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This page is intended to list quotations from critics of Wikipedia, especially in publications, whose criticisms may be contested. Please cite sources of the quotations. (Contradicting evidence may also be appropriate to list under a given quotation.)
See also the testimonials page for the positive reactions, and the replies to common objections page for responses to common criticisms. See also Wikipedia:External peer review for reviews of Wikipedia's accuracy by external sources.
Notice that much of the criticism is based on how they perceive the process of Wikipedia and not the actual quality.
See also Why Wikipedia is not so great for a list of Wikipedia limitations.
- 1 Charles Arthur
- 2 Hiawatha Bray
- 3 Nicholas G. Carr
- 4 Paulo Correa
- 5 Brian Cubbison
- 6 John C. Dvorak
- 7 Al Fasoldt
- 8 Willard Foxton
- 9 Michael Fraley
- 10 Péter Jacsó
- 11 Jaron Lanier
- 12 Mike Langberg
- 13 Robert McHenry
- 14 John McIntyre
- 15 Andrew Orlowski
- 16 John Podhoretz
- 17 PVPOnline
- 18 Mitch Ratcliffe
- 19 Larry Sanger
- 20 Jason Scott
- 21 John Seigenthaler, Sr.
- 22 Dan Tynan
- 23 Veja Magazine (unsigned)
- 24 Legio XX
- 25 Britannica Online Encyclopedia
- 26 External links
- Charles Arthur, "Online, it's us or them", The Sydney Morning Herald (17 Dec. 2005).
- What I realised - perhaps it was the mention of Scientology - is that Wikipedia, and so many other online activities, show all the outward characteristics of a cult. There is a quasi-religious fervour surrounding the "rightness" of Wikipedia, or Apple's products. To outsiders, it makes little or no sense. To those inside, it is the most important topic they can imagine. [...] They also use the most charming of debating techniques, which is to allow you to make a long list of salient points and pull in a wide range of empirical observations to back up your argument, and then ignore them completely. Then they respond with something along the lines of "Are you being paid to say that by Microsoft, or just doing a mate a favour?" (to quote one email received this week on the topic of open source software development).
By Hiawatha Bray, "One great source — if you can trust it", The Boston Globe (12 July 2004).
- For it lacks one vital feature of the traditional encyclopedia: accountability. Old-school reference books hire expert scholars to write their articles, and employ skilled editors to check and double-check their work. Wikipedia's articles are written by anyone who fancies himself an expert.
- "I think it's exactly the right price," said Michael Ross, senior vice president of corporate development at Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. in Chicago. Major articles in Britannica are signed by the author; all articles are vetted by an experienced team of editors and scholars. The libraries that pay $1,500 for a set of bound volumes or the family that pays $60 a year for an Internet subscription are buying confidence as well as information. [...] Ross admits to reading and enjoying Wikipedia, and has even gotten ideas there for future Britannica articles. But the absence of traditional editorial controls makes Wikipedia unsuited to serious research. "How do they know it's accurate?" Ross asks. "People can put down anything."
- This realization forced the Wikimedia Foundation to start work on a formal editorial process for Wikipedia. Wales isn't sure how it will work yet; contributors might still be anonymous. But there will probably be an editorial board staffed with experts in various fields. They'll be identified by name with the Wikipedia, and stand behind the accuracy of its contents.
On the other hand, he also writes:
- A few years ago, Microsoft Corp. scoffed at free software; today the company is running scared. Britannica's Ross seems a lot more relaxed about his company's future. It's difficult to see why.
- Nicholas G. Carr, "The amorality of Web 2.0", Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog (3 Oct. 2005)
- In theory, Wikipedia is a beautiful thing—it has to be a beautiful thing if the Web is leading us to a higher consciousness. In reality, though, Wikipedia isn't very good at all. Certainly, it's useful—I regularly consult it to get a quick gloss on a subject. But at a factual level it's unreliable, and the writing is often appalling. I wouldn't depend on it as a source, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a student writing a research paper.
