Two important Wikipedia related stories were published this week. These stories illustrate why people should take Wikipedia’s negative impact on our culture seriously, before it is too late.
The first report told of the collapse of the leading French Print Encyclopedia Quid, which canceled its annual publication due to lack of advance sales, citing competition from Wikipedia for the shortfall. According to the Independent Newspaper:
The book’s publisher, Robert Laffont, says the whole concept of the print encyclopedia can no longer compete with the free information available on the Internet. Quid, produced by a family team for the past 45 years, has suffered especially at the hands of the French-language version of Wikipedia, the do-it-yourself web encyclopaedia.
Meaning that a legitimate, credible body of work has become the first major conquest in Jimbo Wales’s cultural war.
One might just put this down to market forces. Surely the print encyclopedia should just adapt, shouldn’t it? All these dead tree sources are just so behind the zeitgeist, aren’t they? And anyway, who needs them? A recent study concluded that Wikipedia was just as good as the best encyclopedias didn’t it?
Well forget the deeply flawed “Nature Study” of 2006, which Wikipedians have used to spread the bogus notion that Wikipedia was on a par with the Encyclopedia Britannica for accuracy. A recent study undertaken for the journal Reference Services Review has a reached a more realistic and troubling conclusion. Here are the findings of that study:
The study did reveal inaccuracies in eight of the nine entries and exposed major flaws in at least two of the nine Wikipedia articles. Overall, Wikipedia’s accuracy rate was 80 percent compared with 95-96 percent accuracy within the other sources. This study does support the claim that Wikipedia is less reliable than other reference resources. Furthermore, the research found at least five unattributed direct quotations and verbatim text from other sources with no citations.
So with the collapse of further credible sources on the horizon after the untimely demise of Quid, our future looks to be dominated by a leviathan with “major accuracy concerns” and with “inaccuracies in eight out of nine examined entries”. Not to mention outrageous conflict of interest discrepancies, and an endless flood of defamation cases against living article subjects.
The doom-laden predictions of writer Andrew Keen are becoming a reality as we watch.