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Wikipedia: We’ve won. Now what? (davidgerard.co.uk)
69 points by davidgerard on May 25, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments

Wikipedia is, at this point, truly "encyclopedic" in that it covers all manner of topics, but I think it still has a loooong way to go before it can consider itself the universal reference.

The primary problem, as I see it, is consistency of voice/target audience. For example, many math topics read as if they are the intro section of some Mathematics graduate student's thesis, whereas most biology topics read like some high school biology student's book report. Compare the article for "Markov Process" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markov_process), which starts with a nice introduction but quickly devolves into foreign symbology, to the article for Caspase 9 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspase_9), one of the most important components in the process of apoptosis, itself one of the most importent processes in growth, development, disease, cancer, etc...which has barely 4 sentences and a dozen references.

I think this is definitely a cool concept for the future. A goal of making it so that articles have sequential and mutually hidden content. Click on "introductory" and you see an article written using less jargon and more high level overview information. Click on "academic" and you see an article written for someone at a sophomore level in college. Some math, some jargon, but without an expectation of prior domain expertise. Click on "expert" and you see an article with domain specific jargon, appropriate as a reference for someone who already has a great deal of experience with the subject matter.

It seems to me like that kind of end goal would also provide a better balance between editorial choice on how much detail is appropriate and providing a smorgasbord of information that potentially overwhelms the audience.

I think it's great that some universities are asking doctorate students to include one or a few wikipedia articles as part of their published work.

We really do need more experts writing wikipedia articles. Even if they just spend a month or so writing a thorough (if biased in the sense of there being just one or very few authors) -- a good first draft is much easier for others to come in and comment on. And veterans in the field might not find the time to write an introductory article for scratch, but they might have the time to read one, and comment...

This is a great place to plug the importance of the Simple Wikipedia section. The main wiki page for a complicated idea shouldn't be dumbed down, but there can be a coexisting version using simpler language. Explaining something simply is often an exercise in how well you truly understand a concept.


I'm guessing other encyclopedias have similar weak points. Wikipedia is a truly fantastic resource, not just for academia, but for the world, and we need to hold it up instead of beat it down.

The blog post invited feedback.

I've noticed a phenomenon happening quietly on Wikipedia: articles are being copied to Wikia and then removed from Wikipedia.

For example, there's an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation titled "Unfriendly Skies". Once upon a time, there was a Wikipedia article for that episode. I know, because I contributed to it. Well, that articles is now gone from Wikipedia and the text I wrote is on Wikia.


I'm fine with Wikia copying what I wrote. The CC-BY-SA license allows it. I am not fine with Wikipedia deleting it.

Wikipedia needs to decide what it is. Is it the sum total of all knowledge or is it just the subset that the deletionists deem "worthy" (or "notable" in their jargon)?

I remember going to the RSA where Jimmy Wales gave a talk about what wikipedia is suppose to be and what its not. In summary, he says that if wikipedia is to an encyclopedia, then wikia is to a library. Wikipedia was never meant to be overly specific, going down to every little biographical information of a person's life. That would deserve its own book just like you would create a new entry in wikia for that.

So what they did was justified. Wikipedia would go into a general summary of a show, a list of episodes for each season, character list, etc. But you should really compose the nitty gritty details for a specific episode or character on wikia.

The problem is that wikia is for profit, the administration is yucky (see eg the gaming wikis for doom and gta leaving it) and the local tyrannships of early adaptors makes it even more unpleasant to contribute.

So fork. The content isn't proprietary.

Actually, you need to decide what Wikipedia is. An episode of CSI should not be detailed in an encyclopedia. Do you really think that Wikipedia is the best possible place to display that content on the whole internet? I'm not saying that Wikia is much better, but at least it is targeted to the fans of the TV show. So much of this "It's information so it should be on Wikipedia" appears to be driven by ego, rather than what is good for the reader.

Why shouldn't an episode of CSI be detailed? I'm an (inactive) Wikipedia admin, and that meets my criteria. I don't care at all about the show, but it's factual material that can be described neutrally from reliable sources and verified by anybody who cares to take the time. It's also the kind of thing that people provably refer to.

More broadly, I think pop-culture topics are great material for Wikipedia because they serve as a gateway to deeper editing. Most people find editing Wikipedia intimidating. But if you ask, "Hey, can you improve something about the article on your favorite show?" that's a lot less scary, because a) they're comfortable with the material, and b) it's pop culture, so they're not as worried about getting it wrong.

Some shows do have that level of coverage. Look at The Sopranos, for instance.

