What Is Research?

February 23, 2009

Wikipedia criticism, and why it fails to matter

Filed under: Wikipedia — vipulnaik @ 10:50 pm

Over the past few months, I’ve been collecting newspaper and magazine articles about the phenomenon of Wikipedia. (I’ve myself written two blog posts on Wikipedia here and here). Prominent among the Wikipedia critics is Seth Finkelstein, a consulting programmer who does technology journalism on the side and publishes columns in the Guardian. Seth’s criticism is largely related to the politics of getting people to work for free. The Register has published many news and analysis articles critical of Wikipedia, such as this, this, this, and many others. The Register points out the many flaws in Wikipedia’s editing system, and has been critical of what it terms the cult of Wikipedia.

A critic who takes a somewhat different and perhaps more holistic view is Jason Scott, famous for running TEXTFILES.COM. Jason Scott has written many critical pieces on Wikipedia, such as this and this. He’s given three famous speeches about Wikipedia: The Great failure of Wikipedia (transcript), Mythapedia, and Brickipedia. Scott, who gave Wikipedia a try for some time and has experience with the MediaWiki software, says that Wikipedia employs “child labor” and compares it to a casino. Scott also hits on a powerful point: that it is precisely the canonicity and first-go reference nature of Wikipedia combined with the speed at which edits become visible that forms the “crack” for people to edit the site (a point he explores in depth in his Mythapedia speech).

A somewhat more distanced critic of Wikipedia is Nicholas Carr. Carr occasionally talks about Wikipedia on his blog, and his entries on Wikipedia are rarely full of undiluted optimism and admiration. For instance, his blog post on the centripetal web talks about how the Web, instead of becoming decentralized, is becoming systematically more concentrated towards fewer sites — the prime example of such a site being Wikipedia. In a later blog post titled All hail the information triumvirate!, Carr talks about how the Web, Google, and Wikipedia have come to acquire a fairly dominant position in many people’s daily life and work.

And then there’s Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger, who left the project in 2002 after spearheading it for a little over a year. In October 2007, Sanger started a new encyclopedia project called Citizendium, The People’s Compendium, that recently crossed 10,000 articles. Sanger, who did a doctorate in philosophy, has been watching and writing about Wikipedia, and he recently came out with this philosophical paper in the Episteme journal. The paper uses what appears to be epistemological reasoning, at least part of which boils down to the idea that since experts are needed to judge the accuracy of Wikipedia, Wikipedia hasn’t managed to get rid of expertise. (Brock Read at the Chronicle wrote a short piece mentioning Sanger’s paper).

Of course, this hardly completes the list of Wikipedia critics. There’s Wikipedia Watch, started by Daniel Brandt, a confirmed Wikipedia critic. There’s the Wikipedia Review. There’s Robert McHenry, former Britannica editor-in-chief, who has written pieces critical of Wikipedia such as this and this. And there’s the self-described anti-Web-2.0 polemicist Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur. One of the Wikipedia-critical pieces that often gets quoted is Digital Maoism: The hazards of the new online collectivism by Jaron Lanier.

Does the criticism matter?

Does criticism of Wikipedia serve any purpose (constructive or destructive) other than being an excuse to fill journal columns and blog space (I might note that the critical articles I wrote about Wikipedia have driven the most traffic to my blog)? it is hard to say. I want to argue here that it does not at least serve the obvious purpose of keeping potential readers away from Wikipedia.

My reason here is simple: the cost in terms of time, money, and effort, of accessing and using Wikipedia are just so low that any kind of cost-benefit analysis is simply too much of a long stretch to be done credibly. Secondly, the hidden costs of using Wikipedia are rarely borne by the user himself or herself, or are borne with what is an extremely low probability. Even if I were to believe the point made by Jason Scott and Nick Carr that the growing monopoly of Wikipedia in terms of information is not a good thing and our own laziness is what gives Wikipedia that power, such a belief is rarely enough to stop me from going and looking up the Wikipedia entry anyway.

I don’t have access to Wikipedia’s usage logs, approximate statistics are provided by wikigeist and various other Internet usage measurement services. At the time of writing, Wikigeist claims that the Wikipedia main page was viewed more than 200,000 times in the past one hour, while the hundredth entry, one on Google Earth, was viewed 475 times. Various estimates of Wikipedia usage put the number of daily pageviews in the hundreds of millions, and some studies have indicated that for a given topic with both a Britannica entry and a Wikipedia entry, the Wikipedia entry is consulted 200 times more often. The stats.grok.se service reveals how many times a particular article was viewed; the Wikipedia article on Barack Obama, for instance, was viewed four million times in January 2009, while the Wikipedia article on “normal subgroup” (a mathematical term) was viewed 2962 times in January 2009 (for some contrast, the groupprops article on normal subgroup has been viewed fewer than 1000 times in the past year).

