Wikipedia, the upstart Internet encyclopedia that most universities forbid students to use, has suddenly become a teaching tool for professors.

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mads's picture
Created by mads 15 years 48 weeks ago – Made popular 15 years 48 weeks ago
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J.B.Nicholson-Owens's picture


15 years 48 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago


We can better explaining Wikipedia's continued existence.

Text from article most likely to be misread:

"To reach its goal of academic standards, said Wikipedia's web site, it set up an assessment scale on its English-language site. The best encyclopedia entries are ranked as "Featured Articles," and run each day on the home page at www.wikipedia.com.

To be ranked as a "Featured Article," Wikipedia said an entry must "provide thorough, well-written coverage of their topic, supported by many references to peer-reviewed publications."

Of more than 10 million articles in 253 languages, only about 2,000 have reached "Featured Article" status, it said."

If only English Wikipedia articles can be "Featured Articles" it makes no sense to talk about "10 million articles in 253 languages". It makes sense to talk about the number of English language articles that became featured articles. Framing the issue in the way Deborah Jones of the AP did is likely to be misread as a smaller percentage of featured articles (how much smaller? I don't know. I'd need the figures Jones doesn't provide.).

The article lacks sufficient evidence to justify the headline or introduction where "Wikipedia, the upstart Internet encyclopedia that most universities forbid students to use, has suddenly become a teaching tool for professors.". How long must a project last to outlive being an "upstart"? Who determines this language? How is it that one professor (Jon Beasley-Murray) assigning Wikipedia-related work to students enough to qualify as "professors" (plural) doing this or to turn the tide from being banned as a source to being embraced as something worth spending time improving? Other students may have written other featured articles but there's no indicating in the AP article that that was assigned work.

I think the AP ought to do better reporting and I think Wikipedia proponents can better explain why society should favor accessible works such as Wikipedia over secretive proprietary alternatives such as Encyclopedia Brittanica. A few such reasons come from the freedoms of free software: I can make copies of Wikipedia and share them helping myself and my community, I can fix and improve Wikipedia and distribute my improved version, also if authorial identity matters to me I have a chance of identifying and working with Wikipedia authors (EB's authors aren't as accessible and I have no indication that they're as cooperative), and Wikipedia can be far more inclusive of entries wealthy Westerners deem unworthy to fit into EB (I doubt EB does the legwork to include recipes passed down through generations of Africans and indigenous people of Australia, for example. But Wikipedia has a golden opportunity to include that by allowing direct editing by people from around the world).

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