Wiki Pedia

Wikipedia - taking all the mystery out of life since 2001 [2000 as NuPedia]

Wikipedia is a wiki-based encyclopedia project set up at WikiPedia has several sister projects, one of which is WikTionary.

Wikipedia began as an offshoot project of NuPedias OpenContent encyclopedia project in January, 2001. There were 150,000 articles by August 2003, over 300,000 articles (in the various languages) by September 2003, and almost 600,000 articles by June 2005. In early 2006, the English edition reached the one million milestone. Several other language editions also have over 100,000 articles; though none is as large as the English edition.

This success demonstrates the robustness of the wiki concept.

You can follow Wikipedia's growth by this special page: There is also this section which shows much more detail:, including tables and charts broken down by various methods.

It looks like there was a sudden burst of visits in Sept 2003. I wonder if that's because of a change in the recording of stats, or if there was some sort of publicity that they received (such as possibly the CNN article (but that was in August) ). Wikipedia was recently mentioned in SlashDot forums a couple of times.

The quality of the articles is in some cases rather good.

There are also many "international Wikipedias," in various languages; see the Wikipedia front page or for a full list.

WikiPedia celebrated its second anniversary and its 100,000th article:

The English Wikipedia now has over Three Million Articles as of August 2009.

JaronLanier recently (2006) criticized Wikipedia in particular and wikis in general. See for the salient points.

WikiPedia has now been quoted as a source in a major newspaper (is this the first instance?):

And apparently they were SlashDotted after being linked from (Aug/4/03):

News and Important Developments

LarrySanger published a memoir on SlashDot over two days. GetItFirstFromHere, and then read the short exchange between ClayShirky and Larry at John Seigenthaler reports on the use of Wikipedia for slander, and how hard it is to have any recourse: This has brought Wikipedia into the public eye far beyond geeks. See also: Articles from TheRegister removed, because TheRegister has a weird hatred of WikiPedia. I don't understand why TheRegister articles were removed, just because they are critical of Wikipedia doesn't make them untrue.

My question, to this esteemed Wiki community, is this: Do you think that a Wiki could successfully generate a useful encyclopedia? -- JimboWales

Yes, but in the end it wouldn't be an encyclopedia. It would be a wiki. -- WardCunningham

Depends on what you consider useful. It will always be a collection of opinions, more than facts. A summary of the current state of understanding, at best.

As far as it is possible to even think that there are such things as facts, Wikipedia has a much better shot at being a collection of facts than anything done by a closed community or a business. There, even the only stable configuration of recognizing differing opinions on a matter can be reached. And that actually is the only NeutralPointOfView (NPOV). Only those who want to remove others' viewpoints need have their content refused. "Current state of understanding" sounds very good indeed and what would be better?

It has a different etiquette than this wiki, though, since WikiIsNotaDictionary and PleasePleaseDontCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki don't apply.

But Wikipedia is not a dictionary See

Indeed, Wikipedia has a totally different culture from this wiki, because it's pretty single-mindedly aimed at creating an encyclopedia. It's already rather useful as an encyclopedia, and we expect it will only get better. -- LarrySanger

This wiki and the Wikipedia are "Collaborative Endeavours". This wiki is an experience in the WikiNow, while the Wikipedia is a process of recording. This wiki is always in a state of temporary completeness, while the Wikipedia is is always in a state of incompleteness, not having the same sense of the "WikiNow". This wiki is a history of computing which includes developing ideas, processes and procedures, while WikiPedia is a record of what has already been and does not have the same sense of evolution.

In order to know where you're going, you have to know where you've been.


Wikipedia is now the largest Wiki (3,758,545 English articles [Total wiki pages: 25,143,373] as of October 2011). Whether that size makes Wikipedia worse or better is another question entirely.

I think size makes it better. Now, if you're researching something, just type it into wikipedia to get a primer about the topic.


Are there any actual verified data on how accurate Wikipedia is?

Accurate in the sense of factual or in the sense of meeting objectives?

Mmmm, I think there is probably a page on Wikipedia where you could look that up.


Deutsch Wikipedia ( is a version of WikiPedia in the German language. It is not a translation of Wikipedia; it's a German encyclopedia from scratch. As of July 2001, it is the second-most active of the Wikipedia group of wikis.

I've recently started wikiing on WikiPedia and there are definitely different traditions in practice there. Some of them are:

Anyone else notice any differences? -- SeanOleary

RecentChanges isn't quite useless, but it's certainly overloaded. I understand the software developers are working on a new implementation. -- AnonymousDonor

They have a feature to "watch a page" which gives you a kind of SubscribedChanges page which shows only changes on the pages that you watch.

