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February 27, 2007


Beth Simone Noveck

So is your contention that wikipedia and wikis, by promoting a deliberative conversation in writing around ideas, helps to bring erroneous assumptions to the surface? So we should be GLAD that these mistakes exist because we can more easily identify them here than elsewhere? If so, what does this imply about improving the design of wikipedia? Should there be a fact-checking minimum for each posting? A special t-shirt for fact-checkers? What's the problem to which this is the solution?

Allyson Stewart

I frequently use wikipedia as a source. I think it soon eclipse the sum total factual knowledge I have attained from textbooks. I have noticed an increasing acceptance of wikipedia citations in written works within the university. Five years ago this was taboo, but the more tech-savvy lit. proffessors today..they seem okay with it. It's an unspoken contract, an approval unmentioned, you include it, they don't question it.

Apparently Middlebury doesn't feel this way. Read this article:

Mike Ananny

[In response to Noveck's comment]

My contention is that Wikipedia's accuracy is only as good as the awareness of its "wiki-correctors" (theoretically anyone) AND that this awareness depends on Wikipedia citations being explicit and in publicly accessible forms.

We should be glad the FIRST TIME people cite erroneous information in Wikipedia. If such errors persist we should question why and to what effect:

(1) are the errors in such obscure publications that they are having little harmful effect? Who cares if someone is circulating erroneous information among a small group of readers?

(2) do the errors involve some kind of rare, specific expertise that has not yet attracted the attention of a "wiki-corrector" AND the errors have potentially harmful effects? If so, should we employ/incentivize experts to fact-check wiki entries because we can't rely on?

My point here is that Wikipedia errors have different kinds of causes and effects -- and that the social processes that correct them are tenuous enough that sometimes (e.g., in case #2 above) we should specifically incentivize correctors to take action.


Your theory on the value of Wikipedia alludes to many of the ideals of freedom of speech and freedom of expression as a whole. From my read of your entry, it seems that implicit in your argument is the idea that one of the benefits of Wikipedia and similar sites is that it allows false assumptions to be aired and addressed (please correct me if I am misreading your argument.) In other words, without a forum to express lies and other mistruths, there is no mechanism by which counterpoints can be presented. This is similar to the Freedom of Speech theory that all thoughts and ideas should be expressed, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable, because to censor them would only allow them to slowly fester and become even more rotten. What the Founders recognized – and what Wikipedia seems to acknowledge – is that inaccuracies are bound to occur, yet identifying and correcting those inaccuracies are vital parts in the process of discovering and presenting “the truth.”

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