More telling than the sheer number of pageviews, though, is the increasing extent to which I find people not even bothering to remember information knowing that they can “find it on Wikipedia.” Here are some anecdotal examples: in many recent discussions, a friend took out an IPhone to consult a Wikipedia entry to check a point; in a discussion where a friend told me about a certain kind of mollusk that eats its own brain, he told me that for reference I could Google it and follow the link to Wikipedia; even mathematical talks seem to have parts that say, “Wikipedia defines … as …”, despite the admittedly poor treatment of mathematics in Wikipedia. Again, I think this is largely because it is so easy and quick to use Wikipedia that its many obvious disadvantages pale in comparison to the speed and ease of use.

And yet the criticism may help

The criticism of Wikipedia does little to detract potential users from using it for quick reference. By and large, it does little to change Wikipedia’s policies either, in so far as what the critics are critical of is not something that some single entity at Wikipedia can change. However, such criticism can go some way in dampening the enthusiasm of people who edit Wikipedia, and in preventing people from citing Wikipedia.

For instance, Middlebury College forbade students from citing Wikipedia for history articles. This measure was severely criticized in the blogosphere, and adjectives such as “Luddite” were used to describe it. Others have argued that Wikipedia is a good “starting point” for research but people should follow through and cite the original sources. I personally think this is good policy. Actual citation of Wikipedia articles, in so far as it does occur, should follow robust citation conventions using stable versions (i.e., a link to the version of the article at the time the citation was made should be provided, rather than simply a link to the latest version of the article, which could be significantly different from the version at the time). Since citation policy is, in general, decided by fewer people, and since it involves work that generally takes more time (writing papers), I suspect that this is indeed achievable. (Wikipedia itself has various pages, such as this one, that describe how to research with Wikipedia).

Hyperlinking from blogs could follow a similar policy. Tim Bray’s post on linking describes the dilemma of linking to Wikipedia versus linking to the original source, as well as his own way of handling the dilemma. Again, since the number of people who write blogs (well, at least blogs that get read) is considerably fewer than the number of people who use the Internet for reference, there is again a possibility that writings critical of Wikipedia can influence the behavior of bloggers. One concrete step in this direction would be if people linking to Wikipedia articles do so only after reading the article, and indicate whether the link is due to a specific point made in the article, or just as background reference. If the link is to a specific point in the article, linking to a stable version might be desirable.

The other way writings critical of Wikipedia could influence Wikipedia is in terms of the influence they exert on people wondering whether to devote time and effort to Wikipedia. In general, people put in effort on a volunteer project only if the benefits to them exceed the cost, and if writings critical of Wikipedia make people better aware of some of the costs and benefits, it could help them make more informed decisions. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether this impact will be positive or negative on the whole. The problem here is similar to a problem highlighted by research of Michael Kremer and made popular in an article by Steven Landsburg: the more we make careful people refrain from a potentially dangerous activity, the more control the careless people get over it (the argument was originally made in the context of sex and AIDS). In this case, the more that careful and conscientious editors are put off Wikipedia, the more it’ll happen that the careless, sloppy, or partisan editors will take the reins. That’s because the importance of Wikipedia as a reference is so great that there’ll always be people lining up to edit it.

That this possibility is not merely hypothetical follows from the fact that many companies and high-profile individuals actually expend considerable resources maintaining the quality of entries on themselves, while subject-matter experts in an area work hard to check the entries in the subject. For instance, in the Chronicle piece Can Wikipedia make the grade?, Brock Read says:

But as the encyclopedia’s popularity continues to grow, some
professors are calling on scholars to contribute articles to
Wikipedia, or at least to hone less-than-inspiring entries in the
site’s vast and growing collection. Those scholars’ take is simple: If
you can’t beat the Wikipedians, join ’em.