Wikipedia is now surprisingly good for some topics, though care is needed when reading, as sometimes articles manage to present the exact opposite of the truth. Updating can be a bit slow, though the Recent Changes page is usually very good, and can be used to check who else is editing/creating pages over a period of perhaps 3-6 hours. However, when the automated robots (e.g RamMans? RamBot?) get going, the changes page effectively becomes almost useless, as most of the changes are automated, and occur at a much higher rate than manual (and possibly more meaningful), changes.

The mass entries by (known and approved) bots are now filtered out of Recentchanges by default, and we're working on other options. In addition to the per-user Watchlist, one can make a category index list (like and hit "Related changes" for a Recentchanges-like list of all linked pages.

The ability to track different versions is also good - I thought it was done by CVS, though it may not be. Whether or not it is, it is a useful facility.

Not CVS, just a damn big database table. ;)

The structure which comes from having separate TalkPages? (see UtilityOfaMetaChannel) is also rather beneficial. -- DavidMartland

-- AlistairHutton?

Where else can you get explained as importantly as real history?

Well, before Wikipedia came along, you could probably find that information on any number of fan sites scattered throughout the net. Now it is essentially been "consolidated" into Wikipedia, thus rendering those fan sites and the surrounding community somewhat less relevant. JaronLanier comments on this issue in a May 2006 essay (

For instance, most of the technical or scientific information that is in the Wikipedia was already on the Web before the Wikipedia was started. You could always use Google or other search services to find information about items that are now wikified. In some cases I have noticed specific texts get cloned from original sites at universities or labs onto wiki pages. And when that happens, each text loses part of its value. Since search engines are now more likely to point you to the wikified versions, the Web has lost some of its flavor in casual use.

When you see the context in which something was written and you know who the author was beyond just a name, you learn so much more than when you find the same text placed in the anonymous, faux-authoritative, anti-contextual brew of the Wikipedia. The question isn't just one of authentication and accountability, though those are important, but something more subtle. A voice should be sensed as a whole. You have to have a chance to sense personality in order for language to have its full meaning. Personal Web pages do that, as do journals and books. Even Britannica has an editorial voice, which some people have criticized as being vaguely too "Dead White Men."

Wikipedia is not a static canon. That is not why it is less reliable, it is why it is more reliable. I have edited a few entries in my subject (Ancient History), with care. In many ways, for brief reference, these are as likely as any other printed version to be accurate. I have seen so many errors in peer-reviewed articles that I don't see why we should assume a wide gap between Wikipedia entries and a lot of other more conventional materials...

There will be a lot of changes necessary to perfect what is simultaneously a dubious, and superb, information source. Some of the brilliant prose on the wikipedia surpasses any other source on the topic. Other areas (almost any involving NPOV) contain a "consensus" bias. There is a legitimate worry that the wikipedia has taken more than one step down the path of an official POV, and has left objective reality out of the debate between the groupthink of the administrators, and the "fringe" views expressed by some newbies. -- Jack Lynch

Wikipedia is as much a cult as an encyclopedia. The message of the cult is that falsehood is acceptable but that submission to the will of a self-described community is paramount. StephenColbert? referred to this as WikiAlity?.

(A cult? Ha. Call me when the Wikipedia equivalent of Jonestown occurs. Cults kill.)

The cult isn't very good at getting out its message, since so many of its adherents stomp on falsehood with great vigor and glee. Someone should really hand out a copy of the scriptures or something.

Since so many of its adherents stomp on falsehood with great vigor and glee - that's simply not true. The wikipedia community responds promptly and zealously to point of view material. False information is allowed on the condition that it is attributed to someone, and in most cases the same is required of true material, with the result that for many topics there is no practical distinction between the two. That was something the founders intended, to avoid having to decide what's true and what isn't.

I suspect, however, that the odd and particularly unwikilike nature of interactions on wikipedia stem mainly from the separation of content and discussion, which is exiled to talk pages. That the will of the community is so important and exclusionary comes from there being ground to battle over, which is not nearly so true in this and other wikis. If so, this suggests something important about how wikis work. Has anyone given such matters any thought?

I'm well aware of wikipedia's strengths and limitations. My question was why it developed such generally different dynamics than at least most other wikis, and I'm wondering if the lack of discussion on the top level might be part of it. Note this wiki has never had the same need for consensus that wikipedia does constantly. Incidentally, voting and consensus are two very different things, and you would do well not to conflate them.

