Quality versus quantity

I admit — I use Wikipedia every day. However, I’m a wee bit skeptical.

I remember hearing Garrison Keillor say, speaking to an NPR group, that All Things Considered was the best news program on the air — except when you really want to know what’s going on. Then, you get a ten-minute word portrait about unemployed loggers in Oregon.

I feel that way about Wikipedia, which one seasoned editor refers to as “Unemployed Ph.D. Death Match.” The more passionate someone feels about a topic, the likelier the Wikipedia article is to reflect that passion (for the good, and for the bad).

This probably explains why, when I once read the Wikipedia entry on Robert Burns, a third of the article was devoted to his membership in the Masons.

Today’s browsing revealed this gem:

Clearly inaccurate — for one thing, there’s no space for Lord of the Rings (which would be at least as large as the “Libel” space).

4 thoughts on “Quality versus quantity

  1. As an employed wanna be PhD this gives me one more reason to continue pursuit of my degree. In the event I am unemployed, I will write a page about this guy named Davewho had a passion for knowledge. And the only F word I’ll use is Ferguson.
    ; )

  2. Kia ora Dave!

    Okay, okay, I won’t mention Lord of the Rings! But passion, well, hmmm.

    When I read Wikipedia, I often reflect on others opinion of it, like yours, which I think is perfectly valid. But I’m a bit of a dreamer and I get to thinking about the human frame. The blue profile of the man, that I recognise is from the famous attempt at inter-space communication with who-knows-what, served as a further soporific to get me thinking about what intelligent cave-people must have done in their idle moments. Their creativity is legend and we have learnt a lot from what they crafted.

    Although Wikipedia isn’t exactly a work of literature (at least I wouldn’t classify it that way) it certainly indicates how much passion human beings have for pouring out what they know (just like that on the cave wall or the masonry :-).

    Let’s face it, if in 30,000 years time the only remnant of the Internet that’s retrievable from a chance preservation of a data-dump is parts of Wikipedia, somebody somewhere will want to preserve it. Others will have a whale of a time interpreting what exactly was meant by the funny digital etchings on a piece of silicon.

    Ka kite

  3. Ken, I don’t really have anything against Wikipedia. In a way, it’s like the Francis Parkman branch of the Detroit public library — the branch my dad used to take us to, so long ago that I can’t remember not having a library card.

    As an adult, I recognize that the Parkman branch was just another neighborhood library. But what a difference any library is, compared with no library.

    This came home to me when I taught high school in Kansas. In our part of the county, a bookmobile appeared once or twice a month. That was it — in a time when there was no Border’s, no Barnes & Noble, and when Jeff Bezos of Amazon was seven years old.

    The scope of Wikipedia is far more vast; its shortcomings aren’t always as obvious, though I think they do offer young students a chance to sharper their critical thinking. If you want a quick history of Moldova or a refresher on ions, it’s not a bad start, the way reading a bio in the print Britannica served as a starting point.

  4. Kia ora Dave!

    Thanks for that.

    I watch my children at study. They use Britannica as well as Google ONEKEY for they’ve learnt that there are actually some things that are easier to search for in Britannica and that there are also some things that the Internet is superior for.

    I don’t suppose it would make a lot of difference whether the Britannica was on DVD (and it is), or the Internet was searched using a mobile phone rather than by using my PC.

    The thing is, my kids are learning how to search for things using systems. That is as important in their learning as finding out something about the history of Moldova or how ions get into solution. It’s what preparation for life-long learning is all about.

    Ka kite

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