This leads to the interesting possibility that writings critical of Wikipedia may well have a negative effect in the following sense: people who might well be the most careful and conscientious editors are also the ones most likely to get put off editing Wikipedia by the arguments, and other editors get more leeway. As a result, the quality deteriorates somewhat, but the deterioration in quality is so small negligible to the overall ease of use of Wikipedia that people still continue to use it and link to it: they just get more biased articles, less accurate facts, and slightly more instances of vandalism. Of course, this bad outcome depends on the assumption that the people likely to be put off Wikipedia are the ones who may have become its best editors.

Fickle loyalties

Despite my contention that criticism of Wikipedia does little to alter how much people read it, I doubt that too many people are loyal to Wikipedia. People’s loyalty to Wikipedia usually boils down to this mental algorithm: “Go to Google, type the term, search. If a Wikipedia entry shows up, follow it, otherwise, follow whatever else looks relevant.” Estimates suggest that between 50% and 70% of Wikipedia’s traffic is driven by search engines. This suggests that if search engines start devaluing Wikipedia content, the default mental algorithm that many people have will have to be revised: either the search engine or Wikipedia will suffer.

More importantly, what drives people to Wikipedia is, on the whole, a certain kind of brand recognition — a comfort that since this is Wikipedia, and they’ve been here before, they’ll be able to get the information they need with ease. But brand recognition alone can survive only in the absence of competing brands. If people find a single, consistent source that comes up along with Wikipedia among the top few entries, they are likely to give that source a try, at least after they start recognizing it.

In conclusion, I believe that criticism of Wikipedia can help in limited ways: it can make people more careful when citing and linking, and it can be informative to people before they get started on the job of editing Wikipedia (though this, as I pointed out, can be a two-edged sword). But a serious decrease or diversion of usage (and consequently, of editing effort) from Wikipedia can happen only in the presence of a competing resource that offers at least similar levels of ubiquity, ease of use and quick reference, and probably visibility in search engines.

CORRECTION: As Jon Awbrey noted in the comments, Wikipedia Review was not started by Daniel Brandt. The contents of the blog post have been changed to reflect the correction.


  1. Indeed. There’s often relevant stuff out there, but the main purpose of much Wikipedia “criticism” is filling space and trolling for ad-banner clicks.

    Comment by David Gerard — February 24, 2009 @ 12:43 am

  2. Very insightful, David. You always give your best.

    Comment by Jason Scott — February 24, 2009 @ 12:57 am

  3. @David: The main purpose of a large fraction of material on the World Wide Web is filling space and trolling for ad-banner clicks. So I don’t see what point you’re trying to make here.

    To clarify: I was not claiming that any of the sources that I’ve linked to are trying to criticize Wikipedia for the purpose of “filling space and trolling for ad-banner clicks”. Questioning whether the criticism has any impact is different from questioning the intentions of the person doing the criticism.

    @Jason: I personally found your talks very interesting and insightful, which is why I linked to them. Sorry if I made it appear as if I’m claiming that your criticism of Wikipedia is intended for “filling space and trolling for ad-banner clicks”.

    Comment by vipulnaik — February 24, 2009 @ 1:29 am

  4. Ah, mostly my annoyance at dealing with the tech press in any capacity whatsoever. Mainstream journalists can’t work computers, but at least they occasionally do journalism. I have sworn never to say a bad word about Jason Scott since he goatsed one hundred thousand MySpace bandwidth leeches, which deserves a Nobel prize, if 4chan were in charge of handing them out.

    Comment by David Gerard — February 24, 2009 @ 1:38 am

  5. Criticism rolls off Wikipedia like water off a duck’s back.

    Except when it doesn’t.

    I haven’t quite figured out what characterizes effective constructive criticism of Wikipedia, but I have learned that high-level Wikipedians pay considerably more attention to satires and parodies than they do to serious academic essays.

    Comment by Moulton — February 24, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  6. Yeah, I spend my time writing them. See URL.

    Comment by David Gerard — February 24, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  7. Err, atum …

    The Wikipedia Review was not started by Daniel Brandt.

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 24, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  8. Vipul,

    I realize you may have better things to do with your time (then again, you did take time to write the above) but you could save yourself feeling like a really uniformed person when you read what you wrote again in a couple of months if you were to visit The Wikipedia Review and talk things over with some of the sadder budwisers there, folks who — through no real desire and not much fault of their own — found themselves forced to become acquainted with the Dimmer Side of Wikipedia, Inc.

    Many Regards,

    Jon Awbrey

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 24, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  9. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for the correction about the Wikipedia Review. I’ve updated the original article to reflect the correction.


