Thursday, September 13, 2007

A new Wikipedia ... possibly

I am a big fan of Wikipedia. I have been known to contribute to, and correct things on it. However, I have a couple of reservations about it.

The first relates to content. Too much of it reflects the concern of male obsessives. I don't have a problem with such people - as has been pointed out elsewhere ("Privileged Planet", I believe, or possibly "A Meaningful World"), this is what has driven much of the advance in science. But when an article on Jabba the Hutt (a fictional character in the "Star Wars" films) can receive as much space as it does, whilst the editors occasionally express their desire to make Wikipedia more focussed, something must be subtly out of kilter.

The second is like unto it, and it is both Wikipedia's virtue and its vice - the fact that anybody can edit it. Which means, as Denyse O'Leary points out,
Yes, anybody can edit Wikipedia, all right, and anyone does. Your crazy ex-squeeze, the guy nobody got along with at work, the fanatic whose tracts you recycled in Fluffo's litterbox ... all can get their revenge at Wikipedia. And what normal person has the time to fight it out with them?
Most of the time, this isn't a problem - things tend to be self-correcting on Wikipedia. But occasionally, there are issues which attract oddball extreme opinions, and perhaps in such cases, it would be good for work to be supervised.

Now there is an alternative. Still one based on wikis, but one with editorial supervision - and it's Citizendium. I seriously doubt it will grow to the size of Wikipedia - but if it is able to provide a more consistent and reliable guide, then an alternative can hardly be a bad thing.