Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Charms of Wikipedia

"Wikipedia is just an incredible thing," writes Nicholson Baker in the March 20, 2008 issue of the NYRB. Ostensibly a review of John Broughton's Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, Baker's piece goes a long way toward explaining why Wikipedia's become the world's dominant reference work. One factor: it has an excellent foundation in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica and other public domain reference works on top of which it's built. Another factor: editors have great fun improving articles, "whacking trolls," and performing other duties. For researchers, Wikipedia is a place to find information; for editors, it's more like an online game.

There's a related article in the March 5th issue of Information Today called "What to do with Wikipedia", by William Badke, associate librarian at Trinity Wester University. Rather than decry the use of Wikipedia by students, as many librarians and teachers are wont to do, Badke suggests an alternative: "If the key element in information literacy is the ability to evaluate information, what better place to start than with Wikipedia? We can help students to distinguish the trite from the brilliant and encourage them to check their Wikipedia information against other sources."

And B.G. Sloan cites "The Battle for Wikipedia's Soul"from the March 6th Economist, on the battle raging between the "inclusionist" and the "deletionist" editorial schools of thought.

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