29 March 2007

Wikipedia's weakness

Every rumour has some truth in it. Which means every rumour also carries an element of doubt. You should not trust everything you hear in a rumour. And so, I must confess that the content of my previous post narrating the genesis of ‘Frankenstein’, the story by Mary Shelley, may not have been entirely factually correct.

You see, in spite of having done my homework on Wikipedia (it’s there in my citation), I may still be wrong. That’s because there’s a rumour going around that Wikipedia itself may be wrong. How so? Well, it seems Wikipedia is entirely manned by volunteers, many of whom may not possess in-depth knowledge on the subject they write about or edit for the benefit of millions of users like me.

In a recent brandchannel.com article analysing Wikipedia’s weakness, brand identity consultant Alycia de Mesa puts it plainly: “What many general users perceive as a fact-based encyclopedic resource for any given topic typed into the search window is actually a series of articles that may or may not be factually accurate and, in some cases, are incomplete or just flat-out wrong.”

In her brandchannel.com article, titled ‘Wikipedia: In brand we trust?’, Ms de Mesa quotes Gene Grabowski, senior vice president of Levick Strategic Communications in Washington, DC saying, “Now we have something as important as an online encyclopedia for tens of millions of people, and anyone can go on and make an edit that might go unchecked for weeks or months or maybe never.”

Or worse, as Ms de Mesa clarifies, “…changes made to articles can be erased within minutes of posting by a volunteer administrator for reasons that may or may not be obvious or even warranted.” Adding later, “Because even the ‘administrators’ designated to oversee certain types of articles are all volunteers and are not necessarily credentialed in any way above and beyond the average user.”

For someone like me, who constantly uses Wikipedia for fact-finding and confirmation of truth in many areas, this is indeed worrisome news.

No comments: