Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wikipedia Revisited

I think that Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has tremendous potential and use it all the time, especially at home. Last December, I was cheered by the article in the journal Nature stating that Wikipedia rivalled the Encyclopaedia Britannica for accuracy. For this reason, I was distressed several months ago when it was disclosed that congressional staffers were "editing" their bosses' Wikipedia biographies, and began looking at Wikipedia with a somewhat more jaundiced eye. Well, the plot thickens.

In a March 25 story (http://people.monstersandcritics.com/printer_1149947.php) it is alleged that Bono, the rock star and activist, and the organization, Make Poverty History (http://www.makepovertyhistory.org), have been doctoring the Wikipedia entries of people Bono hopes to influence. A case in point is Representative Jim Nussle, Chair of the House Budget Committee. Nussle's biography was altered to include the sentence: "As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Nussle and Iowa also have an incredible opportunity to influence and save lives in Africa...by fully funding the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty." The theory seems to be that Nussle will be motivated to change his priorities by knowing he has a chance to help the people of Africa. Sounds pretty unrealistic to me!

I noticed an additional news story about Wikipedia today. The Encyclopaedia Britannica corporation has done its own study of Wikipedia's accuracy to rebut the Nature study. Britannica's study found that "Almost everything about the journal's investigation, from the criteria for identifying inaccuracies to the discrepancy between the article text and its headline, was wrong and misleading." The full report is available at http://corporate.britannica.com/britannica_nature_response.pdf

I guess I will look more carefully at Wikipedia entries in the future.

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