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Do you trust your wiki?

If you are like most people, when you want to search on a new topic, you would generally "google" it. And more often than not you will find a link to a WikiPedia entry. And it will be a fairly detailed description of the information you are seeking. WikiPedia is a wiki based encylcopedia.
What makes the concept of a wiki so cool is that any member can add or edit its pages, and previous versions are stored for recovery. So the information in there can be checked as well as stays updated as time passes.

PC Magazine featured WikiPedia as its site of the week and has a brief history on it.

Ward Cunningham invented the wiki concept in 1995 to host a collaborative discussion of patterns in programming. He called it the WikiWikiWeb, wiki-wiki being Hawaiian for quick. Ward's Wiki, still going strong, hosts discussions on programming and wiki philosophy. Another robust wiki is WikiPedia, a wiki-based encyclopedia and a PC Magazine Site of the Week whose members and visitors have crafted over 300,000 articles.

The O'Reilly Network has a very detailed article on the use of wikis and how it's so terrifically easy for people to jump in and revise pages that wikis are becoming known as the tool of choice for large, multiple-participant projects. To learn more about wikis can go to
This is getting so popular that when you google wikiweb there are numerous versions of collaborative websites out there.

The latest entry to the wiki world is called wikicars. It's slated to be everything that you wanted to know about cars. In it's own words
"Wikicars aspires to be the most comprehensive source of fact based information about automobiles-- a Wikipedia of cars. At the same time, Wikicars is a guidebook, offering the consensus opinion of our community about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the automotive world. "

While this is great, there is also a flip side to it. This article points out the problems related to writing objectively and also the bias that may creep in depending upon one's political views, if one is writing about someone like say George Bush.

And while the popularity and breadth of Wikipedia’s coverage has boomed, there have also been problems with inconsistent quality and outright revisionist history when it comes to politicians and their staffers. So I thought it might be instructive to consider the entry for George W. Bush and how difficult it would be to create a “neutral point of view” for our polarizing president. Remember, the object is to create something neutral and not totally neutered of controversy. The idea is to state the various sides without picking a side, or as the NPOV entry states, “One can think of unbiased writing as the cold, fair, analytical description of debates.”

Techdirt's post points to Stephen Colbert's exercise in taking down Wikipedia. On the Colbert Report, Stephen took on Wikipedia, and discussed his vision for a new "Wikiality," where the masses create the facts they want to believe in. At the conclusion of the amusing segment, Colbert instructs his audience to find the Wikipedia entry on elephants, and edit it to say that "the number of elephants has tripled in the last six months." Not surprisingly, plenty of people went to either make the edit, or to see if had been made.

So even if this can be termed as another one of those ploys to increase ratings, it does demonstrate how facts could be created / manipulated depending upon whether a group would like someone credited or discredited as was evident in this case where a former staff member "independently went on to Wikipedia to correct some material he felt was not appropriate."

Bottomline, while it is handy tool don't be so quick to swear by what you read on there.

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