So it's useful to compare The Sopranos to CSI. One difference that is apparent to me is that for any episode of the Sopranos, encyclopedia editors have a much richer body of source material to draw on.

Gateways to editing are good, but gateways to "original research" editing are just painful for the whole project; also, if you attract someone to an editing task and them smack them over the head with how they're doing it wrong, you've probably lost that editor forever.

Just a thought. I'm not sure about the distinction between CSI and The Sopranos.

Why do there need to be limits on what topics Wikipedia addresses? Is it somehow wrong for your local public library's reference section to have a book about the CSI television series? If not, why is it not OK for Wikipedia to have that content?

It depends. One rule of thumb you can find in the Television WikiProject, and on the "Wikipedia:NOT" page, is that articles about individual episodes are "encyclopedic" when the project can add analysis and context to the episode.

But the overriding rules of WP demand that analysis and context be reliably verifiable; you can't do original research on WP, and so you can't use WP articles as an alternative to a Television Without Pity forum recap post.

If most CSI episodes are so ephemeral that there simply isn't enough context to add to them to make them full-fledged encyclopedia articles, than the project strongly suggests that the episodes be folded into aggregate articles --- first a "Season N of CSI" article, and potentially just an omnibus article about the whole show.

What's different about Wikia is that Wikia wikis don't shoulder the burden of delivering a single coherent resource. You can use a Wikia wiki to host recaps of every episode of CSI, written by enthusiasts as primary source original research on the actual site; moreover, you can stub out every episode of CSI on a Wikia wiki without, in effect, making a statement for the world about how the encyclopedia will cover CSI.

I would prefer Wikipedia to have information on everything. Why shouldn't it?

> Do you really think that Wikipedia is the best possible place to display that content on the whole internet?

That's not a very good question. The best possible place to display that content is obviously reproducing the episode itself as part of an archive so that it can be reviewed by anyone who sees a citation of it.

But that presumes the question is valid, which it isn't: why must there be only one best possible place to display the content? The Internet does not require unique instances of content; displaying it in one place does not mean it cannot be displayed in another.

There are valid reasons to delete. If Wikipedia is unable to handle the storage requirements, that is a good reason to delete. Demoting an article because it's not a secondary source is reasonable. "I don't understand why this should be on Wikipedia" is not a valid reason to remove it.

Just because there is space to write about something, does not mean that readers want to read it in that format.

As an encyclopedia, Wikipedia's policies and software are not built to handle the data surrounding TV shows (as just one example). Even Wikia handles secondary information like news and gossip (which are important information for people who are interested in the show) better.

It is, in fact, the inclusionists who are saying that there is only one place to view the content -- the want everything on Wikipedia. The original comment I replied to said that the intention is to create the "sum of all knowledge". Trying to shoehorn everything into Wikipedia, into formats that the information not designed for, devalues the focus and content of the encyclopedic topics, and makes it harder for better quality content elsewhere on the web to get attention.

Wikipedia has won. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone actually consults, ever. In fact, it’s the first in history that everyone actually reads, rather than just having fond high school memories of.

This is a curse. The sheer power that Wikipedia has over shaping public thought is disturbing. I'm curious if anyone has actually done studies on this, and whether it's feasible to shape public interpretation of history by making very subtle factual edits over long periods of time.

People don't really "read" Wikipedia, either. Not frequently. They primarily skim through it, and very few actually follow the linked references, which, as it turns out, do not always overlap with Wikipedia's summarized content.

As a practical example, although a minor one (it's the first that comes off the top of my head), take the Nuwaubian Nation. They're an underground new syncretic religious movements with some very colorful beliefs. For a long time, their Wikipedia article was titled "Nuwaubianism". There was no such thing as "Nuwaubianism," it was a completely made up term. Yet it has since memetically spread throughout places such as the SPLC and RationalWiki, despite Wikipedia long correcting it.

A few examples to the contrary are not all the relevant. That's only a problem if you happen to want to write an article on 'Nuwaubianism', chances of which are slim to none.

By and large, Wikipedia is as correct and current (or more so) than any of its paper competitors ever were (not to mention, far larger). It has its shortcomings (outright vandalism, deletionism) and I use it mostly as a starting point for reading, not as the final authority on anything (and I never did that with a paper encyclopedia either).

What I love is that it cites its references, which you can then go and check, if you study a subject hard enough and some of those references appear to be bogus you can use that as your competitive advantage over those that would use WP uncritically.

It's a tool, it has some defects, but on the whole it is one of the best things to come out of the web.

