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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fight Wikipedia with Wikipedia

posted by on October 31 at 8:34 AM

Tired of students who regurgitate Wikipedia entries for their term papers, a prof at UW-Bothell had her students write … Wikipedia entries as their term papers.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one grading them.

The Wikipedia community, however, was not as impressed. One article didn’t survive for 24 hours following its introduction, and four additional ones were ultimately deleted following extensive discussion, their contents merged into existing entries. Groom also noted that some of the comments in the ensuing discussions “were delivered rudely.”

courtesy ars technica.

RSS icon Comments


Wikipedia is SO 2006!! Time to use a real on-line encycopedia like Britannica on line. Grow up people!

Posted by Just Me | October 31, 2007 8:43 AM

They should all join the First Church of Wikipedia Is Not A Source.

Posted by Greg | October 31, 2007 8:44 AM

I cannot understand why people hate Wikipedia so much. The biggest thing is trying to see if there is any kind of issue going on with the subject you are researching. Many times you will read about some controversy that is going about a subject that you did not know about and would have never known about it because every website is biased in some way. Wikipedia can be too but at least it has so many people making sure every angle is covered. However, some times controversies you may want to read about get deleted but it is the best we got. Those that want Wikipedia to go away are trying to silence free information because it scares them.

Posted by Touring | October 31, 2007 9:00 AM

Sounds like a wonderful project! Good for her! Of course the only thing The Stranger could find interesting about it is that the students were smacked down with snarky comments.

Posted by NaFun | October 31, 2007 9:45 AM

I try not to offend the Wikipedia community.

Posted by J.R. | October 31, 2007 9:47 AM

@3: I'm not trying to silence anybody. Wikipedia is chock-full of articles that are poorly written, biased, missing sources, or completely wrong. In short, it is not anywhere near as important or authoritative as the Encyclopaedia Britannica by virtue of the fact that 13-year-old jackasses from Kabumfuck, MI can't edit the Britannica entry for "Osiris" to say, "Osiris is an important figure in the ancient Penis religion."

So you can have your little free-for-all encyclopedia thing going, but pretending it's a real, credible source is just fucking dumb.

Posted by Greg | October 31, 2007 9:58 AM

Wikipedia is an fine source for normal people just trying to get a general idea for what something is and what the controversies are about that issue. Of course everything you read -- even Britannica -- should be taken with a grain of salt, and if you're consulting Wikipedia you should know it's user-generated and user-mediated. Still, no hate! We aren't ALL academics and we don't all have to have impeccable sources -- just adequate ones. Wiki's an interesting experiment that's working remarkably well.

Posted by Katelyn | October 31, 2007 10:04 AM

This has happened many times in the past and the response is always the same: Wikipedia is not your personal fucking sandbox. Set up your own wiki if you want to teach your students about collaborative writing. Otherwise, leave your kids' ill-fitting writing off the encyclopedia. At very least, clean up after yourself. I've personally had to deal with the redundant, duplicated, badly written leftover crap from just such an exercise.

Imagine a group of college freshmen descending on one of Seattle's pending condo high-rises, and self-volunteering to install the windows and paint the hallways, and you start to get the idea.

Posted by K | October 31, 2007 10:45 AM

I had a different UWB prof give a similar assignment for a computer science course.

It much easier to have you Wikipedia contributions stand up when you add content to a "famished" existing article and ensure that you use citations from reputable sources.

And in general, there's a lot less controversy in Wikipedia articles on math, science and technical topics.

Posted by Curtains | October 31, 2007 10:56 AM

Wikipedia is so politically driven and motivated at this point that underground crusades against it began long ago.

As mentioned, it's useful as a basic primer, but you're better served following up any academic reading with further research of your own, at the very least following any referenced links given and verifying what was written.

Posted by Gomez | October 31, 2007 10:57 AM

I had this same assignment last year in my Telecommunications course. And my prof made it sound like we were the last ones on the bandwagon.

Posted by Hannah | October 31, 2007 11:16 AM

I went through a period of doing a lot of "editing" on wikipedia some time back, mostly very technical stuff - all in "good faith" as they say!! That is, until it sunk in that its "community" is infested with some of the sickest and most twisted minds on the Internet, and that's saying a lot these days. The guy who started it is kind of a whack-job, and he's attracted plenty more to him; they treat him like some kind of god-king. The mind-set tends to be something like "Stalin's Chief Copy-Editor".

Posted by MarkyMark | October 31, 2007 11:42 AM

That's a really great idea. It turns busy-work research papers into something that, at the very least, is more obviously connected to the real world. At best, it makes them a social service at the same time. Wikipedia can handle any bad edits that would come out of it, and articles can always use a stringently researched review.

Posted by gfish | October 31, 2007 1:05 PM

Wikipedia's factual accuracy is about the same as Britannica's. Neither one is an allowable source for any professor with a brain; that's not what it's for. If you want sources, you START with Wikipedia and find out enough to find out more.

Those "penis religion" entries get deleted faster than they get put in (something like five seconds on average), and they're easy to spot. So, almost always, is bias. If the subject is at all controversial, there is almost certainly going to be a raging discussion in the Talk page of any article.

The lack of sources is being corrected all the time; every article with unsourced statements is marked as such. It's taken time for the concept of an ENCYCLOPEDIA to sink in, wherein there is no original research at all, but only referenceable statements from sources.

Wikipedia is an EXCELLENT source for a quick shot of "what the hell is this" questions, and is often the ONLY source for pop culture stuff that Britannica could never in a million years touch.

Yes, a lot of the writing is terrible, and the extremes of pedantry and trainspottery can be irritating -- check out any of the movie or TV show pages, with their obsessive, scene-by-scene, cut-by-cut, boring and incomprehensible plot summaries, or any of the technical or medical articles, which read like technical or medical textbooks, not general-reader material -- but the information is in there. The quality is not up to Britannica's standard, but the range of contributor knowledge is infinitely broader, and the scope of the site is impossible to comprehend.

People who think it's cultlike or Stalinist simply don't know what open discussions or consensus decision-making look like. If you're not interested in Jimmy Wales's incredibly boring personality, don't pay attention to it; just edit and read articles on subjects you care about.

Posted by Fnarf | October 31, 2007 1:09 PM

The amount of time a person spends editing Wikipedia articles is directly proportionate to how tolerable that person is to talk to for any length of time.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | October 31, 2007 4:51 PM

You mean inversely.

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