Link To: Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Wikipedia and open source

As the debate on the accuracy of the Wikipedia goes on, I am reminded about the wiki:wabi sabi world view ( the appreciation of the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete).

Nicholas Carr, of IT should become boring, fame, continues to stir things up in the blogosphere. In this post he takes on the article from Nature that has requently been cited as vindicating the claim that the Wikipedia is [almost] as accurate a resource as Britannica. Carr’s careful reading of the supplemental materials raises some issues about the reliability the study and the validity of the conclusions. He has a number of specific problems:

  1. Many stories in blogs and in the more mainstream press have overemphasized the findings of the study and have glossed over the fact that the story in nature was a news story, not peer reviewed scientific article.
  2. He uses the supplemental materials (which are available on his site as a Word document) to examine how the Nature reporters filtered out some of the criticisms offered by the experts. They adjusted some of the expert findings to adjust for the expectations of the “typical encyclopedia user”.
  3. He cites some additional evidence that the inaccuracies in Wikipedia tended to somewhat more substantial than those in Britannica.

Ross Mayfield, who was at the open source conference where Mitch Kapur gave the speech that triggered the Carr post, responds pretty persuasively to the criticism on his blog. I like the Wikipedia as a personal resource, and I’d found myself referring to the nature article several times in the last week without really haven’t read it carefully. I’m a little more cautious now. As Mayfield’s post indicates, having folks like Nicholas Carr in the blogosphere is a huge advantage to sharpen our thinking, and it’s good to be reminded every now and again of the frailty of all of our knowledge systems.

Which is part of the point. No editing system, closed editorial process or open, is perfect. Instead focus on media literacy and a little wabi sabi.