- With Alexandra Correa and Malgosia Askanas (User:Helicoid)
- Paulo Correa, Alexandra Correa, and Malgosia Askanas, Wikipedia: A Techno-Cult of Ignorance, ISBN 1-894840-36-4
- This brings us squarely to the question of the uses of Wikipedia, and in particular, those that concern protection of the interests of Big Science. For Wikipedia is at the intersection of this Knowledge Warfare. Its cult of the sanctity of mainstream peer-review, and its determination to brand bona fide non-mainstream scientific efforts as Pseudoscience, lumping them together with doctrines or ideas that would disgust any good scientist, all point in the direction of a gigantic disinformation act. Tyrannized by fanatical lefto-facho bureaucrats and by zealots of Official Science surrounded by an always-ready supply of zombified adolescents, Wikipedia has become a supplement to the imaginary ‘peer-review system’ that supposedly rules the secretion called Official or Big Science. The unconscious entente of Wikipedia proves the collective adherence of its participants to the brave new concept of Official Science: if it does not occur within those institutions which embody the powers of the State (Academia), the Military Mechanism and Capital, it is NOT science, nor worthy of the Media (including mainstream peer-reviewed publications), not worthy of being endorsed for the strategizing of mass-control.
- "Thousands of people, all over the world, from all cultures, working together in harmony to freely share clear, factual, unbiased information… a simple and pure desire to make the world a better place."
- "Oh please???. What a shameless crock. Look at any Wikipedia Talk page on any controversial subject, and, instead of "people working together in harmony", you will typically and unsurprisingly see a bunch of mediocre nerds with too much time on their hands and with rather uninformed opinions on too many subjects, bickering among themselves in an attempt to forge an entry that will represent a "consensus" of their uninformed opinions."
Brian Cubbison, "How Syracuse became a test of online credibility," The Post-Standard, Syracuse NY (15 September 2004). 
- After the free, online Wikipedia got a favorable mention in a Dr. Gizmo column, then a letter from Liverpool High School librarian Susan Stagnitta, technology writer Al Fasoldt questioned whether the do-it-yourself encyclopedia is authoritative. [...]
- From Techdirt.com came this challenge: Add a mistake to the encyclopedia's entry on Syracuse, N.Y., and see how long it takes for someone to fix it. [...]
- Alex Halavais [...] inserted the error that abolitionist Frederick Douglass once lived in Syracuse and was the first African-American elected to the city council. That lasted about an hour and a half before it was removed. Another contributor added Al Fasoldt, journalist, to the entry's list of famous Syracusans. That lasted about 45 minutes. Seeking a more difficult test, Halavais announced in his blog that he had made 13 errors in 13 subjects. All were caught and fixed within hours. [...]
- One side said the experiment showed that Wikipedia is self-healing, even from a fraudulent attack. The other side said that for those hours, the encyclopedia was wrong. [...]
- At Wikipedia, in spite of the game of Truth or Dare and the flurry of attention paid to Syracuse, there are still at least three mistakes on that page, one of which has been there since the reign of Louis XIV in France."
- "The absolute deterioration of the wiki concept is just a matter of time. Once spam mechanisms are developed to eat into these systems, the caretakers will be too busy to stop the public-driven deterioration."
- "This means that the wiki will go the way of the rest of the Net: downhill. Fictitious posts, spam, grudge pages, lies, politically motivated opinions, online vandalism, and all the rest will inevitably ruin the wiki concept, since the whole idea is utopian. And utopianism never works except in the lab or with religious zealots, and that's only for moments at a time. "
- Dvorak, John C. (2005). The Wikification of Knowledge. Retrieved July 15, 2005.
- In a column published a few weeks ago by my companion Dr. Gizmo, readers were urged to go to the Wikipedia Web site at Wikipedia:Main Page, an online encyclopedia, for more information on computer history. The doctor and I had figured Wikipedia was a good independent source. Not so, wrote a school librarian who read that article. Susan Stagnitta, of the Liverpool High School library, explained that Wikipedia is not what many casual Web surfers think it is[...]
