After getting slammed for some inaccuracies and having some idiots try to jump-start a class action suit against it, Wikipedia got some much needed good news today when Nature reported that Wikipedia is actually pretty accurate. In fact, it’s about as accurate in covering scientific topics as the Encyclopedia Britannica, according to Nature:
[A]n expert-led investigation carried out by Nature- the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia and Britannica’s coverage of science- suggests that such high-profile examples are the exception rather than the rule.
The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.
That’s good and not unexpected news for those of us who believe Wikipedia is a great example of the future of the collaborative internet.
When something unfortunate happens, you can be sure of two things. A lot of people will try to help while some other people will try to take advantage of the situation to make money. It’s like a bad event works some cosmic mojo that magically separates the angels from the opportunists.
You see this sort of thing on the big scale (think 9-11 or Katrina) and on the small scale.
So we have a little problem with Wikipedia. Some people work to fix the problem and one guy apologizes for his role in causing (or at least demonstrating) the problem.
Meanwhile, other people sit around noodling about how they can take advantage of the situation to make a little easy money. The best they can come up with (so far, anyway) is to file a class action lawsuit.
Some good detective work has provided a little information about the people behind this latest caper. You would think that no lawyer would even consider filing this ridiculous lawsuit. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be a lawyer for every real or imagined wrong. These days if you look at someone funny, some lawyer will be standing by to sue you into the stone age (for a fee). I can imagine the forthcoming treatises on “Trying the Funny Look Case” and “Wrongful Buzz Kills.” We can’t count on the lawyers to solve this problem, so the solution has to come from elsewhere.
Maybe it’s time for a little more internet self-policing. If the voice of the people can change Sony’s corporate policy on DRM, maybe the same voice can stop opportunists from hijacking the system. If these people get the Sony treatment, maybe they’ll find another more productive way to make money. Everyone else in the virtual room needs to stand up and shout – “help us make things better or get out of our way!”
No one who cares about the web community should stand for anything else.
I love Wikipedia, the collaborative web based encyclopedia. Many of my posts link there for discussions and defintions of terms I use.
There are some recent blog posts about Adam Curry, one of the veejays from MTV back when there was actually some M on the TV, and a leading figure in the development of podcasting. Some have alleged that Adam edited the Wikipedia entry on podcasting to remove credit for the development of podcasting from other people and to “inflate” his role in podcast creation.
I don’t know beans about the development of podcasting, but I know that self-policing is a key component of any collective endeavor- message board, wiki, whatever. Once a system of self-policing is in place, the potential for abuse is greatly lessened. Again, I love Wikipedia. I hope the creators and users will leave politics and competition out of this and do whatever’s necessary to respect and protect the accuracy and integrity of Wikipedia.