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Chris's Random Ramblings

Sun, 24 Oct 2004 - More on Wikipedia

Martin writes more about Wikipedia. He comments that:

As an example of this filtering in action, the Australian Gannet page was originally created as an attack on Wikipedia, but now it has useful content.

I wonder if this is really true? I certainly don't know of any factual inaccuracies in the information, but the page was created by by googling for relevant websites. I'd say its representative of what people who publish pages on the internet, that google has found, believe to be true of Australian Gannets.

I do find it rather concerning that lawyers are using Wikipedia for legal research, and actually citing it in cases. Orin Kerr, an associate professor of law, had a look at a few pages on topics he believes he knows fairly well and noted that:

Its entries seem to be a strange mix of accurate statements and egregious errors.

He does say that this is only a tentative conclusion based on a few sample queries, and I don't think you can extrapolate that to all of Wikipedia. I think its most accurate in the non controversial scientific areas (eg whats a hectare), and least accurate on topics which are controversial, as people are beginning to use it to promote ideological agendas. Factual errors created not just from vandalism, but also garden variety, well intentioned ignorance. Like other sources of information, its important to understand its limitations and weaknesses.