My experiences with WikiPedia have been generally good. However, certain individuals and cliques tend to try to enforce their own rules (often in "WikiProjects?"). I proposed an article for a "Featured Article" and suddenly had "rules" thrust upon me (for which the article did not have and was not required under "Featured Article Requirements"). Most users are helpful, but a few tend to be almost "bullish", something which WikiPedia would be good to stop. -- another anon contribution

I suppose if there are cults guarding sections of WikiPedia, then that part is not ApathyCalcified. Now the job is somehow redirecting the efforts towards their stated "Neutral Point of View" goal.

False information is allowed on the condition that it is attributed to someone, and in most cases the same is required of true material, with the result that for many topics there is no practical distinction between the two.

It's not false information to say that certain people make certain claims, even if the claims themselves are false. Wikipedia's guidelines state that the claims, along with any available evidence should be presented. No one looking at or would come to the conclusion that the claims made by Clonaid or Holocaust deniers are true, even though Wikipedia presents their claims and evidence. These cases are quite clear-cut, however, because there is almost no supporting evidence to present. Are there any better examples you could show me?

Subjects like Conspiracy Theories are a funny read in that respect. Concerning Bilderberg for example, they say in the article that there is definite evidence of existence...

I suspect, however, that the odd and particularly unwikilike nature of interactions on wikipedia stem mainly from the separation of content and discussion, which is exiled to talk pages. That the will of the community is so important and exclusionary comes from there being ground to battle over, which is not nearly so true in this and other wikis. If so, this suggests something important about how wikis work. Has anyone given such matters any thought?

I think Wikipedia's departure from the classical wikis is because of its goal of producing an encyclopedia. The very nature of an encyclopedia is to provide a summary and overview of current knowledge. Wiki, on the other hand, isn't a reference text. Everyone here is trying to develop new knowledge, something that encyclopedia-building doesn't do. Wikipedia simply uses wiki software as a tool for collaborative writing; the wiki is a means to an end. As to your last question, I think the MeatballWiki folks have examined Wikipedia's dynamics a bit (WikiPediaIsNotTypical).

Wikipedia always reminds me of Asimov's "Foundation." Perhaps a hologram of JimmyWales will appear some years from now stating that Wikipedia's true purpose was never to actually produce an encyclopedia...

Wikipedia's strength is on subjects that are obscure. Its great weakness is on subjects that attract cranks. If you want to look up "fluegelhorn", chances are that coverage will be much better than a mainstream encyclopedia. If you want to look up "Friedrich Nietzsche" or "Atlantis" or the sexier kinds of physics, you'll have to wade through a great deal of ranting.

But it's amazing what kind of subjects draw cranks. Want to look up Foobart of Bazquuzshire, the 16th century author of De Flatulationibus Animalium? There's about a 7% chance that someone out there has seized on Foobart as the big answer to curing cancer or free energy or transgender rights or something and has completely taken over the article. Try to change it and you'll have an EditWar of epic proportions on your hands. The best you can hope for is to rephrase all the lunacy in neutral language: "some scholars claim that Foobert..." The tendency for many articles is to become a smattering of useful information amidst a sea of neutral POV-ed hokum.

There is a Wikipedia guideline against such BlahBlahBlah writing: -- BenKovitz

WikiPedia is useless as a reference without some sort of fact-checking and certification of correctness. It makes a great opinion poll though. -- AndyPierce

What are the alternatives and the trade-offs involved? One must weigh all the pro's and con's of something before calling it "useless". If you want perfect AND free, you are out of luck. Heck, it's hard to find "perfect" even when you are willing to pay dearly for it.

Many people are finding Wikipedia extraordinarily useful as both a factual reference and a quick introduction to almost any topic. Wikipedia does have fact-checking: people spot and correct factual errors all the time. Indeed Wikipedia does not have certification. Pages can get worse after they get better; facts can be gotten wrong after they are gotten right. Your intuition might say that a wiki open to the whole world can't be useful, but there it is. -- BenKovitz

If you think that WikiPedia is poorly written, fix it. If you think that WikiPedia can't be fixed by your contributions (for whatever reason), then don't read it.

My first exposure to wikis was Wikipedia - I was looking for information on 'net and I got referred to wikipedia. It has become the wiki I contribute most to since. From what I have sort of gathered from the discussion here, questions are being raised as to whether wiki encyclopedias work well and whether the sort of consensus/goal orientated behaviours of wikipedia are healthy/suitable for wikis. It seems a complaint is that wikis are innately subjective and hence a wiki encyclopedia trying to massage objectivity from subjective sources (its contributors) will supposedly fail. I think that issue may be less relevant than it seems - it can be side-stepped by considering that what people really want is knowledge of relative consistency; objectiveness is not truly necessary until they get new information that conflicts/is not consistent (ie. Told it's safe to look at the sun and then have their eyes burned). All knowledge from books, television and radios acts this way.