- If you know of other supposedly authoritative Web sites that are untrustworthy...
- Willard Foxton, "Tory MPs fiddling with their Wikipedia entries: Grant Shapps is just the tip of the iceberg", The Telegraph (10 September 2012)
- A quick browse through the profiles of MPs reveal that a huge number have entries which tortuously detail trivial events in their political lives. For example, Damian Green’s Wikipedia entry devotes well over 1,000 words to his 2008 arrest alone; for comparison that's more than three times as much wiki-ink as any of Disraeli's governments.
This happens because Wikipedia has become a magnet for political nerds who want to fight proxy battles. With a general election two and a half years away, some think the best way to damage the other side is to use Wikipedia as a vehicle for smears. Equally, many see it as nothing more than an online CV service.
You may question if it matters whether Shapps is reported as having four or five O-levels. The trouble is that ease of access to articles on Wikipedia means they're often used as sources for the media. Wikipedia has mutated from an encyclopedia into the central source for information on public figures. An untrue fact can cascade through a person's life, causing all manner of problems for them.
Self-editing is forbidden is to stop self-promotion; however, it can lead to frustrating situations when false information appears. For example, Philip Roth complained recently that Wikipedia would not accept him as a reliable source on his own novels.
However, Wikipedia allows anonymous editing. Thus those who honestly correct incorrect information are penalised, whereas those willing to edit anonymously, or create sinister false online personas, are given free rein. Johann Hari used Wikipedia as a weapon to attack other journalists, and puff his own achievements. Since then, plenty of others have adopted Hari's tactics.
- Michael Fraley, "Wikipedia needs to take greater precautions," KPCNews.com (18 Dec. 2005).
- It’s just my opinion, but I that the people who run Wikipedia are being lax in regulating the process their contributors have to go through in order to add their edits to the site. It’s a bit like living in a community in which you assume that everyone is trying to coexist in a spirit of good will — but you’re still a fool if you don’t lock and bolt your door at night. Wikipedia has generally taken the position that their community of contributors should protect, patrol and correct themselves. The site backs up each different version of an article, so in theory nothing can be irreparably damaged or vandalized beyond rescue. While there has been talk of making Wikipedia contributors register with the site before they can perform edits on the encyclopedia’s articles, I recently made an edit on an article myself and was asked for no information at all. Wikipedia is a fantastic resource, but I urge a more aggressive guarding of the gates — for its own sake.
By Péter Jacsó, "Peter's Picks & Pans," ONLINE Magazine 26(2), 79-82 (March/April 2002).
- "Now we have the latest endeavor that is a joke at best, Wikipedia. I am afraid it is meant to be a communal encyclopedia of the people, by the people, and for the people, which shall not perish from the earth, even if it looks like a prank."
- "You can even forgive the error- and typo-ridden articles; grammar is just an old-fashioned convention."
- "Another page says that 'Wikipedia is a collaborative project to produce a complete encyclopedia from scratch. We started in January 2001 and already have over 16,000 articles. We want to make over 100,000.' That's ambition. There is no way to verify the number, but for perspective, the 6th edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia has 51,682 articles, so this is quite a tall order."
- "Many of the entries of Wikipedia consist of a single sentence, typically a third or fourth the size of a comparable entry in the totally free Columbia Encyclopedia, a time-honored scholarly resource."
- "Wiki is part of the Hawaiian word wikiwiki, meaning quick or fast—as in fast buck. [...] Jimbo expects advertisers by mid-2002, and then you know who is going to be laughing all the way to the bank."
- The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?
- The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it's been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it's now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn't make it any less dangerous.
Lanier's essay triggered easily the most, and most informed, responses of any single article , most notably by Cory Doctorow who is familiar with its process firsthand. Other responses to Lanier's essay came from Douglas Rushkoff, Quentin Hardy, Yochai Benkler, Clay Shirky, Kevin Kelly, Esther Dyson, Larry Sanger, Fernanda Viegas & Martin Wattenberg, Jimmy Wales, George Dyson, Dan Gillmor and Howard Rheingold.
