Accuracy Vs Accessibility: The Wikipedia Story

I don’t know what it is about the Independent but they Love them a good Wikipedia story and I just love to have my two cents. Today the Indy have a big spread on how Wikipedia is crumbling.

On Obama’s inauguration day senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had to leave a celebration dinner early. Kennedy left in an ambulance apparently having suffered a stroke, the live updating of stories on Wikipedia which often make it the fastest source for news resulted in premature reports of both senator’s deaths (both are still alive and kicking).

For Jimmy Wales, Mr Wikipedia, that was the last straw and it was time for measures to insure accuracy over accessibility. Basically from now on any editing of a famous person’s entry must be approved by someone higher up in the Wikipedia hierarchy, and they are considering extending it to all entries. Samurai_Pizza_Cats

This type of thing already happens on German Wikipedia and there are delays in updating entries of up to 6 weeks. On top of that it simply isn’t what Wikipedia does. One of the  key ingredients of the site’s success is that I can look up that cartoon no one remembers from when i was a kid and skip over to get a précis of Hobbes’ Leviathan. If I need to wait for someone on the Wikipedia staff to verify and approve an entry on Samurai Pizza cats it will never appear because it simply isn’t worth the time of the people who have to approve it in comparison to resurrecting Ted Kennedy. meanwhile my contract philosophy lecturer is cruising the entry on Thomas Hobbes and notices an error. How does a volunteer housewife in Arizona (because that’s what Wikipedia staff largely are) know whether he is right or wrong.

In order to moderate something the size of Wikipedia you would need an army of academics and even then they’d never be able to approve Samurai Pizza cats. Moderation isn’t needed; corrupt entries get fixed with an average of 3 minutes, physics students i went to Uni with never found a problem with the formulae it contained and it grows quicker than any moderated source possibly could. It’s better to suffer 3 minutes of inaccuracy on 100,000 articles in 100 million than massively restrict the available knowledge base.

I just noticed I’ve been memed by Jed so I’ll get on that soon.


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