Trust in Wi:ki pedia

Trust is one of the building blocks of our society and I have talked a lot of trust in Google on this blog. Another question based on trust in this class is: Should we trust Wikipedia or an expert-led encyclopedia more? The answer is very short. If you believe in Wikinomics and the Wisdom of the Crowd you should trust Wikipedia and not compare it to an expert-led encyclopedia because it is two different things. I am impressed by the correctness and prediction of mass collaboration through wikis. I am fascinated by the democratic ideals and practice that support deliberation, decentralization, and self-organization. Knowledge or the truth emerges from the clash of viewpoints (and maybe civilizations?) and the wisdom of the crowds – most of the time.  It is this “most of the time” that makes me precautious because falsehoods are possible when everyone with his or her agenda can edit and manipulate an encyclopedia. I have not quoted Wikipedia or any other Wiki in my academic papers or in my professional work so far because of this. I have used it as a fast (wiki means fast in Hawaiian) lane to get information about a topic and then checked other sources.  The question is of course how could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy without turning into a traditional expert-led encyclopedia? Over the years, Wikipedia has changed the governance model to democracy with a bit of aristocracy and some monarchy thrown in. Comparing the principles of neutrality and good faith (remember Google’s truth not to be evil) and the organization with the practices in the Wikinomics Playbook it seems that in general Wikipedia is on the right track. It is important to have an organization and a leader that facilitate collaboration. The Wikipedia organization with contributors, administrators, bureaucrats, developers and the arbitration committee (plus the monarch Wales himself) promote collaboration and ensure consistency to the mission of Wikipedia. They might be bottlenecks from time to time but it has been necessary in order to preserve the mission to lock bitter discussions like the one between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004.  Wikipedia has been compared to a restroom by a former editor of Encyclopedia Britannica: You never know who used it last. Well, just like using public restrooms you make your precautionary steps – using Wikipedia that means you never leave your critical thinking behind.


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