Wiki -- A flawed and irresponsible research tool?
Update (Dec 8): This topic was covered in two posts (Dec 2 and Dec 4) by Abi at nanopolitan. Abi's is one of the blogs that I check more than once a day. I should have read those posts before putting up this post. Anyway, if this topic interests you, do head over there. The issue is so succinctly put over there.
Update (Dec 9): Uma had also mentioned this episode @ indianwriting. (Dec 4). In particular, she had linked to Seigenthaler's article.
A great project, a democratic project - and one that can occasionally go wrong,
Uma writes about the Wiki and this incident.
Here's a post by Mandar @ Inc Scrawl.
John Seigenthaler, a former editor of USA Today, has called Wikipedia just that.
John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.
Seigenthaler writes in his Nov 29 piece in the USA Today:
I phoned Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder and asked, "Do you ... have any way to know who wrote that?"
"No, we don't," he said. Representatives of the other two websites said their computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia, never checking whether it is false or factual.
Naturally, I want to unmask my "biographer." And, I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.
When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of "gossip." She held a feather pillow and said, "If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people."
For me, that pillow is a metaphor for Wikipedia.
Finally, what do I think of Wiki? I like it. I like the idea behind it. I even link to entries there occasionally. But I guess it's worth repeating once in a while that there's nothing "authentic" about such entries, whatever that means! (I tend to agree with what Dilip wrote here.) And, I would never view it as a "research tool"! Though, I might use a wiki entry to get references which could be "research tools".
But, Seigenthaler had a pertinent comment:
The marketplace of ideas ultimately will take care of the problem but in the meantime, what happens to people like me?