UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

The wheft and flow of Wikipedia

Posted by gazjjohnson on 5 January, 2009

Keith’s just passed me along a link to an article entitled “Who the hell writes Wikipedia“.  Well me for one, but I’d point you in the direction of the original article and encourage you to read it.

Wikipedia’s an old point of discussion among librarians.  There’s the debate I (and many other librarians) have had over the years around the conundrum “should we support the students in using wikipedia?”  That’s a broad question on which much has been written or said.  I’m certainly not going to try and answer it; other than to admit that since I use it and edit it I’d be a hypocrite not to point my students towards it (along with other resources).

I do have issues that the “encylopedia written by everyone” can boil down to “what’s commonly believed” in some cases (e.g. the whole word knows you can have your appendix removed but I’d only trust a handful of people to tell me how!), but used responsibly it’s great.

One thing that fascinates me about wiki though, is the living way in which it organically grows and develops.  As the article suggests many pages start out chaotic but overtime (and ignoring periodic vandalism) reach a certain homeostatic equilibrium.  While I was watching Celeb Big Brother last Friday* I had open the wiki page for the show and watched the page build itself, refine, develop, get vandalised and finally protected from further amendments by wiki editors.

That’s one of the things I love about Web 2.0 apps – watching information evolve before your eyes.  I’d love to study these patterns in more depth as I’m sure they’re able to tell us a lot about people’s information providing habits, not to mention their networking interactions.  But these days that’s more Alan’s remit than mine.

*Not from choice!

2 Responses to “The wheft and flow of Wikipedia”

  1. sarahw9 said

    Gareth – come to our TAN session next Wed, I’ll forward you the details. We may well mention this very topic. I’ll be interested to see what the attitude of academics is to this, as I’ve no idea what to expect one way or another.

  2. I’m coming 🙂 I’d be very interested to see what the local academic feeling is on this matter, my guess would be that it’d be split with quite a few fence sitters. Wonder if there’ll be any subject/discipline patterns though?

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