Send As SMS

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Most Evil Thing Ever 

changing history

It was announced at lunch yesterday that (at least in the eyes of an elementary school librarian) the mighty Wikipedia has earned the above title by allowing people to wantonly edit facts. I don't know, I might have reserved it for actions more akin to the deliberate annihilation of people group or the operation of a child porn slave syndicate, but I guess to each his own.

The concern that caused this rash indictment is probably warranted, as there is no doubt that the online encyclopedia has some powerful weaknesses. For one, there appears to be little control over who can make changes or what changes can be made, at least initially. To be sure, once spurious claims are made they can be quickly reverted, and abuse of the system seems to be handled effectively.

However, the "fact by non-dissent" approach does give a lot of leeway for error. Just because the overwhelming majority of editors agree on something doesn't make it true. There are plenty of cases where a more authoritative source should overrule the consensus. Additionally, instant access to lots of information is no substitute for good old-fashioned research. Even its founder, Jimmy Wales, discourages academic use of Wikipedia.

Here's what I would offer to automatic naysayers of the validity of information found in Wikipedia or in some other similar collaborative community: join the effort! If you don't like the facts represented... change them. If someone edits your changes, go get some source material and change it back with copious (or specious) citations. Contribute freely to the problem or the solution. Either way you're bound to learn something.

Personally? I like the approach taken by the guys over at Very Little Known Facts. Just try not to cite them in your doctoral thesis.

Links to this post

Are you or are you not a graduate of Houghton College? A mighty tempest has arisen. My wife and I graduated in 1966.
Or was it the librarian?


Robert -

I hope that I have not caused you to lose a bet by disclosing that I am not a graduate of Houghton College. I have been there thrice in my life - once in the summer 1988 for my parents' reunion and so that my older sister could take a look at the campus in deciding where to apply for college, once in the winter of 1990 as a stopping point along the way to a Billy Joel concert in Buffalo, and finally in the fall of 1991 to visit a friend who was attending there. My mother, oddly enough, is the librarian.


Okay; bet not lost (bet; are you kidding — I went to Houghton.)
I was one of the dreaded “cronies” at Houghton in 1966 — a ne’er-do-well. Back then there were no intercollegiate sports (“of-the-devil”), and people were not allowed to wear shorts, and girls not allowed to wear sleeveless dresses.
Some time ago a graduate of Houghton (1991) commented: “Oh, a Highlander, eh?”
“Nope,” I said. “After my time. I was purple.”
Recently we came across another Houghton-grad that graduated about 1990. “Boy, that place sure has changed,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Gone to Hell in a handbasket.”
My brother in Delaware posted a link to your blog, and made a comment, I think, about the librarian cited being a Houghton-grad.
Whatever; Wikipedia is okay, but as unreliable as the Internet.


Post a Comment
Links to this post:

Create a Link

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

I blog ESV Terror Alert Level