Wikipedia is a large public wiki devoted to creating GFDL corpus articles on subjects similar to those of a general purpose reference or encyclopedia. It tries to compare itself often to Britannica, though a recent comparison showed its science articles to be 31% less reliable than Britannica's - and this is an area of particular strength. It is therefore sometimes cited as a lower quality free substitute for a typical encyclopedia.

not an encyclopedia

Wikipedia claims to be an encyclopedia. It is not. According to en: wikinfo: critical views of Wikipedia, it "has distinct and well-known limitations as an encyclopedia, and functions primarily as a cult-like community." This ideology is very explicit - Wikipedia cultists express a belief in something that they call "neutral point of view" which they defend as zealots. Any attempt to point out that their own views in fact are also "not neutral" and are subject to some systemic bias is rejected. As the Wikinfo article correctly relates:

"There is no special process or mechanism to deal with a political disputes, with factions that can't or won't reconcile their terms to each other, even when disputes arise over matters of fact. The community explicitly has refused to work out any useful policy for terminology disputes, identity disputes, even factual disputes, and prefers to allow itself, the community, to decide such matters" though it has no means to evaluate or determine evidence/source/authority. "There are no designated "Editors" to make final content decisions, even in matters of fact, in any language. Instead, all of these editorial problems result in clear power struggles, forcing contributors, even those of strong qualifications, to answer to a mob of pro-Wikipedia zealots and hype-pushers, even when there is abuse of those contributors from others of no particular qualifications. Disputes are therefore never really settled, though they many be endlessly discussed, while actions are taken within obviousgroupthink parameters." A small heroic group known only as the Wikipedia red faction continues to resist this cultism. However there is every sign they have lost.

Sanger's critique

As its popularity has grown, Wikipedia has become more of a hobby, a multiplayer game subject to other problems due to the conceptual metaphor of Internet as role-playing game, e.g. the emergence of troll culture and fan culture that often fail improve the wisdom of the human race - "although the project's most fanatical supporters assume that one follows the other" according to The Register, which cites Larry Sanger, co-founder, as saying:

"Wikipedia began as a good-natured anarchy, a sort of Rousseauian state of digital nature. I always took Wikipedia's anarchy to be provisional and purely for purposes of determining what the best rules, and the nature of its authority, should be. What I, and other Wikipedians, failed to realize is that our initial anarchy would be taken by the next wave of contributors as the very essence of the project - how Wikipedia was "meant" to be."

The Register cites the articles on multi user online role playing games - almost 8,000 words long - and pedophilia - as being quite atypical of an encyclopedic treatment. In terms of a quantitative measure, Wikipedia is in the words of The Register, "triumphant," having defined a core of GFDL corpus articles numbering over 900,000 in English alone. There are hundreds of GFDL corpus access providers that mirror it.

The Register claims that: "In terms of quality, its accuracy veers from the occasionally passable to the frequently risible, while its all-important readability is even worse - and deteriorating."

"So-called Wikipediaphiles - in many cases being process-driven people - tend to view everything as a process issue. With a nut tightened here, and an extra bureaucratic rule there, then things will improve."

Wikipedia is mostly useful as a source of external links, especially for students, but these are being systematically eliminated by zealots who fear commercial influence or political biases.

primary contributions and usefulness

Wikipedia and its many contributors have played a major role in the evolution of open politics itself, aside from bad examples as noted above.

editorial deliberation

There are few better examples of online deliberation and collaborative writing than the best-written Wikipedia articles. The Wikipedia featured articles tend to be of very high quality and well worth reading on the subject.


The online deliberative democracy model of how page editing disputes are dealt with by Wikipedia ArbCom, pioneered by Florence Devraux who remains the dominant influence on the French Wikipedia, has done a great deal to expand the thinking about multi-language and translation issues in open politics itself

naming conventions

These problems leave the GFDL corpus namespace as the main legacy of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia.org is the main source of GFDL articles, over one million of them in over fifty languages. Accordingly it is a main source of noun phrases in international multilingual custom essays use and literally the only one that is open content, i.e. try to use Britannica's or Encarta's article names and you may well get sued.

One of the few things that works very well on Wikipedia is the naming of things. At the Green Party of Canada Living Platform, all noun phrases that described policy elements of Platform 2005 were originally named exactly as they are named in Wikipedia and Wikinfo, e.g. for Canadian federal election 2004 as precisely as tikiwiki flaws allow, i.e. the comma that the naming conventions require before "2004" isn't available.

usefulness to activists

Wikipedia also remains frasi celebri somewhat useful to activists if only to make it easier to find good enough definitions for a list of policy terms that can be easily referred to in their writings.

Extending the most successful aspect of Wikipedia, naming, the naming conventions for international Green Party policys and other simultaneous policy name conventions will probably first show up at Wikinfo and then move slowly to Wikipedia as their neutrality writing company can be established with evidence - most likely, that not even the Wikipedia cultists can find good arguments against the names chosen.

Any search and report exercise usually begins with google and Wikipedia. Corrected articles should normally be posted to Wikinfo which is more like a serious encyclopedia.

usefulness to the global poor

A final bright spot is the Simple English Wikipedia which would have vast potential if properly used to present core material for easy translation into obscure or aboriginal languages. It would help preserve these languages and enable people to access knowledge otherwise available only in the G8 languages or only in English. However, sadly, some early attempts to define simple English readings in topics of interest, e.g. diahhrea, malaria, influenza, cosmology, using terms that were much more neutral than the "Full English" articles, were quickly sidelined by sysop vandalism and other forces as noted above. It is hoped that Jim Wales' recent conversion to the cause of global charity may revive these efforts.

distracting low quality people from reproducing

A final benefit of Wikipedia to the world is that the people writing its low quality articles or practicing sysop vandalism will probably not reproduce or have much other influence on the world. This is indirectly raised in another Register article which neatly sums up certain problems of trusting anonymous trolls custom writing exclusively for one's most important knowledge.

"I'm sure many readers have been approached by people in the street claiming to have a big book that tells all the answers - people in various states of hygiene, insisting that their book is more trusted than others. But historically, the ones we end up trusting more than others usually don't make psychobabble their main selling point."


The Register UK: $10M for a Wikipedia for grown-ups

The Register UK: Britannica science 31% less cronky than Wikipedia's

Wales admits quality problems

en: wikinfo: critical views of Wikipedia

an open letter to Jim Wales regarding treatment of "trolls"

The Register UK: Emergent People fail to impress - more of a column or commentary, not to be cited as source