So this week the chat is about Wikipedia. At least I have some familiarity with the site, so the assignment isn’t totally in uncharted waters. It’s is funny to be told to use the site for a course as most of my previous instructors warned the students not to use Wikipedia because of its ‘unreliability’. Personally, if I have reason to question the accuracy of any information found on Wikipedia a quick search of a couple of other websites and I can usually confirm the validity. Anyway back to this week’s assignment. First off we were to select a topic of interest. As this course is all about connecting to social media sites and as I have an aversion to releasing information I thought I’d check out privacy issues. The topic I selected is listed as “Privacy concerns with social networking services”. This article is currently flagged for discussion regarding a possible merger with a similar article entitled “Privacy issues of social networking sites”.
One thing that I found with this article (and with other in the past) is that some information is listed without any references forcing the reader to go to other sites to confirm the validity of the statement. A case in point is the reference to Adrienne Felt, a Ph.D. and her discussion on privacy issue with Facebook. How does one know the validity of this entry if there is no reference? In addition, the Wikipedia entry refers to Ms. Felt’s discovery as having taken place ‘last year’ when in fact further investigation suggests that ‘last year’ was more likely 2007.
Next was a check of the “Talk” pages. As neither of the articles had a “Talk” page associated with it, I selected a link to “Internet privacy” and checked its “Talk” page. I was surprised to see that this article is part of a 2012 course assignment through the Wikipedia Ambassador Program – good news I thought as the information should be fairly up-to-date and valid. However, some of the talk sounds more like a personal point of view rather than an objective one (see the addition, “MySpace? Seriously????”). I tend to agree with another post in which the author says that the article reads more like an essay than an encyclopedic entry. Another bone of contention is that much of the discussion is focused on US laws. I see this as problematic considering the topic is the World Wide Web. Where’s the discussion about laws that govern the Internet rather than specific countries.
The history of the article was next on the list to check out. The majority of the revisions seemed more to do with grammar than with actual content. Many of the contributors do seem to be members in good standing and the few that I checked have been around for a number of years.
While I don’t consider myself a regular Wikipedia user, I will sometimes use the site as a starting point for further investigation or for a quick check of something where the accuracy is not all that important (e.g. a word in a crossword puzzle).
As for the Wikileaks documentary, I can see pros and cons with both sides of the site. I can see where posting information can be beneficial in an attempt to stop injustices, but I can also see where there may be times where the public’s best interest may be better served by keeping some information private. As with most things, there is often a gray area. If I was living under the rule of a tyrannical dictator I’m sure I would be glad if their hideous crimes were made available to the world. However, living in a democratic country, I live with the belief (valid or not) that the government is acting in my best interest and if they decide that information should be secured for my best interest then so be it.