Should Wikipedia include trivia?

by billso on Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Wikipedia is a great place to look for a quick answer, but grad­u­ate stu­dents need to find cred­i­ble sources for their papers. After all, grad­u­ate stu­dents are train­ing to become cred­i­ble sources in their fields.

The Econ­o­mist pub­lished this arti­cle in the magazine’s Tech­nol­ogy Quar­terly sup­ple­ment about Wikipedia’s edit­ing poli­cies. Two fac­tions are bat­tling for Wikipedia’s very soul:

  • Inclu­sion­ists want Wikipedia to have arti­cles about any and every topic, with even the most triv­ial details of real and fic­tional items;
  • Dele­tion­ists want Wikipedia edi­tors to exer­cise a more selec­tive pol­icy, which would require the dele­tion of many arti­cles and triv­ial details.

A third mod­er­ate fac­tion, the mer­gists, is seek­ing com­pro­mise. There are more details in the Wikipedia arti­cle on this inclusionism.

Nicholas Carr addressed this debate in his 5 Sep­tem­ber 2006 and and 8 Sep­tem­ber 2006 arti­cles in his blog. Carr rec­om­mended “fork­ing” Wikipedia into dele­tion­ist and inclu­sion­ist ver­sions, which brings to mind visions of Unix. He also men­tions the mer­gists and 18 other fac­tions. Per­haps Monty Python should write a skit about Wikipedia.

This arti­cle by Nichol­son Baker in the New York Review of Books has another per­spec­tive. Baker reviews Wikipedia: The Miss­ing Man­ual, and Baker’s arti­cle is a long, funny look at how Wikipedia has evolved in the last 7 years.

Baker also includes a link to Reid Priedhorsky’s schol­arly arti­cle on Wikipedia arti­cle cre­ation and deletion.


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