The Hindu reported about an edit-a-thon on Indian women scientists held on July 16 in Bangalore. Their pre-event article noted that only about 40 women scientists from the country currently have Wikipedia entries, and many of those are incomplete or lack citations.
The paper's followup article reported that about 25 editors participated in the event, creating and updating articles on prominent women scientists in the country. Sandhya Srikant Visweswariah, chair of the Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics at the Indian Institute of Science, was among the subjects tackled. One participant noted, however, that "lack of citations online made it hard to validate entries for many women scientists from the country". This, of course, is a persistent concern, as discussed in part in The Atlantic last month. Having content online leads to the production of more content. Creating new material from non-online content – and being able to use that content to defend Wikipedia's processes of validating content and assessing notability – is a much bigger task although also an essential one.--Milo
Not all we're Cracked up to be?
Cracked.com featured a critical piece on Wikipedia as "shockingly biased", with input from current administrator Crisco 1492. The piece falls squarely in the sweet-spot of modern criticism of any website: (1) it comes from a website that loves Wikipedia; (2) has readers who love Wikipedia and use it all the time despite its faults; and thus (3) will read any articles, which raises "shocking" concerns about Wikipedia. And though the items discussed are mostly old-hat to Wikipedia editors (not to discount their importance), such articles are usually popular. This one has already received over 350,000 views and 450 comments.
The topic areas discussed in the article include three common complaints: (1) the lack of diversity in contributors and content, such as the gender gap and systemic biases (see The Hindu edit-a-thon discussed above), and the focus of some editors on niche content areas; (2) the ever-present problem of vandalism, but particularly the feedback loop where inaccuracies are cited in the press – "like a game of telephone, only at the end of the game, the garbled nonsense gets published in a newspaper"; and (3) petty arguments among editors, though this discussion also ends in more discussion of vandalism, such as those quixotic editors who like to change heights and weights.
The article also cites the Wikipediocracy website as one "dedicated to destroying Wikipedia", though such a threat does not seem as existential when described as "less like a public service and more like a bunch of Mensa wannabes trying to high five, only to awkwardly smack each other in the nose". Lastly, the piece concludes that "Wikipedia is dying", citing statistics about declining numbers of "very active" editors and the lack of sufficient administrators.
All of these concerns have degrees of validity, and though not precisely news, the continuing focus on them is no doubt important in finding solutions. When high-profile articles stop being written about Wikipedia's flaws, that would suggest irrelevance, which is a much surer sign of decline. No one complains about the functionality or value of Myspace anymore.--Milo
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