From Doctorow's response:
- Wikipedia isn't great because it's like the Britannica. The Britannica is great at being authoritative, edited, expensive, and monolithic. Wikipedia is great at being free, brawling, universal, and instantaneous.
- Wikipedia entries are nothing but the emergent effect of all the angry thrashing going on below the surface...if you want to really navigate the truth via Wikipedia, you have to dig into those "history" and "discuss" pages hanging off of every entry. That's where the real action is, the tidily organized palimpsest of the flamewar that lurks beneath any definition of "truth."
- The Britannica tells you what dead white men agreed upon, Wikipedia tells you what live Internet users are fighting over.
- So Wikipedia gets it wrong. Britannica gets it wrong, too. The important thing about systems isn't how they work, it's how they fail. Fixing a Wikipedia article is simple. Participating in the brawl takes more effort, but then, that's the price you pay for truth, and it's still cheaper than starting up your own Britannica.
- Mike Langberg, "Wikipedia needs safeguards that work," The Mercury News (11 Dec. 2005).
- Wikipedia keeps getting in trouble because its open model—where anyone can write and edit entries—is an invitation for character assassination, ideological crusades and outright vandalism, as well as legitimate scholarship. [...] The result of Wikipedia's open editing system is predictable: Most contributors provide useful material, while a small number of "trolls" repeatedly deface the encyclopedia. Wikipedia is also plagued by endless "revert wars," where dueling groups keep reversing each other's changes to controversial articles. This undermines the credibility of Wikipedia, which now offers an unprecedented 857,000 articles in English, along with versions in more than 100 other languages. Wikipedia is becoming a first reference stop for millions of people, from schoolchildren to journalists, including me. But many of these users don't realize a small percentage of articles are flawed. Even more troubling, there's no way to know when you've hit one of those defective entries. That's why I never put a fact from Wikipedia into one of my columns without first double-checking it elsewhere. [...] Wikipedia is now big enough, with a core group of 13,000 active volunteers, to pre-screen all of its contents. New entries and edits could still be submitted—even anonymously—by any visitor to the Wikipedia site but would be placed in a kind of holding pen until one of the trusted volunteers took a look and said OK.
Robert McHenry is Former Editor in Chief of the Encyclopædia Britannica, and author of How to Know (Booklocker.com, 2004).
- Robert McHenry, "The Education of Gesture", Tech Central Station (25 Oct. 2005).
- Same day. The Wikipedia, an online project to create an encyclopedia by means of contributions and editing by volunteers, irrespective of their knowledge of their subjects or ability to write coherently, has just lately begun to come to grips with the fact that some substantial proportion of the articles thus generated are substandard. They have therefore launched "Project Galatea," whose aim is to have still more self-selected volunteers impose "large-scale, sweeping stylistic improvements." Note that the improvements hoped for are stylistic, not a matter of accuracy or adequacy. In the "Philosophy" of the project, prospective stylists are told this:
- "While there is no need to be an expert on the article you're working on (in fact, there are some advantages to being completely ignorant of the subject to start with), by the time you're done, you will have at least a working knowledge of the topic."
- Another point, spang on my line. [sic] How worried ought I to be? How worried are you?
- Here is what I wonder: Whence this notion that citizens, especially those who aspire to careers of informing the rest of us, need not bother with what once would have been considered the common body of knowledge? And where on earth did the idea arise that knowledge might actually be a hindrance?
- I do not blame computers or the Internet. Well...except for one thought that gives me pause. How is it that these tools that were to make achieving our lofty goals easier have instead been commandeered to move the goal posts?
- He notes that the Countering Systemic Bias project to "improve the coverage of the encyclopedia... needs to begin with a clear distinction between "bias" and "imbalance"... The Wikiproject seems to concern itself with topics that are treated in insufficient detail or not at all; to me, this is addressing imbalance. "Bias" denotes a lack of objectivity or fairness in the treatment of topics. Thus, when a writer called Joseph McCabe alleged in a widely distributed pamphlet that certain articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica had been unduly influenced by the Catholic church, he was charging bias. (That was in 1947, and he was quite wrong, by the way.)
