Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wikid Germs and Online Sources

The virus I had last week has opened the door to something bacterial, so the blog suffers neglect as I continue suffering in other ways. But I do want to call attention to Mark Goodacre's interesting Defense of Wikipedia and then some. I agree with a lot of what Mark says; I find Wikipedia a covenient tool, but never treat it as authoritative, and will always double-check with other sources for information I really care about. The crucial point, as Mark points out, is that Wiki is here to stay -- just as blogs are, and just as the internet itself is -- and the solution to Wiki's problems is to combat them proactively and positively. In his second post he responds to Jim West as follows:
"Jim West says that he has disdain for Wikipedia, 'Disdain because Wiki are "edit-able" by any Tom, Dick, or Harry who may, or may not, know what the devil they are talking about.' This confirms my analogy with what many academics were saying about the internet in general a decade ago. The same thing was often said, that any Tom, Dick or Harry can put up their own website. Was the answer to discourage students from using 'the internet'? Well, that was exactly the response that many engaged in at the time, but there is now a broad consensus that that was wrong, and that the answer in fact is to point students in the right direction on the internet, and to encourage them to engage critically and to assess the sites they are using in the light of their other reading. The same is becoming true, and will continue to become true with Wikipedia. We can disdain it all we like, but the fact is that it is here to stay, and it is only going to get bigger and better. We may as well get involved if we want to have a stake in the future. And let me throw in another analogy. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can start up a blog. Why should we get involved with the blogosphere when it is clearly so full of dilettantes?"

UPDATE: The interactions between Goodacre and West have called forth a strong reaction from Rick Sumner. Be sure to read it. It's nice to see Rick blogging again.


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