>This is a curse. The sheer power that Wikipedia has over shaping public thought is disturbing. I'm curious if anyone has actually done studies on this, and whether it's feasible to shape public interpretation of history by making very subtle factual edits over long periods of time.

For anything important, the dialectic (i.e., edit-warring) produces something that at least covers everything, even if the resulting article has awful prose.


Thankfully we killed "analogue disc record" before Wikipedia got popular.

> For anything important, the dialectic (i.e., edit-warring) produces something that at least covers everything, even if the resulting article has awful prose.

That's not really true unless you include the talk page. On any sufficiently contentious topic where there are two or more sides, what happens quite often is that one faction has more persistent editors successfully adding slant and sources in their direction and keeping out slant and sources in the other direction. You have to look at the talk page to see what facts and points of view are being actively omitted from the main page.

A true NPOV is hard to maintain, because people often tend to think their own point of view is "fact" and the other side is "fringe". People also seem to fear that to allow a point of view to stand and be explained legitimizes it.

I've noticed this phenomenon most in articles involving climate or medicine.

Wikipedia's epistemology is shitty, shallow and brittle and it's trivial to find cases where it breaks.

However, it's observably true that it's almost always enough almost all of the time, and certainly enough to have won utterly and not have even many readers complaining.

Hmm, I just did a spot-check and medicine (including alternative medicine and supplements) seems to be getting better - the articles I recalled being terrible have improved. Climate is still pretty broken - the article on "climategate" is exhibit A - but maybe that'll come around eventually too. One can hope.

WikiProject Medicine has come down hard on anything even tangentially medicine-related, including alternative medicine practices. (Although wikiprojects don't "own" content areas, obviously sensible application of the content rules in a manner anyone not stupid would support is likely to pass.)

Right, that might have been the problem. The thing I had noticed as an issue is that if you walk down the "supplements" aisle at Whole Foods or whatever, you'll find hundreds of pill bottles with cryptic labels (eg, "Tonalin CLA" or "Garcinia Cambogia") with recommended dosage info ("take twice a day before meals!"), and no info whatsoever explaining what the product is for. If it's on the shelf, thousands of people must think this product is good for something but the FDA won't let the manufacturer say what.

So you might think you could type the product name into wikipedia and see what's up. When I do that, what I want to know first of all is:

(1) What is this product for? Why do people take it, what benefit do they expect to obtain?

(2) What evidence supports the claims that advocates make for this product? What's the backstory behind how this product came into the public eye?

(3) Last but not least, what does mainstream medicine have to say about it?

When you actually look up these products in wikipedia, most of what you get is (3). (2) is nonexistent and (1) is at best given short shrift.

I'm sure the editors who want to keep any claims related to what they see as "quack" products out of wikipedia are well-meaning but I think they are misguided and thereby do more harm than good. It'd be better if wikipedia pages reliably told both sides. Then supplement enthusiasts would learn to go to wikipedia first where they might see the medical caveats alongside the info they originally seek. But if wikipedia only tells one side, the nuts/enthusiasts just learn to avoid wikipedia and instead seek out alternative sources that DO include info of type (1) and (2), even at the cost of omitting (3).

Sounds like a good idea to me. If you think third-party sources for this stuff are findable, then https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:MED might be a place to suggest it, with negative and positive examples (something that would inspire volunteers to take on your idea).

I'm positive third-party sources are findable to answer at a minimum "what is this supplement supposed to do and who is supposed to take it and why do people think it's useful". I'd expect to find that stuff best laid out in books like this:


Thanks for the link suggestion - I might go ahead and do that.

Something that worries me - Checking facts in Wikipedia articles becomes more difficult as it gets more popular. An incorrect fact on Wikipedia can get picked up and dissipated out into articles and reports.

That FIRST time it happens, the error is traceable: You can confirm that the error was published on Wikipedia BEFORE the external Article, and invalidate it as proof.

BUT the external article never disappears. Years later a new Wikipedia editor may come along and re-insert the incorrect fact into Wikipedia based on the article.

How is this different from an incorrect fact being written in a research paper, then referenced again and again for centuries? The battle against incorrect facts is yet another struggle we're always facing.

With this tool, people have at least some information. Which is worse, incorrect data or no data? With incorrect data, at least the mental framework gets established.

