Another arrow got fired at wikipedia.org recently in USA Today, with an op-ed piece by John Siegenthaler Sr.., who writes about his outrage on finding an entry in the collaborative encyclopedia that described him as playing a role in the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy — claims that remained uncorrected for four months and were repeated on other sites such as Answer.com. The New York Times writes about it here.
This is only the latest barrage of criticism aimed at the Wikipedia. Nicholas Carr made a splash a couple of months ago with an entry on his blog about the online encyclopedia and how incompetent and inaccurate many of the entries were. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales replied here and in this Register story. The former editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica also took some shots at the Wikipedia in a piece written for on Tech Central Station (don’t even get me started on the whole “Adam Curry-taking-too-much-credit-for-podcasting” brouhaha).
Despite the criticisms, Steve Rubel remains convinced that the Wikipedia is “the next Google” (ironically, Steve’s post appeared the day before Mr. Siegenthaler’s piece appeared in USA Today). Rex Hammock has useful advice: “Use Wikipedia as a gateway to facts, not a source of them.” James Robertson, meanwhile, points out that “real-world” sources of information such as the New York Times, have their problems too, a point also made by Andrew Hargadon.
So is the Wikipedia fatally flawed, or does the self-correcting model of collaborative information eventually produce the best results? Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine says it may be flawed, but it’s also an opportunity. And Kevin Marks — who coincidentally enough is also a major player in the Adam Curry affair — has some worthwhile thoughts as well, including a quote from Douglas Adams in which he says that “what should concern us is not that we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take what we read on the internet on trust… but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV.”
CNet News has a nice roundup on the Wikipedia’s week from hell, including comments from Jimmy Wales and Adam Curry. And Steve Rubel suggests that we should be able to “claim” Wikipedia entries that are about us.
Update 2 — December 11:
An enterprising Wikipedia critic tracked down the author of the Siegenthaler entry, who turned out to be just a guy working at a courier company who was playing a prank on a friend, and chose Mr. Siegenthaler because the family was well known in his area (Nashville). Interestingly enough, the guy said he thought Wikipedia was a gag site.