What might be the concern is that certain people in the this discussion have come to consider "wiki" to be synonym of "subjectiveness". Considering wikis that way allows you harness a variety of capabilities, but subjectiveness is not why Wikipedia has become the "poster child" of the wiki movement. Wikis like Wikipedia have specific goals and these goals (like creating an encyclopedia) allow them to supersede (not eliminate) the subjective nature of wiki by providing some thing of more important value - in this case authoritative secondary information source. People deal with subjectiveness all the time in the offline world, such as one person loves a certain tv show, another person hates it. Paper encyclopedia have multiple contributors too. People's opinions are typically not atomic, hence a synergy/fusion of multiple of opinions is possible. That we have a stable diverse society relies on that fact. If you keeping looking for pure objectivism in a subjective world, you are going to be like Diogenes searching for truly honest man - an unnecessary chore since people are equipped to handle nuances of subjective reality as a matter of course.

Wiki as a social concept is still growing; goal-orientated "unoffensive" (as one person put it) wikis like Wikipedia constitute one class of wikis, not the whole trend. Another issue to note is that having encyclopedia as "majority rule" opinion is to be expected and important. The goal is to make available stable knowledge on given topics. Now if you say that your minority opinion on a topic is correct and the majority opinion is false - so be it. As an encyclopedia is a secondary or tertiary source of information, it is supposed to represent the informed majority view on the topic - this makes it slower to changes but saves a lot more hassle for readers. If you consider your opinion correct, you present it as an appropriate primary source and more weight it gains in the suitable industry/field then more weight it gains in an consensus encyclopedia. Simple as that (or should be when things run smoothly). If your opinion for, say, pure air as a food, has problems against the majority opinion then either improve the case in the right places for debate or write in a different type of wiki as wikipedia needs to relatively NPOV in order to provide knowledge of some consistency to the reader.

To finish on a slight harsh note: If some people are saying that Wikipedia isn't what a wiki should and nor should it be as successful as it is - GetOverIt. It is the choice of wikipedia contributors to contribute and they typically get immense satisfaction from doing so. I don't see POV blog-like wikis as pointless so why should people see wikis with goals and rules and people that opt-in into those goals as useless.

As far as I am concerned, WikiPedia is a sorry mess, a dangerously sorry mess, because of its "pop symbol" status. With few notable exceptions (which are confined to restricted areas that do not elicit passions, not even intellectual energy, example: pages like JohannSebastianBach), WikiPedia has set out to build up content with the help of a Kafkian bureaucracy, promoting WoodenLanguage and intellectual mediocrity by design, whereas intellectual mediocrity further promotes imposture. MindRotThesis may very well apply to WikiPedia. -- CostinCozianu

Failed in what way, exactly? It seems to be succeeding FTMP in what it has set out to do. 'Tain't perfect, and certain topics (especially areas 'round politics and religion - things which ignite passions in people) tend to have unstable and occasionally inflammatory content - but on many topics, Wikipedia is far better than any general-purpose traditionally-edited encyclopedia (print or online) out there. Despite many claims of "anti-intellectualism" on Wikipedia (a claim which generally stems from the fact that experts are not granted de jure veto power over their areas of expertise), there are many topics which are maintained by a large community of experts. Unlike this wiki, which is rather tolerant of "non-mainstream" (or even crackpot) theories, Wikipedia is rather good at keeping quacks and loons from using Wikipedia as a forum to advance their pet ideas.

Failed by encouraging political BS, WoodenLanguage and Kafkian bureaucracy, together with crackpots and crackheads that discourage any real experts from wasting their energies on the subjects that suffer any form of contention. To all the problems that we know from usenet, wiki and other online communities, WikiPedia added one more: politics. No, you cannot use politics to build knowledge. In this domain, politics is only for crackpots, wannabes and impostors.

