Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Wikipedia - friend or foe?

One of the themes I set out in my 100-word election blurb was the need to build bridges with other information players, based on our values. I am involved with a few such players - the Internet Society of Australia, for example, and Electronic Frontiers Australia. The two organisations have a close coincidence of values and policies with ALIA.

For example, the ISOC-AU email list has recently been discussing the Wikipedia. The debate has been very similar to a debate which might occur amongst library people – they are our friends, and this is shared territory. It has been interesting.

My own take is that we are all increasingly just using the Google search engine – i.e. the whole wide world wide web - as a kind of de facto encyclopedia. Wikipedia is a part of the Web that is a bit more quality-controlled than just googling the entire Web. It is a subset (a large one), and more authoritative than the Web as a whole. The point is that you have to make your own judgements. The Wikipedia has clear advantages – it is very comprehensive, it is free, it has a degree of quality control, and it is often quite astonishingly current, especially compared with a conventional encyclopedia.

Before the Wikipedia and the Web came along, people most often asked their friends or their mum (mostly not a librarian) if they had a question. Benchmark Wikipedia against them, I say (sorry, Mum).

The broader point is that this is not just our library territory - authoritative reference sources - but shared territory, and we need to link up with other people who care about it.


Mark Sutherland said...

Have you had a look at Scholarpedia?

Regards, Mark

Rebecca said...

This might be of interest:


Naturally I'm concerned about the use of Wikipedia as a primary reference tool, but for a quick overview on a topic it's often not too bad.

I hope we can rely on today's users to exercise a little discernment when it comes to the credibility of material on the Web!