- Is imbalance in Wikipedia "systemic"? I should rather say that it results inevitably from a lack of system. Given the method by which Wikipedia articles are created, for there to be any semblance of balance in the overall coverage of subject-matter would be miraculous. Balance results from planning. As an example, the planning of the coverage of the fifteenth edition of Britannica took an in-house staff and dozens of advisers several years to complete. That was forty years ago; it would be harder now... imbalance is a judgment, not a fact, and... it cannot be reduced to numbers.
- ...something that Wikipedia and Wikipedians steadfastly decline to do today, and that is to consider seriously the user, the reader.
- One simple fact that must be accepted as the basis for any intellectual work is that truth – whatever definition of that word you may subscribe to – is not democratically determined. And another is that talent, whether for soccer or for exposition, is not equally distributed across the population, while a robust confidence is one's own views apparently is. If there is a systemic bias in Wikipedia, it is to have ignored so far these inescapable facts.
See also his comments in the Orlowski article, below, and
- Robert McHenry, "The Faith-Based Encyclopedia Blinks," TCS Daily (14 Dec. 2005).
- John McIntyre, "Sham editing at Wikipedia", The Baltimore Sun (10 September 2012)
- In addition to the numerous errors introduced by ignorant or careless contributors, it is widely known that some public figures employ interns or staff members to monitor their Wikipedia entries to edit out unfavorable information.
I remain convinced that Wikipedia's confidence in its self-correction mechanism is an illusion, that the editing it does is inadequate, and that the outright errors and constant manipulation of entries by interested parties make it an unreliable reference.
- Andrew Orlowski, "Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems"
- Criticism of the project from within the inner sanctum has been very rare so far, although fellow co-founder Larry Sanger, who is no longer associated with the project, pleaded with the management to improve its content by befriending, and not alienating, established sources of expertise. (i.e., people who know what they're talking about.)
- Andrew Orlowski, "Wikipedia: magic, monkeys and typewriters," The Register (24 Oct. 2005).
- But something is changing since we last wrote about Wikipedia a year ago. Even project founder Jimmy Wales has been obliged to admit its entries are "a horrific embarrassment". Readability, which wasn't great to begin with, has plummeted. Formerly coherent and reasonably accurate articles in the technical section have gotten worse as they've gotten longer. And most interesting of all, the public is beginning to notice.
- What they don't like to talk about is that on Wikipedia, the truth is determined in the end by a physical contest: whoever has the endurance to stay awake at a keyboard and maintain his version of the edits wins.
- Andrew Orlowski, "Why Wikipedia isn't like Linux," The Register (27 Oct. 2005).
This article is mainly quotations from others in response to the earlier article, e.g.:
- "Some people need scrupulously accurate information, and some people are happy with myths and misinformation. Sometimes you just need some information, and sometimes you need accurate information." (Tom Panelas, Britannica spokesperson)
- "It was always a doomed idea. It was bad from the start. But it's got the public playing the encyclopedia game. To extend the analogy, it's also like playing a game in the sense that playing it has no consequences. If something goes wrong, you just restart. No problem!" (Robert McHenry, Britannica editor)
- "They are huge fans of the most conspicuous success story in the history of Internet-based collaboration: the Linux kernel. Which is not produced by a radically-democratic value-neutral mob, but rather by a pyramidal hierarchy of maintainers - experts, so judged by their peers - who exercise strong control over what code is allowed in the kernel tree. It's worth reflecting on the reason Wiki-kernel would never fly: code actually has to work, not merely be written." (Carlo Graziani, in a letter to Orlowski).
- Andrew Orlowski, "There's no Wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility'", The Register (12 Dec. 2005).
