Orlowski Talks Quality Problems at Wikipedia

(via Threadwatch) This time Andrew Orlowski is all over Wikipedia in the article: Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems.

It’s strong stuff from a writer who is famous for very strong stuff. I’m going to plan to come back in the future for more personal observations but for the most part, much of what the article has to say (and the quotes Orlowski includes), I tend to agree with and in some cases have been hinting at for a long time. However, that’s not saying that some of what Wikipedia offers is useful and important.

In my opinion, Wikipedia will need several more years of development and maintanence to see if it’s going to be a lasting and valuable research resource or turn into another Open Directory Project where editorships are now up for sale. Also, will volunteers get tired and move on to the next big thing?

Especially since Wikipedia’s material is replicated endlessly on the web: it’s the first port of call for “sploggers” who create phoney sites, spam blogs, which created to promote their clients in Google.

Yes, that’s an issue and will continue to grow. One of the positive things (in most cases) about the Wikipedia is how quickly pages can be updated with new facts. The challenge is that anyone can download Wikipedia data on a specific day and are then not required to update it. How does the inexperienced searcher or teacher know what he or she is looking at? Is the Wikipedia going to become a place for sploggers and others to find free content to place ads.

What about professional editors, fact checkers, etc? An article from Red Herring a year ago this week, reported:

Wikipedia?s Mr. Wales has said that next year he will begin using editors to review the web site?s content for accuracy and allow users to rate contributions to the encyclopedia for their quality. ?It?s complex because it?s a social community, and feelings can be hurt,? said Mr. Wales, but he added that the change will be critical when Wikipedia content is put on more permanent media, such as CD-ROM disks.

Are they still coming and if they are will this cause problems in the community has Wales hinted at a year ago.

I wonder how Microsoft’s plan that lets users submit material to Encarta and then have it verified is going?

Postscript: Just had a brief phone chat with Jimmy Wales. He’s got lots to say. So, come early November when I return from Internet Librarian and the California Library Association Conference, we’ll do a podcast interiew with Jimmy.

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