    Comment by vipulnaik — February 24, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  10. Wikipedia Review does have one valuable application:
    Therein, one can read about all the outrageous dishonest
    activities of someone….named David Gerard.


    Comment by metasonix — February 24, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

  11. Metasonix’s comment illustrates the standard of critical discourse and contributor favoured at Wikipedia Review far better than I could have described it.

    Comment by David Gerard — February 24, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

  12. Green Wiki-Peacers and Sports-Phishing Phans who are earnestly tracking which off-shore trawlers are netting the lyin’s share of ad-banner fish might want to tackle some of the data at the end of this thread:

    Spamalot — Or Not!

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 25, 2009 @ 3:28 am

  13. I am waiting for that inevitable day when the non-profit, advertising-free, thoughtful Web 2.0 criticism site, Akahele.org, will be similarly dismissed by David Gerard as a “space filler” or “troll site”. What a wonderful spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation in the UK.

    Comment by Gregory Kohs — February 25, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  14. Vipul,

    I don’t know why my previous two posts didn’t make it through, but I’ve put copies on this Wikipedia Review thread devoted to your above blogicule.


    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 25, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  15. Hi Jon,

    The comments went in the spam queue for some reason. I’ve despammed them.


    Comment by vipulnaik — February 25, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

  16. @Davy Gerard

    Yes, as opposed to your usual mode of rebuttal which usually ends with the words “Fuck off”.
    (Ask Parker Peters:
    http://parkerpeters.livejournal.com/2459.html )

    Oh, and have you oversighted any other incriminating edits by one of your Zoophile mates of late?

    @vipulnaik: I agree with you to a degree. You must remember, however, that the key target for much of wiki-criticism is not the casual user, but the serious content contributor (or potential new editor).

    If we can help awaken them to how poorly the sausage factory is run as well as to how the Wikibrand Sausage(tm)is really made; Which parts are the snouts and which are the arseholes…and trust me, there are A LOT of snouts up A LOT of arseholes round those parts, Mr. Gerard above being a prime example:), then maybe, just maybe we can help them to stop contributing.

    Likewise, as you point out, we may help put off talented new editors from getting sucked into the vicious cycle of wikipedia addiction (content creation->edit wars->political dramas->petty punishments) in the first place, and thus replacing the retired talent.

    If this trend continues (and there is growing evidence that it is- http://www.wikitruth.info/index.php?title=For_Whom_the_Bell_Curve_Tolls ) then the Wikipedia’s quality and reliability, such as they are, WILL decline and its popularity will soon follow. Especially if there are other, shinier and more trendy alternatives available.

    We can also make potential small financial contributors think twice about donating to the Wikimedia Foundation, by pointing out what a corrupt and ineptly run beast it is. Thus hitting the Deathstar where it really hurts-In its money supply thermal port. No matter how insanely popular it is, if it cannot keep up with growing bandwidth demands, c’est fini.

    Only a tiny fraction of the vast, unwashed mass of visitors who wash up upon Wikipedia’s shores become serious content or financial contributors. If our efforts can help persuade even a tiny fraction of those to take the red pill, then its content and economic positions become untenable in the long term.

    So I believe we CAN matter…and on rare occasion we even do. But what matters more in the big picture and will, I believe, ultimately relegate Wikipedia to the ash heap of webhistory, will be its own, well documented tendency to shoot itself in the foot and not worrying about it because it genuinely believes “Hey, it’s no big deal, I can just grow a new one!”

    Wikipedia is its own worst enemy and best ally of its critics. Its very size makes it difficult if not impossible to govern. Especially given its hopelessly outdated governance system which combines the worst elements of dictatorship, oligarchy, anarchy, mob rule and MMORPG.

    It will continue to drive away experienced writing talents by treating them as expendable cogs. It will continue to bite newbies, hard and viciously. It will continue to promote social climbing political gamesters who do nothing to help build the so-called encyclopedia to the highest levels of power. It will continue to create confusing new levels of useless policies and bureaucracies. Its ringmaster/head clown will continue to run it as his own personal circus cum banana republic. It will continue to try and wage war on and isolate itself from vast segments of both cyber and meatspace.

    As with so many failed and phony revolutions and bloated and arrogant empires before, Wikipedia will slowly devour itself from within.

    Until it finally fails and falls, though, it is important for those of us of good mind and good conscious to denounce it when we can, even though it may be a quixotic quest in the short run.

