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Thursday, 08 December 2005


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As educators, we are still learning how to use collaborative content and meaning creation tools. Wikipedia has demonstrated the impact of many people working on an open project. Still, the process has faults (as does everything)...but we are learning. ... [Read More]

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I love your stuff, Will. Keep up the good work!

However, in this instance, you said:
"The underlying belief about wikis is that "all of us are smarter than a few of us." This is comforting illusion in theory, but is just plain wrong in practice."

I wonder how this perspective is accommodated with the theories J. Surowiecki offers in 'The Wisdom of Crowds' (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385503865/102-1892604-4687324?v=glance&n=283155)?

Barb McDonald

Will, maybe your blog entry should really have been "Is Wikipedia Inherently Flawed". Wikipedia isn't wikis, it's one use of the wiki environment. There are other educational uses for wiki's. Many of the adult learning practioner's I know use them to develop work/ideas together when members are geographically dispersed. In other words, it can be a web-based word processor. It's better than creating a document that has to be attached to an email or ftp location or something, because it's available to everyone in the group without having to wonder who has the latest version. This would be my primary use for it, just for the reason you mentioned -- anything created in a public wiki isn't necessarily true

Karl Kapp

Interesting notes about Wikipedia and collective knowledge:

1) A study by the British Journal "Nature" found that "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of accuracy of its scientific entries. You can got to http://www.nature.com for details. It seems that both Encyclopaedias had errors...but each had about the same amount.

2) Interesting quote found in Marc Rosenberg's newest book "Beyond E-Learning." The quote is from James Surowiecki who wrote the book, "The Wisdom of Crowds." The quote, "If in years hence, people remember anything about the TV game show, 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' they will probably remember the contestants' panicked phone calls to friends and relatives...What people probably won't remember is that every week, 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' pitted group intelligence [polling the studio audience] against individual intelligence, and that group intelligence won."

Helen Masters

The whole Wikipedia concept is fatally flawed. The notion that one can produce an authoritative encyclopedia without any kind of editorial control is patently ridiculous.

There is a far greater and more insidious threat to Wikipedia than simple character assassination or falsehood. It can broadly be labelled “infomercial content” (i.e. content that purports to be informative but has a commercial bias). A good example is the entry on Barcelona (Spain). The whole article reads like a tourist brochure and any reference to the city’s pollution problems is swiftly removed by an army of self-appointed censors. There are strong indications that the Barcelona Tourist Board (or its army of acolytes) has effectively hijacked the site. This kind of thing is going to become more prevalent as Wikipedia becomes better known. Basically, there is nothing that can be done to stop this corporate take-over of Wikipedia without editorial control yet such control runs counter to the whole Wiki ethos.

The idea that “a community of users” is going to apply some common sense criteria regarding content is a mistaken one. In the case of the Barcelona entry, the influence of Catalan/Spanish speakers on both content and style is all too evident. The locals seem eager to “sell” their city to the wider world and to show off their appalling English. Wikipedia not only lacks the control mechanisms to stop them, it also wilfully fails to recognize it has a serious problem.

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