In the news
What does Wikipedia call an expert; and untruths in biographies ... again.
Wikipedia and the shifting definition of "expert"
In an article by the Atlantic, Wikipedia's meaning of the word "expert" has been put into question. The article pondered on what Wikipedia would call an expert, who we would trust and who we wouldn't, and how this may have changed over the past few years.
For instance, academics who double as editors may well be an expert in their field and edit or create Wikipedia articles about that topic, and we'd therefore consider them trusted. But what about the other side of it? The whole idea of anonymous collaboration, is of course, anonymity. So how do we define just when to trust someone, and where do we draw the line? It is true that we benefit from academics and people who know their subject, so do "experts" in the traditional sense (e.g. academic pedigrees) still matter in this collaborative environment?
As reported by the Atlantic, a new study by researchers at Stanford University and Yahoo Research points to a complementary phenomenon: the definition of what makes someone an expert is changing. They search for expertise in Wikipedia's pages, and they find it, but what they're looking for – what they call expertise – uses different signals to project itself. Expertise, to these researchers, isn't who a writer is but what a writer knows, as measured by what they read online. Overall, the authors write, Wikipedia's editors are "more sophisticated than usual Web users."
It is difficult to deny that when somebody who knows something adds their knowledge, the Wikimedian community are thankful for it, but the question of when they deserve to be trusted, and not, remains a live one.
"Wikipedia is largely fiction"
The age-old debate has come up again: is what Wikipedia says true? The most common response to such a question is to argue yes, we try and reference most of it, and delete what is not referenced, but some things do slip through the net, so to speak. In this amusing yet short article, an actor from the film The Avengers, Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman on April 27, 2012.
Hemsworth said that his hometown Phillip Island was not part of any ocean, crediting Wikipedia as his source of information. Letterman responded by saying "Wikipedia is largely fiction". Hemsworth then said that in his own biography on the site, the information was true. "Well, my biography is true, it said I had seven brothers, four sisters. I was on a various amount of TV shows in Australia." Letterman said, "Now, wait a minute, you had seven brothers?" Hemsworth replied, "No, that’s what Wikipedia says." Letterman added, "There you go, you’ve proven my point for God’s sakes." It seems Hemsworth did not do a very good job of defending Wikipedia here; let's hope he does better at defending the world in his new film.
Jimmy Wales is to help give free access to research to the public
- Jimmy Wales to help in government's research scheme: The Guardian published an article last Wednesday about how the Wikipedia founder is advising the British government to help make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to anyone who wants to read or use it. The intention is to give freedom to the research done by researchers and scientists and let the public read them at will, much as we have access to lots of information through Wikipedia. In the longer term, Wales will help to set up the next generation of open-access platforms for British researchers. The initiative is set to start in around two years.
- Wales gives speech at Vatican meeting: More Wales, and at this article by Catholic Register, Jimmy gave an interview about the controversy surrounding abortion and how the online encyclopedia could promote "a more thoughtful world", even as the site was under fire for how it referred to those who oppose and support legalized abortion. In an interview after his speech, Wales also spoke about Wikipedia's arbitration process to determine the correct Wikipedia use of the terms "pro-choice," "pro-life," "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion" to describe individuals and movements. Wikipedia also wants to be careful about using terms that implicitly imply a judgment, for instance by using the term "pro-abortion", he said. The meeting last week gave a thoughtful insight into how Wikipedia affects what people think, and why we must be careful which terms we use.
- Controversy in Obama campaign slogan article: The International Business Times commented on the proposed deletion of Forward (Obama–Biden campaign slogan) because the word 'Forward' has often been used in the past for promoting communist parties. The slogan for the campaign was launched on 30 April.
Keep up with The Signpost