Incorrect data that you think is correct is obviously worse than no data:

a) You're likely to stop looking for better data once you have it.

b) You're more likely to act on it than acting on no data, and the work you do based on your incorrect data is likely to be either be less useful than is acceptable (otherwise you would have acted on no data at all and gotten a similar result) or it could even be harmful/counterproductive, depending on how wrong the data is.

c) Worst of all, you might help disseminate the incorrect data (and perhaps even argue against the correct along the way), compounding the damage demonstrated above.

Randall Munroe dubbed this phenomenon "citogenesis" [1].

Good humor dances the border between silliness and truth.

[1] http://xkcd.com/978/

Yeah, circular references have happened for years.

At least once spotted everyone can go "oops" and note it on the talk page.

But it's an uphill battle in an age where truth is determined by likes and shares.

Always has been. The difference is now we can see inside the sausage factory.

Well, it's not unique to wikipedia, it's just more visible to everyone (you do have all the history there, with any luck, there's a comment in the talk page: 600 days ago "This fact was apparently made up out of thin air, then cited as..."). If editors do a bad job (some always will) -- errors will happen and be harder to fix.

It's text, it won't magically curate itself.

There might be a lot of room for improvement in how wp is curated, similar to how we have various workflows to deal with code (eg: move to a model in which every change has a "bug" filed in a bugtracker, and edits are only accepted with a proper "fixes:xxx" tag -- rather than just "free form" commit messages).

[edit: I just realized (it's probably not a novel idea) that the best way to look at wikipedia is not as a set of articles/"facts" and their history, but as a process of collecting "true statements"/"true articles". This process could be viewed along the lines of:

1. Ask a question (why are bees black and yellow?)

2. Look for an article that answers the question

3. If no article exist, try to write one (this perhaps should be moved to an "issue tracker"/"stack overflow" type thing -- 3.1 "file a bug against wikipedia"

4. If an article exist, read it

5. If the article appear to contain errors, investigate (for possible factual errors, look at talk page, history -- for spelling errors "file bug" 3.1)

6. If there are open bugs (such as errors you've just found) submit a patch

7. If there are pending patches vote yes/no/commment

Something along those lines could constitute what wikipedia is -- not merely the articles and a wiki-interface. Then it becomes something more than "just" a wiki or "just" an encyclopedia.]

This may be of interest to you, and to others reading this comment: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/05/how-a...

It was also discussed on HN not too long ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7772245

I'm not part of the Wikipedia community, but a thing I don't understand about wikipedia is the excessive deletionism. Plain text is not that expensive to host. Keeping this in mind, if an article is not vandalism, spam or nonsense what reasons are there to deleting it? If there is actually a vote happening to delete an article, why not just keep it: there are actually people who care enough to vote on it. I don't think that form of authoritarianism belongs on a website like Wikipedia. It's very demoralising for new users seeing the article they care about and spent time on getting deleted by a single click from an administrator. Even administrators quit after working on Wikipedia for years due t frustration with deletionism and similar issues. In my opinion, "too much" information wins by default. Before wikipedia is "all information" and not "information others find notable", there's still work to do.

Hosting cost is the very least of the concerns.

One important one is impact. Most people treat Wikipedia content as "probably true", so any time where the truth of something matters, zero content is better than bad content. That's true for all sorts of scientific, medical, and commercial content.

Another is impact on living people. The folks who wrangle the rules for biographies of people still alive [1] have put a lot of thought into recognizing the impact that Wikipedia articles can have on people. Having nothing is often better than having a bad article.

A third is self-promotion and vanity. People are willing to write endlessly about themselves. Bands formed by teens in their garages, companies trying to promote themselves, blatant spam, subtle commercial manipulation: Wikipedia doesn't need that.

A fourth is maintainability. The number of active Wikipedia editors is modest. Some sorts of content attract new editors. But quite a lot won't. I think it's often better for Wikipedia to have no article than a bad article that isn't going to get better soon.

And that points toward a fifth thing: the value of the Wikipedia brand. Wikipedia won the reference race because of its quality. It is enormously valuable for the world to have a single, high-quality factual resource. The brand should be maintained. People can (and certainly do) disagree on where to draw the line between crap and not-crap. But almost nobody disagrees that there is quite a lot of non-encyclopedic material (e.g., [2], [3]), and that the Internet is plenty big enough to host that somewhere other than Wikipedia.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Criteria_for_speedy_d...

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not

I think you're absolutely right on impact and self-promotion, but I don't think Wikipedia's brand is about quality. Or at least, not primarily about quality.

>Wikipedia won the reference race because of its quality.

Weren't convenience and quantity important factors and more important ones? To me the value of Wikipedia is that virtually any topic is discussed reasonably consistently with reasonable quality. If I specifically need quality, I'll look to the article's sources or find my own.