- [...] Wikipedia's proliferation owes much to the fact that we're currently in a temporary, but very familiar blip in history—one we've been in many times before. Wikipedia has sprung up to fill a temporary void. [...] So I'm very privileged right now, as a member of the San Francisco public library, to be able to tap into expensive databases I couldn't otherwise afford. In ten years time, these "member's societies" will be the norm, and most of us won't even realize we're members. The good stuff will just come out of a computer network.
- [...] The first, and the most immediately absurd of these two defenses, is that since nothing at all can be trusted, er, "definitively", then Wikipedia can't be trusted either. This is curious, to say the least, as it points everyone's expectations firmly downwards. [...] Only a paranoiac, or a mad person, can sustain this level of defensiveness for any length of time however, and to hear a putative "encyclopedia" making such a statement is odd, to say the least. This defense firmly puts the blame on the reader, for being so stupid as to take the words at face value. Silly you, for believing us, they say.
- [...] Wikipedia's defenders point to the open model, where anyone can make changes, as another example of shrugging off responsibility. [...] So Wikipedia's second defense rests heavily on the assumption that everyone in the whole world is participating, watching, and writing at every moment of the day, and so that a failure to pay attention represents negligence on the part of the complainer. Seigenthaler, the argument goes, was clearly being an idiot when he failed to notice that day's piece of web grafitti. Instead of taking his dog for a walk, or composing an email to his grandchildren, he should have been paying ceaseless attention to ... his Wikipedia biography. To which the only honest answer is, "we don't owe you anything".
- [...] Involvement in Wikipedia has taken its toll on a significant number of decent, fair minded people who with the most honorable intentions, have tried to alert the project to its social responsibilities and failed. Such voices could be heard on the Wikipedia mailing list, speaking up for quality. Wikipedia is losing good editors at an alarming rate, but who can blame them for leaving?
- Note: This article actually induced some Wikipedians to create the Wikipedia entry on moral responsibility in the attempt to invalidate the claim in the title (in a literal sense).
- Andrew Orlowski, "Wikipedia science 31% more cronky than Britannica's", The Register (16 Dec. 2005)
- Science journal Nature chose 42 science articles from both Encyclopedia Britanica [sic] and gave peer reviewers a blind test to find mistakes. That gave the free-for-all web site a fighting chance — as it excluded the rambling garbage and self-indulgence that constitute much of the wannabe "encyclopedia" social science and culture entries. [...] Britannica turned up 123 "errors", and Wikipedia 162. In other words, the quality of information coming from Wikipedia was 31 per cent worse. [...] Who could possibly hail this as good news? Two camps, we think. People with a real chip on their shoulder about authority, as we saw earlier this week. People with a contempt for learning, many of you say. But more broadly, only someone more obsessed by process than by the end result can regard this as any kind of victory — something all the popular press missed in their anxiety to gives us an upbeat, good news story from Planet Wikipedia yesterday. [emphasis theirs]
- Andrew Orlowski, "Wikipedia founder 'shot by friend of Siegenthaler'", The Register (17 Dec. 2005)
- The news of the "shooting" even made the venerable London Times, yesterday. The Times noted that after the first Seigenthaler scandal broke, the now "deceased" Jimmy Wales had, as he has so often, promised to tighten up a few nuts and bolts in the "encyclopedia's" editorial processes. He certainly had his work cut out. "A cursory search today suggested that these procedures - which require contributors to register basic details before posting articles - were being defeated by a relentless wave of vandals, apparently co-ordinating their assaults from a series of chatrooms dedicated to its demise. The loss of credibility has caused commentators to question whether Wikipedia is destined to follow the LA Times's doomed experiment in unrestricted internet comment, Wikitorial, which had to be closed down after just two days under a bombardment of pornographic postings." Is nothing sacred? So is Wikipedia a source of reference, or just a great big game?
- Note: The Times article mentioned is:
- Simon Freeman, "Wikipedia hit by surge in spoof articles", The Times (15 Dec. 2005).
