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Press covers Wikipedia after being beaten to the punch

Extensive coverage in The Guardian

Wikipedia made the pages of UK broadsheet newspaper The Guardian twice on the same day last week, not long after that paper found itself being scooped by Wikipedia on a news story (see related story). On Thursday, the paper's weekly IT section included an interview with Jimmy Wales [1], and also listed the article on Pope John Paul II as one of the six best web resources on the late pontiff [2].

In the short interview, Jimmy Wales outlined the origins of the project as an offshoot of Nupedia (the newspaper, dubbed The Grauniad by satirical magazine Private Eye for its frequent typos, calls it Newpedia), and makes the common observation that the switch to a wiki-based model led to Wikipedia producing as much content in two weeks as Nupedia had in two years.

Wales also said that the wiki ethos was truer to the origins of the Internet, a point recently made by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (see archived story). He credited the success of Wikipedia in part with the time of its arrival, which came at the end of the dot-com boom at a time when people were becoming disillusioned with the internet. "People talked about free knowledge and the ability to share ideas but then it seemed to be all about pop-up ads and porn spam", he said. "We came on to the scene when people were getting disillusioned. Hopefully they thought it was an attempt to create something positive".

The continuing credibility conundrum

The much-discussed issue of Wikipedia's credibility and reliability (see archived stories here, here and here) was revisited this week by technology magazine IT Week [3]. The magazine looks at the two opposing views of Wikipedia, with supporters touting it as a vehicle for democratising encyclopaedias, while detractors claim it is an "unreliable amateur resource of unverified content".

The article says that the lack of a bibliography on articles may lead to a lack of trust in the content by users. While citing sources is now a basic requirement for featured articles, many other articles still lack source information. IT week also suggests that lack of biographical information on editors is a problem.

The article concludes that Wikipedia is something like a microcosm of the Internet, with content on a vast and diverse range of subjects. As such, it saves users from carrying out a mass of searches, but like the Internet, it is up to the user to judge the trustworthiness of the information. The article says that Wikipedia could become "a powerful resource for information professionals in the future".

Douglas Adams usurps Jimmy Wales (again)

Last week, The Guardian credited Douglas Adams with inspiring Wikipedia, and this week the BBC are at it [4]. In an article about a new mobile edition of h2g2, which is hosted on BBC servers, the BBC's Internet controller Tony Ageh says that Adams was "years ahead of his time", and the article notes that "In some respects the way that the H2G2 website was put together pre-figures the idea of the wikipedia". The mobile h2g2 contains 7,000 entries, covering Life, the Universe and Everything.

Citations this week

Among the citations this week are Liverpool FC supporter's magazine quoting from the Hillsborough disaster article on the 16th anniversary of the tragedy in which 96 people died [5]; the BBC looking at podcasting in an article about high-tech trends in US politics [6]; nbc4 and numerous other US outlets talking about the phenomenon of wardriving [7]; and Cincinnati news site (WCPO) listing the hazards posed by acetone in an article about a chemical spill in the city [8].

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