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12 October 2006

I think I know now why Wikipedia sucks.[More:]It's not because of the plagiarism, or because it's so easy to abuse, and not even because the entries lack style. It's because the people who create and maintain these articles cannot tell the relevant from the irrelevant. All the articles (of course I'm generalizing here, but I do think it's true) contain lots of information that doesn't really belong in that article, even though it's somewhat related to the topic at hand. It's as if every hyperlink was a tiny canal between two (somehow related) articles: if you create a link to another article, they will soon start contaminating each other. Information will start oozing from one article to the other, even though it would be much better for it to stay where it belongs. The end result is quite predictable: if you try to put everything in one article, you'll end up with nothing.
I love the canal metaphor.
posted by occhiblu 12 October | 11:39
(This post was brought to you by Inductive reasoning)
posted by Daniel Charms 12 October | 11:43
I still love Wikipedia, though; I use it every day.
posted by taz 12 October | 11:53
Well, the hyperlink is the heart of a wiki and it's one of the easiest things to do, adding a link to another article. It's the way a lot of people start out editing.

When an article is being improved, as all articles always should be, pruning the irrelevant and making sure that negative material does not have undue weight is an important consideration. An article with a bunch of disorganized trivia stands no chance of becoming featured.

A lot of longtime editors have utter contempt for sections marked "Trivia" or even, defensively, "References in popular culture", because they are a mess and an invitation to people to just throw in whatever. Should the Lady Godiva article include every time a character in a book or movie says "Don't come waltzing through like Lady Godiva ..." ? Of course not. But it's easier to add that to the article than to go to the library and add a citation from a history of early British peoples.

I would say that a lot of mature Wikipedia editors see their role primarily in defensive terms, as protecting articles. Usually this comes after a period of furious additive work, usually culminating in a Featured Article or two, after which the motivation is utterly destroyed. ;-)

I haven't reached the point where I really want to pursue a Featured Article (which would take away from my generalist's ADHD flitting about from topic to topic). I may never. But I'm gradually becoming more protective.
posted by stilicho 12 October | 12:10
I still love Wikipedia, though; I use it every day.

While I have some gripes with Wikipedia, I still use it quite often, as it can be just "good enough" for many purposes; I'm also a lazy person who loves it if he can find everything he's looking for in the same place.
posted by Daniel Charms 12 October | 12:12
AMEN, DC. In fact, I'd go beyond just telling the relevant from the irrlelevant, and blame poor mental organization. Rambling, scattered entries abound. Pyramid-style (most important stuff first, minor details later) writing is not standard.

But I agree that while WP is seriously flawed as a single information source, it is an excellent first resource. A place to get the basic idea, get your bearings, pick up some keywords and figure out where to go for more in-depth, accurate, we''-thought-out info.
posted by Miko 12 October | 12:16
Like Miko I use it as a jumping off point. I usually just scan the first few paragraphs and then scoot on down to the links where the quality of writting is usually much better.

WP is fantastic for lists and the like but I often find the writing of poor quality - usually because every paragraph has been the result of some argument of other and often it shows.

Most of all I just don't think it should be called an encyclopedia.

Here's an article that I think shows the differences. Much too jaundiced to be scientific I do think the contrast is all too clear.
posted by dodgygeezer 12 October | 12:40
Bowls are ubiquitous.
posted by mudpuppie 12 October | 13:12
So are bowels. Not everyone has a bowl (some people eat soup straight out of the pot), but everyone has bowels.
posted by Daniel Charms 12 October | 13:19
Except for Jacob Marley.
posted by JanetLand 12 October | 13:54
[Pup: I love that someone added "in a pie dish" to a sentence that formerly ended "next to a small pie."

Yeah, that made the caption MUCH better. Thanks!}
posted by Miko 12 October | 14:06
Miko, if you click through, the caption is "A salad in a small bowl sits next to a chicken pot pie and a fork."

So very zen.
posted by mudpuppie 12 October | 14:16
Wikipedia does have it's faults, but it's good for a snapshot of whatever you're looking for. And like miko and dodgy, I often use it as a jumping off point.

Fer instance, I finally watched Black Hawk Down last night. Wikipedia was pretty good at telling me what the movie didn't say and correcting what it did say. It also has links to other (better?) sites for more info.

Good flick. Couldn't believe all the "faces" I saw.
posted by deborah 12 October | 15:48
I like wikipedia. Does this mean I'm no longer cool?
posted by Specklet 12 October | 17:16
I think you and iconomy are both infinitely cool and not even Wikipedia (or some random anonymous Wikipedia editor) can change that.
posted by Daniel Charms 13 October | 00:49
I hate anniversaries || How grand is this!