October 13, 2005

One fallout

Last July, I wrote this here about a particular entry in Wikipedia. The point was that for me, the greatest value of Wikipedia -- this freely editable, constantly updated work -- is not so much the knowledge contained in it, but what it says about the ways of the world.

It's good to find that the particular entry I referred to in that July piece is now much more comprehensive and useful than it was at that time. But in the meantime, there's another Wikipedia entry that's, again, worth a look.

Yes, I've just stumbled on the Wikipedia entry for IIPM.

And it turns out that this is the latest weapon in the ongoing war against IIPM, a war in which I too struck a small blow. If you watch the entry, you'll see it evolving all the time, and don't miss the discussions about this evolution either.

After that July piece, someone wrote to tell me that Wikipedia is "rock-solid" and "authoritative." Well, good. But when it is explicitly turned into a weapon in a Web battle, when the whole tone of this entry -- despite the use of words like "claims" and "alleged" -- is critical of IIPM, I'm reminded of what I said was Wikipedia's greatest value to me. Not the knowledge contained in it, but what it says about the ways of the world.

So yes, for that reason it is invariably fascinating to read Wikipedia. But no, when I want authoritative or rock-solid information about something, I'll be looking elsewhere.

That's one fallout of using Wikipedia as a weapon.

12 comments:

Ravikiran said...

I disagree with you of course, but that is besides the point. Just wanted to tell you that if you click on the "history" tab on top of every article, you will find the way the article has evolved. Like you, I too find it fascinating to watch the evolution of a Wikipedia article

TTG said...

Well,
I don't think there is any such thing as an authoritative source. Human memory is not a perfect record. Any research student worth his salt is that for any piece of info you need to look up at least 3 different sources. Wikipedia is a great starting point, a great primer. But I would never cite from it!

Dilip D'Souza said...

That's just the point, TTG.

Vijay Krishna said...

Good one, D3. I thought I was a lone crusader against the move to take the IIPM controversy to Wikipedia.

Shashikant said...

Since the issue has erupted recently, there will be a lot of activity on that entry and contents will be volatile. Wikipedia entry does indicate that. Over a long period the dust will settle and authorative/credible information will bubble up.

And where will you look for rock-solid info? Books? Google? Encarta? Britannica?

Yes, wiki has its own problems such as it is more of majority-takes-the-cake. But in spite of that it is arguably the finest source of concise information.

Charu said...

Vijay, you are not the only one. except maybe you are the only one to speak out. as for me, have given up. no point.

Harini Calamur said...

You took the words right out of my mouth. But for different reasons. Wiki is any way kind of suspect. I use it as 1st chk reference but alway verify the source. My angst :) is on another issue.

If we - who consider our selves to be civilised and sensible - take on the tactics of those we oppose,then what is the difference between us and them.
And Please if someone says that we are on the side of right ! my response would be f*** off. If the means are fucked, the end will be fucked too (with due apologies to Gandhi :)

Vijay Krishna said...

Charu and others, sorry for projecting myself as the lone crusader.

And thanks, I totally agree with all of you that, by doing this, they are only making Wiki more suspect.

swami said...

Dilip,
I quote,
"That's one fallout of using Wikipedia as a weapon."

You seem to lament the point that Wiki is not "rock-solid" and "authoritative". Is that the goal you have given to Wikipedia?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Shashikant, that's perfectly all right if you think the authoritative info will "bubble" up. Like I said, I read Wikipedia only for the windows on the way people's minds work. I don't read it to find out something. That's the fallout of using Wikipedia as it has been in this issue. Where I'll look for authoritative info is hardly the point, is it? Nevertheless, I have my own resources and methods -- as I'm sure you do -- and they usually don't fail me.

Charu and Harini, don't stop speaking your (questioning) minds. You make it possible for the rest of us to keep questioning as well.

Swami, I "seem to lament"? Where? I say it is "invariably fascinating" to read Wikipedia, and somehow you interpret that as a "lament"?

I give no goals to Wikipedia, I just read it for entertainment from time to time, as with this entry. Well yes, I do have a goal for Wikipedia, that it stays a source of entertainment. What do you say?

TTG said...

I disagree with the authoritative info bubbling up part. Rather the info which has been agreed by consensus, or which didn't catch any (mis)informed reviewer's attention and seems to be authoritative will "bubble up".

Dilip D'Souza said...

TTG, very true.

Which, as an aside, raises an interesting point: at the rate we are agreeing with each other, what are we going to argue about when we meet? In any case, as I said, please send a number/email address to my email address, so I can get in touch when I'm next in Delhi (2 weeks, I think).