When you think about "quality" on Wikipedia, don't just think about any given article in isolation, but instead step back and look at the bigger picture: for instance, how every Wikipedia article about a movie has a similar structure, or how easy it is to hop from one species in Hymenoptera to the next. You also have to look at the things that aren't there to appreciate the degree of work that goes into making the project coherent.

Another instructive place to start reading about WP quality is the Featured Article process; in particular, try clicking into some of the discussions about individual FA candidates.


Depends on what you consider the competition.

Compared with whatever Google coughs up, I think its big win is quality. Other Google links are equally convenient, but Wikipedia is trustworthy. And the big Wikipedia controversies have mainly been about quality failures, so I think that's most significant to readers in terms of maintaining brand value.

I agree that the necessary level of quality here is only "reasonable quality" rather than perfection. And I agree that other factors definitely helped.

Before you form a strong opinion about "deletionism", it's a good idea to skim a few days worth of AfD discussions (AfD is the most important step in the process of community-deleting an article on WP).

Here's yesterday's:


What logs like this tell me is that if "deletionism" is really a force on Wikipedia, it has a clear cause. Note the sheer volume of marginal (or sub-marginal) articles WP is dealing with, and also the degree of attention each one of them gets. Click through to the article on "Samarqand Restaurant", and then back to the AfD debate, and note that WP people actually find reasons to stick up for it.

Wikipedia isn't geocities. It's not there to give people a voice or let them write about whatever they want. The point is to keep the aggregate quality high enough that people trust it as a resource and are willing to contribute high-quality material. That means culling a whole lot of crap.

I've participated in a large number of AfD discussions, and the vast majority of the articles that get deleted simply didn't belong there in the first place.

Pride comes before the fall. Wikipedia is in terminal decline because the software and design sucks, the number of editors is declining, and the core structure of how information is treated is unreliable. For those interested, check my series on the site's problems: http://newslines.org/blog/

No idea who this commenter is, on the OPs page, but he says it very well:

"I don’t think that Wikipedia can be as comprehensive as you say unless and until the significance requirement is lowered. There are lots of interesting and relevant articles that are killed by exacting admins who think that Wikipedia’s scope shouldn’t be quite as, well, encyclopedic, as others. Wikipedia can be the place for well researched obscure knowledge as much as it can be an accessible place to find the famous stuff.

Indeed, the more obscure information it supports, the more useful it will be in the long term as an accretive force for knowledge. Once someone has created a certain page for something obscure, over time others will add to that knowledge and make it more valuable."

Inclusionism is something wikipedia needs to work toward. Deletionism is an admission of failure - an inability to reasonably deal with information. I hope they can find a way to fix this problem.

Here is the AfD page for April 20, 2014 --- I went back a random ways so that we could see an AfD log where most (all?) of the discussions had been closed.


So, what I'd be interested in is a discussion that drills into specifics. Which of the deleted articles --- the ones headlined in red --- are "admissions of failure, an inability to reasonably deal with information"?

I spent some time reading through that list and it just depressed me even more about the current direction of Wikipedia.

Other than the reasonable deletion of two promotional articles for books ( 'Formation of Postcolonial Englishes: Theories' and 'Secret Fantasies' ) that list consists of people arguing about 'notability'.

That is begging the question, since notability is what Wikipedia defines and which is the core problem. What the outside World is saying is: remove the notability test. It has become so abused by the administators that they should forfeit it; they are not responsible enought to be trusted with it.


Here's an example of one that was deleted for 'non-notability':

Former minor league baseball announcer. Has not received any well-known award or honor nor has he made any widely recognized contribution to broadcasting.

Which just illustrates how amorphous this 'notability' concept has become; it can be redefined at will to sataisfy any argument. So that individual was notable, but not notable enough on a global scale? Might as well rename 'notability' to 'is as famous as Tom Cruise' in that case.


Here's another one, this individual had references in media but subjectively someone felt that wasn't good enough:

The Plymouth article goes a bit deeper but its more of the "local boy living the dream" variety which isnt enough to satisfy GNG.

There should be no opportunity for subjectivity. Was the individual referenced by independent media articles? Yes? Good enough.

Quoted from the last comment on the article:

Wikipedia editing should be done within a set of work processes, which can be semi-automated (a “requested article” collects citations, then becomes a draft article, then is promoted to regular article status, with the software preventing duplicate efforts, for example).