    Comment by RDH — February 25, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  17. Hi RDH,

    I’d tend to agree with you. As I’ve pointed out in the post, the criticism of Wikipedia can have the effect of deterring contributors. In the short run, however, as I point out again in the post, this may well make things worse, because putting off potentially good contributors might result in unscrupulous contributors having a field day. This may result in a deterioration in quality that is not at all obvious to casual readers, and thus, people continue to read it as much as ever, but it misleads more. The point I’m making is that good contributors leaving Wikipedia, in and of itself, will not make a significant difference to the numbers of people who want to edit Wikipedia. The temptation to edit the canonical source of all information will always remain great.

    This might also create a vicious cycle whereby good editors who want to avoid misinforming the public feel obliged to stay on Wikipedia and defend the quality of its entries (Seth Finkelstein has made this point repeatedly). Now, I’m not sure of the extent to which this actually plays out, but consider that many corporations, universities, and non-profit organizations hire people to maintain the quality of their Wikipedia entries. In such a situation, simply convincing a few from leaving Wikipedia may not be a viable solution. Hence my conviction that either some alternative source (or a multitude of alternative sources) offering some of Wikipedia’s prized features should turn up, or somehow there should be a “mass epiphany” that leads large numbers of people to simultaneously leave the encyclopedia. Neither scenario appears likely in the near future.

    As for Wikipedia hitting itself in the foot, there are a number of high-profile embarrassments that Wikipedia subjects itself to, something that the Wikipedia Review as well as journalists such as Seth keep good track of. Insiders to the editing world do of course know of a number of problems. But I don’t think that these problems will be the undoing of Wikipedia the encyclopedia. As long as Wikipedia remains comparatively the easiest place for quick information, and as long as it remains open to quick editing, it’ll be attractive to people interested in quick reading and quick editing.

    Comment by vipulnaik — February 25, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  18. RDH,

    Also, as regards finances, I don’t think Wikipedia will go under in financial terms. Simply speaking, even if small donors don’t cough up money (and there are plenty who will), the costs of running Wikipedia in financial terms are just too low. Besides, Wikipedia already has huge sums of money from various foundations that would be enough to tide it through for quite some time (Yes, they need fundraisers to get money to expand and pay their executive director, but their basic operational costs are largely already met). And if they ever really start running out of money, there are plenty of big companies who could pitch in and save Wikipedia.

    I reiterate that in my view the ultimate undoing of Wikipedia would involve, at least in part, some competing resource.

    Comment by vipulnaik — February 25, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  19. Just going by my own experience, the only thing that drives contributors away is their own experiences trying to develop high quality educational materials and practices in a place where that is obstructed by the actual agenda of the management and the real function of the site. Like most things in life where you do not listen to others ahead of time, you tend to learn these lessons the hard way.

    But it can be a confusing time of transition as you try to reconcile the contradictory beliefs, the mental viruses, that you have allowed to infect your brain while working in disinformational environment.

    The purpose of a critical review enterprise, then, is not to pour cold water on the shipwreck victims, but merely to provide them with lifeboats, encouragement, and directions to shore.

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 25, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  20. Okay, yeah, sometimes you have to slap the more hysterical ones around a bit. But I’m sure you’ve seen all the movies.

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 25, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  21. Jon,

    Excellent point.

    Yes, I agree that critical review sites can be places for disillusioned contributors to feel better and recover their sanity.

    My point here is that this doesn’t make a dent to the overall volume of contribution to Wikipedia.

    Comment by vipulnaik — February 25, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  22. Personally speaking, I’m not really concerned with the volume of contribution to Wikipedia, any more than I’m concerned with the volume of contribution to Usenet.

    When I first started surfing the Internet — I deliberately stayed off it until 1999 or so, partly because I was way too busy with other things and partly because I had seen the bad effects of BBS addiction on some of my acquaintances in the 1980s — the early WAIS gophers and later even AltaVista and Google would barf up tons of Usenet stuff on every search probe. You just don’t see that anymore — it all got slurped up by GoogleGroups, indexed differently, and tucked out of sight, I don’t really care what the details are — and all of that happened simply due to the self-preservative instinct of the major search engines.

    That would be my Best-You-Can-Expect Case Scenario for the F00ture of Wikipedia.

