Wikipedia for Brainiacs?

One can only hope, I suppose.  While many have changed their views about Wikipedia over the years, most academics have not.  It may be fine for the occasional note, or to get started in the right direction (or not).  But most academics still worry about Wikipedia’s quality, or lack thereof. 

Now Stanford University comes forward with the news that Wikipedia has a challenger, and a clear winner: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  To get in, you have to get by 120 readers who vet, edit and otherwise fold, spindle and mutilate your work until it meets the necessary standards.  Here’s a Wikipedia you can cite without loss of face or a lower grade!  Principal editor, Edward Salta, contends that “Our model is authoritative.” “[The Wikipedia model] is one an academic isn’t going to be attracted toIf you are a young academic, who might spend six months preparing a great article on Thomas Aquinas, you’re not going to publish in a place where anyone can come along and change this.”

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the company to start Citizendium for the very reason that anyone could edit any article in Wikipedia, and so compromise quality.  Citizendium is like Wikipedia but with one notable exception: some if its articles are written by experts.  Interestingly, only last fall, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales argued that the everyman encyclopedia is striving for “Britannica-like quality,” another way of saying it isn’t there yet.  Now Stanford has come along and added another , better option for students.  Could this launch other efforts in related disciplines?  One can only hope.

It should be noted, too, that Winthrop was instrumental, along with, of course, hundreds of others, to help get this work off the ground.  If you’re interested, take a look at this page (http://plato.stanford.edu/fundraising/commitments.html).

Readers should also be aware that DOC offers Infopedia, the Dacus reliable, peer-reviewed alternative to Wikipedia’s attenuations.

2 thoughts on “Wikipedia for Brainiacs?

  1. A cursory reading might lead you to that temptation. But I chose Citizendium carefully. Scholarpedia is more like Stanford’s offering than it is Citizendium. My point was to compare two similar things and the two that are similar in this case are Citizendium and Wikipedia.

  2. Nice post, and I agree that the Encyclopedia of Philosophy is something that Stanford can be very proud of. However, your statement

    Citizendium is like Wikipedia but with one notable exception: some if its articles are written by experts.

    is — apart from the typo — misleading in several ways: First, experts participate in both projects. Second, articles in wikis are written collaboratively, so although both projects have “some” articles written exclusively by experts, participation of non-experts is normal and encouraged in both. Nonetheless, there are some notable exceptions to “Citizendium is like Wikipedia”: Apart from the relative popularity, these include the requirement, at Citizendium, to contribute under one’s real name. The primary role of experts is not to write articles (which any registered users can do, not just the experts) but to facilitate the writing process (e.g. by locating relevant sources), to review what was written, and to resolve disputes on content matters. Once an article has been formally approved in a lightweight version of academic peer review, it will be split into a stable version that can not be edited any more, and one in which drafting can continue much like at Wikipedia. To me, your “exception” sounds more like Scholarpedia, where basically all articles are written (and reviewed) by experts only, and often by the experts in the world. Later additions, updates etc. are possible by any registered user but have to be approved by the curator of the respective article, typically one of the authors.

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