Sunday, February 8, 2009

Toward a better understanding of wikipedia:
Despite warnings from many high-school teachers and college professors, Wikipedia is one of the most-visited websites in the world (not to mention the biggest encyclopedia ever created). But even as Wikipedia's popularity has grown, so has the debate over its trustworthiness. One of the most serious concerns remains the fact that its articles are written and edited by a hidden army of people with unknown interests and biases.

Ed Chi, a senior research scientist for augmented social cognition at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and his colleagues have now created a tool, called WikiDashboard, that aims to reveal much of the normally hidden back-and-forth behind Wikipedia's most controversial pages in order to help readers judge for themselves how suspect its contents might be.
The people who malign wikipedia tend to be blockheads who think that people are completely incapable of filtering information on their own. But I applaud this tool, which significantly aids in the filtering of information. My own experience with wikipedia is that political figures and pharmaceuticals tend to be very scrubbed and full of disinformation; posts in the humanities tend to be too short and lacking a great deal of information; and posts on the sciences and mathematics tend to feature everything you could possibly want to know about a subject with very few organizing principles. The tool is useful, straightforward, and astoundingly simple.

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