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 25, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  23. I’m afraid Jon is right – the point of the criticism effort isn’t so much to try and make Wikipedia go away, which is obviously unrealistic, or even go away sooner than it otherwise would. The point is more to inform people, including the Wikipedians themselves, of what the most serious problems and abuses are in order to (hopefully) help to lessen the negative impact Wikipedia has on society, culture, education, and perhaps most importantly, individuals. Including individual Wikipedia contributors…

    The WP-related issues that are most commonly discussed in the blogosphere, namely accuracy, editor-participation levels, and the pervasiveness of user anonymity, are really just red herrings (though accuracy is obviously a problem, and the anonymity issue is at least a valid cause for concern). Frankly, any criticism that calls for solutions that involve getting more people into the sausage factory, just to be further ground up and spat out, isn’t much of a criticism at all.

    Comment by Somey — February 26, 2009 @ 7:57 am

  24. [Repost. Hmmm, the Word-O-Press Bot seems to be rejecting any post where I link to my Wikipedia Review profile — I hope it’s not using the Wik-I-Pedia MetaBadList as a censor or something like that .]

    Somey Says, “I’m afraid Jon is right —”

    Be afraid, be very afraid …

    But seriously folks, let’s look at this from the perspective of an Educational Systems Designer. (I happen to know people with degrees in just that.)

    What we’ve got here is a transitional object that is going through a transitional phase. I have reason to hope that it’s a brief transition, but that depends on your time frame. Depending on your scope and what aspects of the system you choose to inspect, some of the features of this design paradigm have been ruling the day, perhaps every other day, for only the last 60 years, the last 20 years, or the last 5 years, again, it all depends on what you are looking at.

    Another hair that needs splitting is the one I mentioned in regard to Usenet — there is the autonomous dynamics of the system in its own reich and then there is the impact that it has on our everyday lives and greater enterprises. Gestalt dynamics is such that some part of the minimally attended Ground can always go Figure again — sometimes suddenly and sometimes unpleasantly, so we have to watch out for that — but time after time some things we once cared a whole lot about just fade away and never trouble our whirried mind again.

    My question is — How does our grasp of dynamic systems need to evolve in order for us to take these contextual, hermeneutic, interpretive, or pragmatic factors into account in decidedly more sensible ways than we have in the past?

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — February 26, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  25. Vipul,

    It may be time, as it recurrently is, to reflect more critically on the features of the regnant design paradigm that I mentioned above. In order to pursue that discussion in a more leisurely way than we might be able to achieve here, I have opened a topic in the Meta Discussion Forum of The Wikipedia Review entitled “Fallacies Of Dyadicism, Connectionism, Behaviorism“.

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — March 1, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

  26. Hi Jon,

    Thanks for the invite. I don’t really have much of a background in philosophy/philosophical logic, so not sure I’d have anything interesting to say on the topic. I’m also not sure how dyadicism, connectionism, and behaviorism relate to Wikipedia specifically.


    Comment by vipulnaik — March 1, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

  27. @Somey: I completely agree with you.

    Comment by vipulnaik — March 1, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  28. Vipul,

    It’s your blog — and it’s titled “What Is Research?” — I may be reading a lot of my lifelong interests into that, so let me know if I stray too far off target with my personal projections.

    For a lot of folks who are recurrently hopeful that the right marriage of society and technology might just carry humane wisdom over the threshold of the terrible infant that its lowest common denominator labors to deliver in the pregnant present, Wikipedia is just the latest cloud on the horizon of our once bright aspirations.

    So we keep asking:

    — Is that all there is?
    — How did it come to this?
    — Dare we hope to do better?

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — March 2, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  29. […] on Wikipedia criticism Filed under: Wikipedia — vipulnaik @ 1:54 am My previous blog post on Wikipedia criticism generated quite a few comments. This was partly because it got covered in this forum post at The […]

    Pingback by More on Wikipedia criticism « What Is Research? — March 7, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  30. […] under: Wikipedia — vipulnaik @ 3:24 pm Seth Finkelstein kindly responds to my blog post Wikipedia criticism, and why it fails to matter. Seth agrees with my basic point — it is hard to influence people away from either reading or […]

    Pingback by Academic and journalistic support for Wikipedia « What Is Research? — March 17, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

  31. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/weekinreview/29cohen.html

    “And just as the world has had plenty of creationists, temperance societies and ruralists, there is a professional class of Wikipedia skeptics.”

