by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 13, 2007 in DNA in General
Fellow DNA Network member, Thomas Goetz has started a ruckus over why Wikipedia sucks on science. He posted part of his rant over at Wired Science, which then got picked up by Techcrunch and Techmeme. Not only do I agree with Thomas that science entries at Wikipedia are often too technical and unreliable, I have other reasons for never linking to Wikipedia myself.
The information is biased. Because many of Wikipedians hide behind pseudonyms, we have no idea whether they have a hidden agenda..
Edits are futile. If you’ve ever tried to add to or edit an entry at Wikipedia, you may find that within minutes of your edit, another more “senior” member of the Wikipedia community has swooped in and undone all your work. Who knows if your opponent knows more than you or not. The fact that they’re patrolling the entry you’re interested in editing means that they have more time than you to defend their turf. You can try to argue your point, but I’ve read enough stories to know that the process is time consuming, tedious, and often for nought.
The Wikipedia community is exclusionary. I have observed links from worthy websites deleted simply because they’re deemed to be self-promotional. I don’t believe self-promotion is a crime. Every organization does it if they believe their message is valuable enough to trumpet.
Wikipedians are defensive and always on the attack. If you’ve read any of the comments Thomas has received on the posts I mentioned above, you’ll see that Wikipedians are hardly the most cultured or erudite of society. I’m sure there are some who are, but the ones that are the most vocal and the ones I assume are the most active, SCARE ME.
Wikipedia isn’t the only source of information. In fact, I’d argue that many other sites are better than Wikipedia. I just can’t see the average person feeling all jazzed up over science after a visit to the boring Wikipedia pages. But visit Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA From The Beginning, watch their video interviews, animated features, and other fancy features, and know that there are far better ways to teach people about science. I think Natalie Angier, author of The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, would agree.
If you ever have a question about science or genetics, use Google but skip the first few search results, which almost always include a Wikipedia entry. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.
What do you think of Wikipedia?
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