Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Critical views of Wikipedia. This is an essay from Wikinfo that details some of the serious problems which are preventing Wikipedia from being an excellent reference source. Wikipedia has some merits (as I have posted previously) but there are some major issues which are hindering success.

From the site:

In a contrast to the Nupedia model, in which edit privileges were difficult to come by, Wikipedia offered edit privileges by default. Administrators revoke edit privileges at their discretion based on policies, and on their opinion of content or contributors.

Wikipedia, more so than other wiki services in early 2004, had become a main source for encyclopedic content redistributed by other sites. While this means that a much greater body of Internet content is freely available, it also means that any errors or political biases in Wikipedia are reproduced across the Internet to multiple sites...

In discussions of both policy and content, the loudest voices who attract the most supporters during the pendency of a discussion often dominate direction. Jim Wales's work under the title "God King" for several years encouraged new Wikipedia leaders to use cult-like language that discouraged opposition to his views and proposed policies. A review of user-histories at Wikipedia suggests that power users who spend several hours a day making small edits to numerous pages often dominate discussions, and comprise the most active elements of the administrative ranks. and that people who are qualified or interested in administrative functions may hold different interests from the people who are the best contributors.

Some users critical of the project have been blocked from discussions under such vague allegations as "trolling". Administrators usually claim users are excluded from on-line policy debates or votes for "behavioral reasons" and not for reasons related to a critical policy argument. Some administrators might not be adept at editorial skills that best resolve conflicts among contributors. An inability or lack of willingness among untrained administrators to consistently articulate what behavior - or rhetorical style - they find problematic might contribute to a less productive collaborative environment and lead to a continuation of conflict.

A related issue is ad hominem deletion or reversion of views without refutation, eliminating the contributions of several authors on the ad hominem grounds that a 'suspect' author contributed a few in the chain, and disregard of simple rules for deletion and being conservative about elimination of text. Accusations that one anonymous IP or pseudonym "is" a banned author seem to be quite common as well, and seem to justify for some administrators an extension of IP block tactics.

Another perceived flaw in Wikipedia is the lack of a common understanding on adding external links. Wikipedia (like all Wikis) has problems with wikispam. However, many users at Wikipedia feel obliged to remove most external links which are added to articles. This includes the vast majority which are legitimate links to sites that directly relate to the article at hand. Further, those who regularly add external links will find themselves being labeled as spammers and warned to cease their efforts or face being banned. This external link paranoia has driven many good editors away from Wikipedia.

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