- With regards to Wales' "death" , The Times and Orlowski apparently refer to this version or this version of the "Jimmy Wales" article by User:Ben E. Rande, who was subsequently banned. Each of these vandalized versions was visible for one minute or less, according to the article history log.
- Note: The Times article mentioned is:
John Podhoretz, "From My Wikipedia Bio Last Month," National Review's The Corner (June 12, 2005).
- "'He is an admitted homosexual, yet still endorses the anti-gay policies of social conservatives.' Somebody, I don't know who, went in and edited the sentence out a few days ago. For the record, I am not an admitted homosexual, nor am I a homosexual, though I do know the lyrics to every show tune ever written, which might perhaps account for the confusion. As for endorsing the 'anti-gay policies of social conservatives,' what I oppose, purely and simply, is affirmative action for homosexuals. But this is what you get for arguing with Wikipedia."
- Mitch Ratcliffe, "Socratic Media: Wikinews & Wikiconsequences", RatcliffeBlog (30 Nov. 2005).30 2004]
- In a medium defined by timeliness—news, as compared to an encyclopedia article, which can be authored over months or years—collaborative editing is not likely to result in objective reports, but rather a battle of perspectives very much like the starkly partisan George W. Bush articles authors produced at Wikipedia that resulted in the editing interface being locked down. In a situation where the reader needs information quickly in order to make a judgment about events or their role in them, the collaborative approach to authoring information may be too slow.
- ...regardless of whether Wikipedia actually is more or less reliable than the average encyclopedia, it is not perceived as adequately reliable by many librarians, teachers, and academics. The reason for this is not far to seek: those librarians etc. note that anybody can contribute and that there are no traditional review processes. You might hasten to reply that it does work nonetheless, and I would agree with you to a large extent, but your assurances will not put this concern to rest.
- Wikipedia has another sort of credibility problem, mentioned in passing above, and I fear that time is not a solution to this problem, the way it might be to the foregoing one. Namely, one can make a good case that, when it comes to relatively specialized topics (outside of the interests of most of the contributors), the project's credibility is very uneven. If the project was lucky enough to have a writer or two well-informed about some specialized subject, and if their work was not degraded in quality by the majority of people, whose knowledge of the subject is based on paragraphs in books and mere mentions in college classes, then there might be a good, credible article on that specialized subject. Otherwise, there will be no article at all, a very amateurish-sounding article, or an article that looks like it might once have been pretty good, but which has been hacked to bits by hoi polloi.
- Second problem: the dominance of difficult people, trolls, and their enablers. I stopped participating in Wikipedia when funding for my position ran out. That does not mean that I am merely mercenary; I might have continued to participate, were it not for a certain poisonous social or political atmosphere in the project.
- This lack of respect for expertise and authority also explains the second problem, because again if the project participants had greater respect for expertise, there would necessarily be very little patience for those who deliberately disrupt the project. This is perhaps not obvious, so let me explain. To attract and retain the participation of experts...
Articles spurred by Sanger's comments include:
- Jason Scott, The Great Failure of Wikipedia, ASCII: Jason Scott's Weblog (19 Nov. 2004)
- This is what the inherent failure of wikipedia is. It's that there's a small set of content generators, a massive amount of wonks and twiddlers, and then a heaping amount of procedural whackjobs. And the mass of twiddlers and procedural whackjobs means that the content generators stop being so and have to become content defenders. Woe be that your take on things is off from the majority. Even if you can prove something, you're now in the situation that anybody can change it. And while that's all great in a happy-go-lucky flower shower sort of way, it's when you realize that the people who are going to change it could have absolutely no experience with the subject whatsoever, then you see where we are.
- John Seigenthaler, "A false Wikipedia 'biography'", USA Today (29 Nov. 2005).
- My "biography" was posted May 26. On May 29, one of Wales' volunteers "edited" it only by correcting the misspelling of the word "early." For four months, Wikipedia depicted me as a suspected assassin before Wales erased it from his website's history Oct. 5. The falsehoods remained on Answers.com and Reference.com for three more weeks.
- 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.