    Comment by David Gerard — March 29, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  32. Yes, Mister Gerard, and just as the world has had plenty of Scientologists, consumers of Zicam, and Duke basketball fans, there is a professional class of Wikipedia cultists.

    Comment by Gregory Kohs — March 29, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  33. David, there is a difference between being “against cities” and being, say, “against “. In the same way, there is a difference between being “against encyclopedias” or “against free online information” or “against user-generated content” and being “against Wikipedia”. Conflating Wikipedia with a larger cause is akin to conflating New York with city life, conflating Windows with operating systems, or conflating English with natural languages.

    Comment by vipulnaik — March 29, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  34. If there’s anything that Wikipedia excels at, it would be conflatulence.

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — March 29, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

  35. On Cohen’s “FactiCity” —

    Nicholas Carr, “Potemkinpedia”

    Comment by Jon Awbrey — March 31, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  36. […] is a general-purpose encyclopedia. Even assuming that Gowers is more of a fan of Wikipedia than I am, it is still a general-purpose encyclopedia. Even in its most idealistic form, even as per its own […]

    Pingback by Tricki salutes Wikipedia « What Is Research? — April 6, 2009 @ 12:42 am

  37. Please view the following webpage


    You can link to it as an example of the problems with Wikipedia, or just check the tactics and find your own examples

    best regards

    Comment by Max Banfield — June 3, 2009 @ 6:05 am

  38. Hi, sorry to go off topic, but do you know where I can get seiko skx173 If so how much, how do i use it etc’

    Comment by dradeobby — August 15, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  39. Excellent site, keep up the good work

    Comment by Bill Bartmann — September 3, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  40. This was deleted from Wikipedia by Henryodell

    ==Judicial Canons revised by the U.S. Judiciary in 2009==

    The current code of conduct for United States Judges requires “A judge should accord to every person who is legally interested in a proceeding, or the person’s lawyer full right to be heard according to law”. On March 17, 2009, a new code, going into effect on July 1, 2009, was announced requiring “A judge should accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, and that person’s lawyer, the full right to be heard according to law.” The wording was changed from a person “or” their lawyer to a person “and” their lawyer.http://www.uscourts.gov/guide/vol2/ch1.cfmhttp://www.uscourts.gov/library/Current_Code_with_Markup_03-03-08.pdfhttp://www.uscourts.gov/library/codeOfConduct/Revised_Code_Effective_July-01-09.pdf

    Comment by Kay Sieverding — December 6, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  41. These famous pro se litigants were deleted from Wikipedia’s list of famous pro se litigants

    [[William Marbury]] was appointed as a judge before there were any U.S. law schools or licensing of lawyers. His appointment was cancelled so he successfully sued President Madison. ”[[Marbury v. Madison]]” solidified the United States’ system of checks and balances and gave the judicial branch equal power with the executive and legislative branches. “The Thomas Jefferson Administrations”. Presidential Administration Profiles for Students. Online Edition. Gale Group, 2002. Page 3.

    [[William Penn]] represented himself successfully following his 1670 arrest with William Meade. Penn was accused of preaching before a gathering in the street, which Penn had deliberately provoked in order to test the validity of the new law against assembly. Penn pleaded for his right to see a copy of the charges laid against him and the laws he had supposedly broken, but the judge (the Lord Mayor of London) refused — even though this right was guaranteed by the law. The judge directed the jury to come to a verdict without hearing the defense.Hans Fantel, “William Penn: Apostle of Dissent,” William Morrow & Co., New York, 1974, p.6, ISBN 0-688-00310-9 pp. 117-120. When invited by the judge to reconsider their verdict and to select a new foreman, the members of the jury refused, and were sent to a cell over several nights to mull over their decision. The Lord Mayor then told the jury, “You shall go together and bring in another verdict, or you shall starve”. The judge had Penn sent to Newgate prison (on a charge of contempt of court). The full jury followed him, and the jury members were fined the equivalent of a year’s wages each. Fantel, p. 124Bonamy Dobrée, “William Penn: Quaker and Pioneer,” Houghton Mifflin Co., 1932, New York, p. 71.The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges. This case was one of the more important trials that shaped the future concept of American freedom (see [[Jury nullification]]) and was a victory for the use of the writ of [[habeas corpus]] as a means of freeing those unlawfully detained.