I do not judge the quality of results by the quality of the process, rather the other way around. So here's a few things that I see: the whole series of articles related to communism are dubious, both in content (but this you can dispute) and in presentation - the quality of the language, the clarity and purpose of the exposition. They have been fought over ad-nauseam, subjected to "trials" and the trials themselves have a language reminding of Orwell and Kafka. If you assigned value to the time waisted and emotional energy involved from all parties, this is the most disastrously run project I've seen ever. This is what I see, and what leads me to believe that wikipedia has fostered the wrong culture, or, to put it more bluntly, has fostered a mob mentality. The warnings were set quite clearly by LarrySanger, and Wikipedia has only responded with hype. -- CostinCozianu

You may well be right, but Wikipedia is large, and not homogeneous, so it might suck in some places and shine in others (most of the areas my interests have lead me to are not very contentious, and tend in general to have incompleteness as their greatest fault). Just another BTW, not an argument as such. -- DougMerritt

The BBC has published another article which may be of interest, with a comparison of scientific articles between Wikipedia and EncyclopaediaBritannica: -- MatthewFarwell <-- Kenneth Lay's death inspires WikiPedia to announce the "suicide" potential before real investigators have a chance to develop citable resources

It seems that WikiPedia would be much, much more useful to conspiracy theorists if they were all capable of resisting the temptation of exploiting it to float trial balloons. Fat chance! -- PhlIp

Summary 2: WikiPedia's own self-correction mechanism gives reporters fodder for articles showing how WikiPedia is less reliable than their own news outlets. -- PhlIp

Tongue-in-cheek Wikipedia "FAQ": The Wikipedia FAQ,70670-0.html
WikiPedia's founding premise is "no points of view". Every article must contain no original research, and must cite its references.

This heroic attitude has a major loophole. To express a viewpoint, you can easily delete content that you don't like. The site supports almost no recourse for this activity. -- PhlIp

You mean, besides keeping history and being able to revert recent changes? I'm not sure how problems with removed content are any different than problems with adding content. -- IanOsgood

if you could find it...

They're not. PhlIp, is there some incident in particular you're referring to? -- EarleMartin (full disclosure: a WikiPedia admin)

Try this: Many ancient religious relics are well-known to have been technology advances. Heros of Alexandria used steam to make temple doors magically open, for example. One perfectly charming suggestion is the Ark of the Covenant was a huge Leyden Jar. This explains all the carefully recorded details of its construction - including the tent of badger skins, to charge it! - and including the gold cherub wings almost meeting over the "mercy seat".

However, if you add this suggestion to a new "Modern Interpretation" section, someone will challenge you for a citation. When you add it, they will challenge you for another, and when you add that, they will wait until you are not looking, and then delete the section. There was nothing wrong with the section - it was not original research, it did not express a viewpoint, and it cited its sources.

Removing the section, however, expresses a viewpoint. Someone thinks a mild scientific explanation somehow does not reflect very highly on the ancient Semites.

This seems a rather poor example of your point. This is not really a "Modern Interpretation" of the Ark, it is just some far fetched theory which really doesn't belong in an informative article. WikiPedia should only contain ideas which can be supported better than "this random scientist thinks this could be possible." Not that I am saying it is impossible or that the theory should be given no consideration. Rather I am saying that the theory is not strong enough to merit being in an article for a encyclopedia. --StephenRobinson?

Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past by Roy Rosenzweig

WikiPedia is suffering from aggressive editing tactics adopted by some companies regarding their entries in the WikiPedia (e.g. WalMart). New schemes are being developed to combat UnethicalEditing.

The very limit of WikiPedia is the fact that it pretends to be an encyclopedia, but it's doomed to fail. It's mainly a collection of informations that could be found elsewhere, and indeed the wikipedian-readers should not stop in WikiPedia at all: WikiPedia can be (not always!) a good starting point, not more.

More over, it's biased towards arguments that call masses or mass-interests, or arguments that can have a general understanding by the masses. When something less-known is put, even with proper sources or as a work in progress, its future existence depends on the judgement (an opinion, not a NPOV fact!) of people who are not able to judge the sources and the reliability of the text at all! So very similar pages undergo different destiny depending on who's seen them and how many pros and cons people noticed the page (and voted when requested).

Even things like "notability" can't have a neutral POV and the rules about this are far from being neutral and good (they reflect just someone else POV about the subject); the witless demand for sources killed very interesting pages (which, after the wiki idea, could have been improved by someone)... while other similar pages survived. Nonsensical things like the (invented) following one can happen:

-- MauroPanigada

It's a little worse than that. With few exceptions, all claims must have citations of secondary references, which mostly means newspaper and magazine articles, including some peer-reviewed scientific journals. Many articles on specialty subjects for which personal experience and training is readily available must be validated by popular articles written by untrained journalists who don't understand the subject! Notability must similarly be proven by coverage in the popular press! Oh, and anonymity is encouraged, so authors need not take personal responsibility for their edits. -- David Spector

You don't trust journalists?

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