the Internet with crap?

We like to think of a hierarchical chain of knowledge, from the student to the teacher to the expert. But what if the opinions of students dominate: are masses of students qualified to make decisions in this democracy when obvious experts are ignored?

This seems to be the root problem with the Internet and Wikipedia. Is consensus of opinion good enough to help us make decisions?

How do you control information? Do you limit what is known, or, do you dilute the known with crap until the general understanding of everything is wrong? ...In other words, is it possible to use Wikipedia or Google or any other popular informational sources to make people stupid?

The complaint of lack of credentials is what interests me most. If one is an expert and paid to publish ideas (research, facts, conclusions, opinions), then others must pay, in some form, to access those ideas. If Wikipedia is free, then the ideas posted there would be inferior to those of the expert.

But if consensus is the arbiter of knowledge; if Wikipedia can alter the perception of people to believe that consensus is the rule, then the argument is that consensus limits knowledge because people will accept what's "generally known" as an expert opinion. If we are all experts, is anyone an expert?

Does this make any sense?

Teachers oppose Wikipedia because they've seen the bell curve and know that consensus only equals about a grade of C+.

An educated person knows her own limitations and says, "I am not qualified to answer that, but here is an expert source."

Where do you go for answers? If we define that source as an expert, then Wikipedia and Google are the experts.

There is the dilemma. People want agreement. Reality demands agreement. If ten of us call something a "chair" and one calls it "my son" then that person might be labeled as crazy. But what if ten of us say that the Earth is flat and one says it's round? By consensus, the Earth will remain flat until, when? We fear this kind of power that consenus can wield because of the scale of information access on the Internet.

Does consensus guarantee that the Internet will eventually be filled with crap?

Rest easy and read with confidence the words written here: I am The Effing Librarian. And I guarantee that everything I say, regardless of consensus of opinion, is complete and utter crap.