    Comment by Kay Sieverding — December 6, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  42. This summary of a New York times article was too controversial for pro se wikipedia

    Brandon Moon spent 17 years in jail for a rape that he did not commit. He was convicted after being picked from a lineup 18 months after the rape in which he was the only blue eyed white man. He was a sophomore in college and a veteran of four years in the air force when he was accused. He was released due to DNA evidence after help from the Innocence Project. He spent his prison years learning about blood tests, eye witness identification and law. Before the Innocence Project became involved, Moon represented himself and repeatedly applied for relief but, according to his lawyer he was “bounced around the courts like a Ping-Pong ball” because “The courts are so hostile to pro se litigants. The instinct is to deny, deny, deny.”Barbara Novovitch, free after 17 years for a rape that he did not commit, New York Times, 12/22/2004

    Comment by Kay Sieverding — December 6, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

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  45. I’d like to present a new Wikipedia criticism site… though, it is more of an ongoing critique of the graft and fraud that take place within the Wikimedia Foundation, not so much “on” Wikipedia.

    National Wiki Examiner

    Comment by Gregory Kohs — November 26, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  46. The problem that I had w Wikipedia is that I was banned for writing without consensus after I posted information about pro se litigation, information about local government corruption, and information about prostitution all sourced to reliable references such as DOJ.gov and USCourts.

    On the PRO SE wikipedia site, I suggested doing a joint report on pro se litigation by prisoners and in the notes section I proposed an outline. This was over two years ago. Someone else on the site said that they would write the article but that I could not participate. The article never got written.

    Comment by kay sieverding — November 26, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  47. The only thing I ever use Wikipedia for is if I am looking to download episodes of a TV show and I want an accurate episode guide. Even Wikipedia can’t fuck that up. Otherwise I look elsewhere.

    Comment by Dave Nielsen — March 20, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  48. Criticism of Wikipedia didn’t matter a few years ago when it had a reputation for being the product of amateurs and vandals, and not many people took it seriously or wasted their time using it, but it has since become a dominant source of information on the internet. It has in place methods of putting it’s articles in number 1 position, even when they are poor quality or downright wrong. If that information is wrong then criticising it does matter.
    Max Banfield

    Comment by Max Banfield — April 20, 2011 @ 2:03 am

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  50. Wikipedia is nothing more than an eternal limbo of a schoolyard, filled with insane bullies. The true danger in it is the danger we have seen throughout our history: people gladly went along with Hitler, Stalin and the others. They thought it was good, they thought those men had all the answers.

    What those men had was an infinite capacity to attract soulless psychotic goons. Politprop was the order of the day, in those days as today, and a person could be shot in their own home or on the street, for “violating the rules”. The true disgrace in all of this is Wales and his Wikipedia are one gigantic lie, the Grand Politprop Cybermeal for the new millennium.

    Academic standards mean nothing. If you study Wikipedia closely, you’ll see it eat itself like an ourobouros. They say only “verifiability”, “not truth” make a difference.

    Comment by Ping Wen — December 12, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

  51. Wikipedia editorship and adminship is easy to abuse, a lot of rotten apples who behave in a cult-like manner, hiding behind a false pretense of policing. Censorship is easily hidden and reclassified as cleaning up vandalism.

    Please Make Wikipedia free of abusive editors and admins

    Comment by Please Make Wikipedia free of abusive editors and admins — February 22, 2012 @ 6:40 am

  52. I was imprisoned by the U.S. government without a bail hearing or criminal charge or a citation of a federal law for 5 months. I don’t have a criminal record. The stated reason was that I had engaged in pro se litigation in a different court without permission. The federal courts actually have lists of people who are black listed through a secret process and whose papers are to be returned. In my case there was never any identification of any fraudulent statements on my part. There were no Rule 11(c)6 orders and there were no charges of perjury even though I verified every statement under penalty of perjury. There was no trial, the witnesses weren’t sworn and I wasn’t allowed to cross examine them. The judge was former federal judge Edward Nottingham who resigned after his long term use of prostitutes was made public.

    I posted this information on the pro se litigation in the United States page with footnotes of newspaper articles and 10th Circuit orders barring various people from filing papers in court. This was deleted from the article multiple times.

    There is just a small number of people, mostly underemployed lawyers or law students who control the pro se litigation page and delete anything they don’t approve of.

    On the talk page I suggested a review of prisoner litigation and listed references and a proposed outline. The editors in control said they would write it up without me but it has been two years and they haven’t written a thing on the subject and they deleted almost everything I posted as “editing without consensus”

    Comment by kay sieverding — February 24, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

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