Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wikipedia's lame attempt to gain credibility will backfire

Read the following scenario and tell me if it's happened to you recently:

"A friend asks you a question. You don't know the answer off the top of your head, but you do know where to find the information, so you tell them to look up such and such in Wikipedia. They go to the article you specified and they fail to find the information they sought. So you look it up in another source and find the information that you thought Wikipedia had. Later on, you examine the edit history of the Wikipedia article, and you find that the information you thought Wikipedia used to have was in fact there all along after all. Some idiot deleted it because the idiot thought it was trivia. You would really like to know who the hell appointed that idiot to the position of ultimate decider of what is and what isn't trivia."

It's happening more and more often, but eventually it will stop happening. That's because people will realize that Wikipedia is worthless as a source for any information. What happened is that by 2007, a lot of people thought that Wikipedia could contain all that information that a regular encyclopedia wishes it could embrace but for which it just doesn't have the room. So a lot of people started adding in a lot of information of that sort, getting into great detail, generally getting their facts right even if their spelling and grammar occasionally left something to be desired. Unfortunately for them, those people didn't realize that Wikipedia is not about providing information for everyone, but providing gladiator-style entertainment for its founder; thus they thought that they didn't think they would have to fight anyone in order to make sure that true information stayed in Wikipedia.

The great Wikipedia warriors started cracking down on the new users, systematically removing the new information they brought under the pretense of "trivia clean-up" (in every case perverting the real policy on trivia). These warriors didn't care whether or not the information was true or relevant to the topic. All that mattered is that it offered an easy opportunity to assert their authority, rack up edits on a wide variety of subjects and hopefully get themselves elected to positions of power in Wikipedia.

Random, unexpected connections between high culture and pop culture are often targets of the so-called trivia "clean-up." Supposedly they're irrelevant. But back in 2005, that's all Wikipedia was! A network of random, unexpected connections! Precisely the sort of thing there's no room for in a regular encyclopedia.

The ultimate end result of all this is that Wikipedia will eventually contain a lot less information than a regular paper encyclopedia. People will realize that Wikipedia is worthless as a source of information for any topic. For the most popular topic areas, there is almost always an online source that has more information on that topic than Wikipedia does, and has far greater credibility and accountability to boot. For the less popular topic areas, there is the library. You know, the building that has a few thousand books next to the computer terminals.

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