There's sort-of a process like that, but the in-progress articles are still articles, vs. being explicitly marked as drafts or not-yet-articles or something of that sort. The progression is something like this (from needs-most-work upwards):

1. Articles explicitly tagged with a warning at the top (needs references, might be biased, reads like an advertisement, doesn't represent a worldwide view of the subject, is out of date, etc.). Here the reader is warned that the article needs work and should be taken with a large grain of salt.

2. Default "regular" articles. These are supposed to be at least passable, free of the obvious problems in the previous category. Though sometimes they just haven't been properly marked. The reader should treat them with appropriate caution, looking for references for claims (especially any surprising claims), corroborating with other sources, and assuming that the article may be incomplete.

3. Articles marked as "good articles" [1]. These have been reviewed by one or more editors, and are considered to be well-referenced and reasonably complete. They're marked by a little green plus in the upper-right. A conservative use of Wikipedia could be to treat anything at a lower level than this one as a draft article, in various stages of draftiness.

4. Articles marked as "featured articles" [2]. These are supposed to be checked by multiple editors, including at least one expert in the field, and considered to be excellent examples of a Wikipedia article, with no obvious deficiencies. They're marked by a gold star in the upper-right.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Good_articles

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_articles

Anyone can add a {{good article}}. I just did without even logging in. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Sandbox

EDIT: permalink https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Sandbox...

As a software developer, I appreciate the urge to systematize processes. But I generally think that's a mistake for Wikipedia. The formalization and top-down control of work processes is an artifact of industrial corporate thinking. It can work adequately in that context (although there are other models, like Toyota's, that I think are superior). But there's very little reason to think it will work in Wikipedia, which has almost nothing in common with industrial corporations.

Encarta gave up arms, and Britannica is struggling. Wikipedia is more accurate and rapid than a random search, but it definitely should not be the last word on any matter but rather be a starting point to familiarize with terms and what to search for, and that is the best way any encyclopedia can be anyway, a starting point.

I also love that there are at least 2 solutions for offline use:



"This gives a conceptual model to work to: Wikimedia as the sum of all university libraries."

I can't imagine a concise concept designed to cause greater offense amongst the deletionists. That must be why I like it so much.

Wikimedia != Wikipedia.

It will be funny if (not long in the future) Wikibooks had a more wide coverage of topics than Wikipedia.


Commons is amazing. Its main problem in replacing Getty Images is that the search isn't so good. is that (This is something WMF is seriously working on, but I couldn't say the problem's cracked yet. There's also a cultural bias against treating categories as tags rather than a ridiculously-specifically-detailed twig of a category tree.)

> In fact, it’s the first in history that everyone actually reads, rather than just having fond high school memories of.

What an odd way of framing wikipedia. As a source of just information (the articles themselves) -- wikipedia is entirely unremarkable[1].

The fact that it is the first encyclopedia everyone can look into the editorial process of (history and talk facets), and contribute to (edit) -- is what makes it interesting.

Sadly, I have the impression wikipedia has been largely unsuccessful in challenging people to be more critical of what they read, and more confident in what they observe -- than it by rights should have been. Everyone that has a passing interest in encyclopedia knows that even Britannica contains errors and that it, like any other text, is shaped by sometimes ulterior motives in its editing process -- it's just that unless you go crazy with glue and scissors, you'll have a really hard time "fixing" an error in Britannica. And if you did, it'll be hard for readers to compare "your" version with earlier versions.

Consider the fact that Britannica has been in print since 1768 -- imagine how much many of the articles will have evolved since then -- and why. Now imagine wikipedia around the year 2200. You could go back an have a look at how the articles for "terrorism" and "surveillance" evolved from 2000 to 2050 for example.

[1] Entirely unremarkable might be a bit strong, it certainly is very vast -- but so is the Internet.

If Wikipedia becomes/is the source. How do you get around the 3rd party primary source requirement?

The model does presume that primary and secondary sources will continue to be created.

These days, what actually happens is that people create third-party sources specifically to get things into Wikipedia. sigh.

Because of its format, Wikipedia is not a good original research repository.

Creating a source just to cite it in Wikipedia is a good thing, not a bad one, I think they are quite right on having that rule.

Sometimes it's good, more usually it's companies getting PR stories placed in news outlets as evidence they warrant an article.

(This, by the way, is something that can sometimes not work out so well.)

If only we had non-profit organizations getting fact-checking stories placed in news outlets as evidence.

wikipedia is an indexing mechanism for external sources, not a primary source

Wikidata, a free knowledge base that can be read and edited by humans and machines alike: http://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:Main_Page

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