September 29, 2004

Correcting knowledge gaps in the Wikipedia Some users are trying to create a project to get rid of knowledge gaps -- seen as "systemic bias" -- in the Wikipedia.

These users acknowledge that the Wiki is overwhelmingly white, male and North American or European. They're trying to fill in these gaps, and are looking for either a) people with knowledge bases that will help or b) people willing to research outside their "comfort zones." This seems like a pretty cool initiative, to me, though there is current debate over whether to cover underrepresented non-American topics such as Turkmenistan and the Congo Civil War, or to also include American topics like the African-American and feminist civil rights movements. (I searched to make sure this had not been linked, yet -- I hope it hasn't.)

  • ack, sorry, I got the link via Boing Boing
  • First we should fix the systemic Metafilter bias and include Monkeyfilter.
  • Ha ha we MoFied the servers.
  • We did? How? About the bias - I don't think it's a problem. If I wanted to know about the Congo Civil War, I would not be looking on wikipedia, I would be looking in news sources and academic sources. Wikipedia is best for what it does best - articles on phenomenon that the mainstream world doesn't notice, like pop culture and internet memes. BBC will have information on the Congo, but not on what this strange "metafilter" thing is, or how many castes the Minbari have. That said, I think it's a great idea to encourage more people to write on more non-Western topics, but ultimately, Wikipedia gets by on volunteers writing largely on a hobby basis. I know that I don't have time to write articles, even in my fields of research.
  • I don't think a mere M{e,o}Fiing can take down the Wikipedia servers. They routinely withstand slashdottings.
  • I'd also add that there's another bias in Wikipedia, which I do find somewhat more irritating. As noted on qwghlm, it's got a strong bias within articles towards recent news events. Obviously, in some ways this is an advantage over some other reference forms, but I find the extent to which it skews towards information from the past few years can often make it less useful, almost misleading. In the community's attempt to avoid one form of bias, political bias, it too often takes the approach of simply adding every piece of information on recent debating points. It thus risks becoming longwinded, incoherent and shortsighted. It's still a damn good reference, though.
  • For instance, take the page on Tony Blair. There is (roughly) twice as much written on events surrounding him in the 9 months of 2004 than there is for his entire career up to 1997 or his first term in charge. They're complaining about this? I face this kind of telescoping bias every day of my life. The whole of history is written that way - out of the last 2000 years of history (everything before is really in the classics or antiquities department), half of the professors and graduate students at my uni do 20th century! There are people doing historical research on September 11. It's all part of the very closed horizons people have. I don't have the languages to study very ancient history, but I still believe it is damn important (as opposed to the people who just want to hire another 20th cen American historian). sorry. That rant was not really on topic. But yeah, they need more Byzatine coverage in wikipedia - throw in some Spring and Automn period too, so it's not so Western.
  • I did correct the Wiki but I see it as an impotent gesture. I quote Joni here " Nothing Can Be Done". Byzatine: Corr of or relating to the ancient city of Byzantium.
  • Abstruse enough for you?
  • Check this for blast off from planet zero:
  • Good link.