This article spurred several related stories in other news sources:
- Katharine Q. Seelye, "Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar", New York Times (4 Dec. 2005).
- Charles Cooper, "Wikipedia and the nature of truth", CNET News.com (2 Dec. 2005).
- Katharine Q. Seelye, "A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank," New York Times (11 Dec. 2005).
- Andrew Orlowski, "Who owns your Wikipedia bio?" The Register (6 Dec. 2005).
- Steve Johnson, "Wikipedia: Raising perhaps more questions than answers", Chicago Tribune (15 Dec. 2005).
- Dan Tynan. "Winners and Losers of 2005". Tech Tuesday - Yahoo! News. (December 16 2005). Rated as both the "Winner" and "Loser of the Year".
- You can't do a Web search on any major topic without this wiki popping up near the top of the results page. Heavily linked, authoritative, and constantly updated, the world's largest interactive encyclopedia came into its own this year[...] Popular, yes. Accurate? Not necessarily. Because its entries can be edited by anyone, the Wikipedia can be the source of dubious or biased information. [...(citing the Swiftboat controversy and Seigenthaler Incident)...] [W]ith more than 800,000 articles in English and well over 1 million in 15 other languages, foolproof policing is well nigh impossible.
Veja Magazine (unsigned)
In January 23, 2005, the Brazilian magazine Veja published an unsigned article about Wikipedia entitled "Written by whoever wants to", casting doubts on the encyclopedia's reliability. According to the article, the freedom entailed by Wikipedia is a cause for its success, but "it is also Wikipedia's greatest flaw, because its articles are subject to ignorants and ill-disposed [individuals]". It goes on to draw a comparison with Encyclopædia Britannica, whose first article on psychoanalysis was, according to Veja, written by Sigmund Freud.
The magazine stated that Wikipedia's correction mechanism "works better in subjects in which many people are interested [...], such as technology. It becomes disastrous in obscure or political themes". Veja made a test to try to prove their point. In the article on Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the magazine allegedly inserted the information that he was born in "a big city in the industrial state of Pernambuco". This is incorrect because Lula (as he is better known in Brazil) was born in a small village, and Pernambuco cannot be considered an industrial state by Brazilian standards. Veja claimed the fake info stayed online for 2 days, until they removed it themselves.
- Veja, edição 1889, 26 de janeiro de 2005
- I emailed a reenactment group with some images of pretty well-made replicas of Roman equipment, asking if I could add their images to Wikipedia. The full text of their reply is below. WoodenTaco 20:15, 17 April 2006 (UTC)
- Thank you for your compliments, and my apologies for taking so long to reply. I'm afraid that I have to refuse your request to use Legio XX images on Wikipedia, and not just because of the commercialism. While I have never consulted Wikipedia myself, others who have looked up the sorts of technical topics that are my main interest have found them to be horribly inaccurate. And attempts to improve those entries by experts and amateurs who have done solid research are wrecked by constant updates by obviously ignorant people. Dr. MC Bishop, an archeologist and world-renowned authority on Roman armor, wrote an article on the Roman lorica segmentata, only to see it mangled beyond recognition. As long as well-researched and well-documented scientific information can be replaced by teen-age wargamers, my group and I would rather have no official connection to Wikipedia.
- You may certainly add links to any page of the Legio XX site, or to my other websites. That's what the Internet is for, after all, and the contents are safe from tampering. I hope that will help lead people to more reliable information. Unfortunately, that's probably all I can do for you.
- All the best,
- Matthew Amt, Legio XX
Britannica Online Encyclopedia on article Wikipedia:
- Wikipedia uses a collaborative software known as wiki that facilitates the creation and development of articles. Although some highly publicized problems have called attention to Wikipedia’s editorial process, they have done little to dampen public use of the resource, which is one of the most-visited sites on the Internet.
- Wikipedia Reputation and the Wemedia Project references this page, describes Bray, Fasolt and Jasco criticisms and a Wikipedia fact checking project.
- "A Compendium of Wikipedia Criticism", on Wikipediocracy