October 05, 2005

Free AND reliable?

There is something inherently troublesome when free and reliable are used together. Wikipedia began when Ward Cunningham embraced the concept as it came to him in the late 1980's.

Wikipedia's goal is to create a free, reliable encyclopedia.

While the merits of this idea may be questionable due to a simple economic theory (the tragedy of the commons), I have been impressed with what Wikipedia has to offer. The ideals with which this site is designed to work toward are desirable. However, as I began to look into the entries regarding intelligent design, Phillip Johnson, and other individuals associated with the Discovery Institute, I began to see the failings of such a project's ability to handle topics that might have associations with "religion" or things "supernatural". Wikipedia should probably stay out of some areas, the current intelligent design debate being one of them.

Certainly, Wikipedia makes no guarantee of validity. In addition, self-selection effects due to individuals more likely to use and edit an open-content encyclopedia bias opinions contained therein with a liberal slant. At the very least, a system based on "consensus" (which actually turns out to be the perceived consensus of active administrators) that collects those of a liberal perspective is bound to bias the content.

Nevertheless, there are a number of great articles with helpful information. I think I agree with what I've seen posted elsewhere: it is reliable in about 80 percent of what if offers as a supplement to Google rather than Britannica.



At 8:26 PM, Blogger BK said...

The biggest problem with Wikipedia is that it tends to be subject to abuse by those with an agenda. My compadre, Layman, has written about his experiences trying to deal with the Jesus-Myth movement (which is actually a very small minority of Biblical thought) on Wikipedia here:



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Free AND reliable?