Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wikipedia has everything...almost

Pastor David Kerr wrote about meetings. After I responded, I ended up looking for more information about meetings, and it turns out that Wikipedia has an entire article about meetings.

In a meeting, two or more people come together for the purpose of discussing a (usually) predetermined topic, often in a formalized setting.

Actually that sounds like a first date, but what the hey.

So then I wondered what else Wikipedia has stored away. How about an article on nose picking, complete with a reference to "RHINOTILLEXOMANIA"? (More here.)

So you'd think that Wikipedia has everything. But it doesn't.

The Wikipedia project has a systemic bias that grows naturally out of the demographic of its contributors and manifests itself as an imbalance in coverage. This project attempts to fill in the gaps left by this bias, consciously focusing on those subjects and perspectives neglected by the encyclopedia as a whole.

But Robert McHenry, formerly of Encyclopedia Britannica, thinks that Wikipedia is patting itself on the back too much.

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.

It is unremarkable that the topics covered at present in Wikipedia reflect the interests of those who contribute to it, and that these contributors represent a relatively narrow, self-selected segment of society. In the absence of planning and some degree of central direction, how else could it have been?

Plus, Wikipedia contributors all pick their noses too much.


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