Tuesday, January 30, 2007

He'll ruin this for everyone, won't he?

Stephen Colbert just launched another attack on Wikipedia.


  1. Other than its ability to help me find out the various Young Avengers backstories and keep track of all the Alien Symbiote heroes/villians, does Wikipedia actually WORK as a research resource?

  2. If the articles properly cite their sources, you know, like they're supposed to, it can be a good jumping-off point for further research. It can also be a good place for a fantasy writer like me to get crazy ideas - writing fiction, it doesn't really matter if it's accurate.

    Other than that, no, not really.

  3. Hey, yeah, I get tons of ideas for my fiction from Wikipedia. I mean, the history of "The Demon Astaroth" can't exactly be codified, y'know. So any jumping off point is helpful...

    And I'm not sure I understand what's happening there with Colbert...

  4. If it wasn't him, it'd be someone else. It's probably a good thing that its weaknesses get highlighted like this to the more general public, actually, because there's a lot of blind faith that the articles are always accurate.

  5. And people always frown at me like I'm an asshole when I suggest it should be kept in the hands of carefully-vetted professionals.

  6. martin -

    Wikipedia is great for what it is. If you want an encyclopedia that's kept in the hands of carefully-vetted professionals, there's always Britannica Online. Wikipedia is a great place to get a quick intro or refresher on a subject as long as you remember to take what it says with a large grain of salt and verify the claims before you repeat them somewhere where you might be embarassed by them.

    Of course, that's how I feel about most sources these days, even those kept by "carefully vetted professionals". Too much time here in academia had made me keenly aware of how the sausage gets made and has me looking for the grissley bits in everything I read. If anything, I hope that Wikipedia gets more people to question things that they read everywhere, not just on the internets.

  7. I think Wikipedia is useful for facts that there's not a lot of debate over. Birthdates, basic timelines, public statements, etc. It's only when you get into debated material that there's a problem. (Honestly, an entry like "reality" probably had little useful information in it to start with.)

  8. I've been using Wikipedia as a tool for writing fiction, since I just need quick, broad strokes about different theories or quick histories of public figures or time-periods. For brief intro stuff like that it's great.

    It's also amazing at keeping track of insane minutia that hobbists (coughcoughcomicsfanscoughcough) love. BUT...

    Has anyone else encountered people who are using Wikipedia as their SOLE source of information about a niche hobby like comics? One of my friends is such a person. An example of our conversation (edited for spoilers):

    Crateopotatoes: [Character in 52] is dead
    Lightbunny: really dead?
    Lightbunny: or fake dead like everyone else in 52
    Crateopotatoes: legit dead
    Crateopotatoes: are you reading 52?
    Lightbunny: just the wiki
    Crateopotatoes: i hate you so much

    Is this just my friend?

  9. I thought it interesting that the Batman page on Wiki was marked with Colbert.

    I've always used Wikipedia as a way to get a general idea of what's going on in comics that I haven't been reading, but have thought about picking up.