Friday, December 16, 2005

Wikipedia: good, bad or indifferent ?

Two somewhat opposing viewpoints on Wikipedia:

- Nature magazine says that Wikipedia's science entries are, on average, not bad [but not great either]. That squares with my experience with Wikipedia, which has been mostly confined to looking up science-type stuff.
- The Penny Arcade take on Wikipedia, which I find pretty funny [especially the "quantum encyclopedia" bit] and also agree with, for the most part.

I can definitely see how there can be lots of editing and re-editing and inchoate debate about entries on subjects that are, well, open to debate. That's something that Wikipedia's science entries probably have to contend with less -- the equation is either right or wrong, there isn't a gray area -- which may lead to higher-quality entries.

I suppose the results of the Nature survey are a good sign for OpenWetWare (OWW), which is a Wiki-based attempt at allowing folks doing research in all areas of biology to easily share information. [Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of OWW, have used it a ton myself, and am a member of a team of MIT folks that just got an iCampus grant to spread the word about OpenWetWare and get more labs/people to join up, so my sympathies are definitely with the Wikipedia style of doing things.]

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