Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Wikipedia Controversy

A recent online phenomenon has been Wikipedia: the free online wiki/encyclopedia. What makes Wikipedia different from all other online encyclopedias is the fact that it is also a wiki i.e. users can edit entries and add new entries whenever they find that the information currently displayed is inadequate.

As a result of this user-generated content Wikipedia is the number 1 online encyclopedia with over 4 million articles in over 200 languages (including most of the Indian languages). If you need specific information about any topic, Wikipedia is where you go to. I personally use Wikipedia much more than Google or any other search engine. (Well actually answers.com which gives me Wikipedia+other results).

There has been a recent controversy over a certain article by John Seigenthaler Sr., an American journalist who's Wikipedia entry had some erroneous and potentially damaging information. All this controversy raised the issue about the "correctness" of Wikipedia & whether it should be banned.

I think that this controversy is pretty stupid. User-generated content is what gives Wikipedia its depth, its flexibility, its sheer volume of information about every conceivable topic on the planet. It you take away the power of editing content from the users, then that will be the end of Wikipedia as we know it. In fact a recent study by the journal Nature concluded that Wikipedia is as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. The errors in the entries seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Of course all this raises the issue of how do we define "correctness" and what do you mean by "true". But I'll reserve that controversy for some other day :), the caveat here being whatever controversy we raise up always ends up with an unanswerable question at the end.

P.S.: I'm off to San Diego on a holiday, so no entry for a while :(

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