Le Devoir has a whole special today on Wikipedia (I’m not quite sure why). Half of it is subscriber-blocked, but the main story is free. Seems they’ve found some errors in Wikipedia articles about Quebec history.
The article repeats the same tired refrain of the mainstream media: Wikipedia can’t be trusted because we found all these errors.
It ignores the fact that Wikipedia has never said it should be trusted. It doesn’t want to be trusted. It asks people – pleads with them – to check every fact in every article (and correct/cite those that are wrong). It is not designed to be a source of information, it is designed to be a summary of information with clear citations.
And, of course, Wikipedia would never have achieved all this popularity if it wasn’t immensely useful as a resource in the first place.
The problem isn’t Wikipedia, it’s that people have been taught to believe everything they read without question. You could argue that this isn’t a proper way to setup an encyclopedia, and if so you’re welcome to use all the other failed Wikipedia-you-can-trust experiments out there.
UPDATE: More from Martin Lessard.
I feel like we’re playing Blog comment ping-pong on this while Wikipedia thing.
1. I hope if they found problems with entries that they fixed them. Otherwise, they miss the point entirely.
2. If people read only one source and take that as the gospel, that’s their problem. All throughout school and my time in Journalism it was all about verifying stuff through three different sources (sometimes more). If you people don’t do that, well… it is what it is.
3. I think Wikipedia’s charm is the “gaming” factor in it, and there’s no higher moral game than trying to gather, aggregate and correct the knowledge of the world.
The whole “Wikipedia is incorrect, there’s no one in control” thesis is pretty much completely undercut by the fact that they misspell the founder’s NAME in the article!
This article is probably retaliation of some sorts because the journalists got busted for lifting information from Wiki instead of doing hard research.
Why didn’t they make the corrections? The fact that they did not correct those errors is enough to prove they did not understand nothing about Wikipedia…
I must say Le Devoir represents maybe this traditional (and still widely spread) belief that everything written (must) bare a quality seal. I don’t believe they wanted to bash Wikipedia as mush as warning their reader to keep being skeptical. I agreed they did it the old fashion way, which doesn’t propel them in 21st century just yet.
Just a look at your post and brilliant comments above give enough insights to stop carrying the same old point of view –and start thinking by looking forward instead of being seen as jealous every time a web site get popular credibility).
Baillargeon (the author of the articles) isn’t a rookie. I’m pretty sure he would have come to same agreement would he encounter the right interviewees. We, geek, tend to believe all have to already know what we take for granted. This tend to let us forget knowledge comes from experience, and digital experience isn’t widespread –however this doesn’t excuse a journalist not able to be ahead of his readers…
Thanks for the post, it summerized in very few words a thought about wikipedia that would took me longer to explain.