Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Fraudulent Nature

Time and again, Wikipedia zealots mention the infamous Nature article that claims that Wikipedia is close to Encyclopedia Britannica in terms of quality and accuracy.

Unfortunately, it quickly shows that the Nature article itself was not peer-reviewed, but merely an editorial by scientists untrained in the basics of content analysis. Consequently, their analysis contains the following two serious flaws:

  1. Only natural science entries were tested.

    This seems to me the least problematic area of Wikipedia. Paradigmatic sciences, as are the natural sciences, produces "facts"; that is, there rarely is any doubt about the appropriateness of the currently dominant theories. Regardless of ideology and political positions, chances are, that most people agree on the adequacy of Einstein's special theory of relativity and that it is a uniquely defined theory, even if most people may have only a faint idea what this theory is about. Such neat consensus does not exist in the humanities and social sciences, so Wikipedia entries from these domains are often much less reliable.

  2. The sampling process of the Nature article is so flawed, it renders the test results meaningless.

    The article says little about how the entries were chosen by the editorial team of Nature, but what it does say is in my view unacceptable practice:

    "All entries were chosen to be approximately the same length in both encyclopedias."

    Now, surely, the length of an indicator is one valid goodness criterion. Encyclopedia articles should be concise, but at the same time cover all significant aspects of a phenomenon. By limiting the review to Wikipedia articles that approximate Britannica articles in length, the reviewers very much cherry picked the Wikipedia entries, as we know that Britannica articles are on the average probably quite good.

From my own experience, I found Wikipedia articles in my field of expertise (sociology) usually quite sloppy. Not really bad, but usually worse than a Google search for "$concept site:edu" and often tilted towards one or another political standpoint or one or another sociological theory.

However, there are few purely sociological terms, as sociological questions usually bear on social phenonemena. And as soon as a concept is politically or ethically contested, then the quagmire of Wikicision making produces not only inaccurate and biased, but ouright dangerous articles which support all sorts of hegemonic views. In the upcoming weeks, I will review these decision making processes and their results here.

hallo, fossa,

thanx for your unterstützung. Dein Blog mit seinen zahlreichen Links ist wirklich sehr hilfreich und informativ. Aber wahrscheinlich kann ein Großteil der Deutschipedianer kein Englisch und versteht nicht, was da alles so zu lesen ist. Vermutlich bist du nur deshalb von Herrn Andreas Praefcke bislang noch nicht "rausgeschmissen" worden......

Mit dem Layout hast du Recht, ich kriege das aber im Moment noch nicht hin. Würde dich auch gerne bei mir verlinken, auch das kriege ich noch nicht hin, übe noch. Ich bin schon froh, dass ich die Fotos hochladen konnte. Ich bin eine technische Null - und genau technische Probleme waren es auch, die zu einem Zwist mit einigen Administratoren der deutschen Wikipedia und meiner Sperrung führten, nicht, wie Mr. Praefcke auf diversen Blogs verbreitet, "ideologische Gründe" oder weil ich "PR" eingestellt hätte. Ich werde auf diese Geschichte noch näher eingehen.

Coole Grüße vom Gretchen aus der Bloghütte.
Toller Blog *satire*
Geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee - dots great. I like your blog and regard it as very, very reputable. *giggle*

Lach. Mach sich die Hose nass. ROFL. Bertram

(Please note: your admin will confirm there's no clear efidence that this is posted by Bertram. Could be GS as well)
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