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What does Wikipedia call an expert; and untruths in biographies ... again.

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By Rcsprinter123

Wikipedia and the shifting definition of "expert"

In an article by the Atlantic, Wikipedia's meaning of the word "expert" has been put into question. The article pondered on what Wikipedia would call an expert, who we would trust and who we wouldn't, and how this may have changed over the past few years.

For instance, academics who double as editors may well be an expert in their field and edit or create Wikipedia articles about that topic, and we'd therefore consider them trusted. But what about the other side of it? The whole idea of anonymous collaboration, is of course, anonymity. So how do we define just when to trust someone, and where do we draw the line? It is true that we benefit from academics and people who know their subject, so do "experts" in the traditional sense (e.g. academic pedigrees) still matter in this collaborative environment?

As reported by the Atlantic, a new study by researchers at Stanford University and Yahoo Research points to a complementary phenomenon: the definition of what makes someone an expert is changing. They search for expertise in Wikipedia's pages, and they find it, but what they're looking for – what they call expertise – uses different signals to project itself. Expertise, to these researchers, isn't who a writer is but what a writer knows, as measured by what they read online. Overall, the authors write, Wikipedia's editors are "more sophisticated than usual Web users."

It is difficult to deny that when somebody who knows something adds their knowledge, the Wikimedian community are thankful for it, but the question of when they deserve to be trusted, and not, remains a live one.

"Wikipedia is largely fiction"

The age-old debate has come up again: is what Wikipedia says true? The most common response to such a question is to argue yes, we try and reference most of it, and delete what is not referenced, but some things do slip through the net, so to speak. In this amusing yet short article, an actor from the film The Avengers, Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman on April 27, 2012.

Hemsworth said that his hometown Phillip Island was not part of any ocean, crediting Wikipedia as his source of information. Letterman responded by saying "Wikipedia is largely fiction". Hemsworth then said that in his own biography on the site, the information was true. "Well, my biography is true, it said I had seven brothers, four sisters. I was on a various amount of TV shows in Australia." Letterman said, "Now, wait a minute, you had seven brothers?" Hemsworth replied, "No, that’s what Wikipedia says." Letterman added, "There you go, you’ve proven my point for God’s sakes." It seems Hemsworth did not do a very good job of defending Wikipedia here; let's hope he does better at defending the world in his new film.

In brief

Jimmy Wales is to help give free access to research to the public
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  • Regarding expertise, I think an earlier observation in the same periodical was more insightful:
    "An authority isn't a person or institution who is always right – ain't no such animal. An authority is a person or institution who has a process for lowering the likelihood that they are wrong to acceptably low levels. [...] And this is what I think is really worth celebrating as Wikipedia begins its second decade. It took one of the best ideas of the last 500 years – peer review – and expanded its field of operation so dramatically that it changed the way authority is configured."
    Clay Shirky, "All-Star Thinkers on Wikipedia's 10th Anniversary", The Atlantic, 13 January 2011
Wikipedia eschews "expertism" for the most part, and the real question of trust revolves around whether and to what degree it matters who the heck all these "peers" are. ~ Ningauble (talk) 15:27, 8 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • "The age-old debate has come up again". All I can see is a pretty poor joke. Unless, of course, Hemsworth was looking up his information in some obscure, non-English Wikipedia. Nageh (talk) 17:58, 8 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Why on earth should some random actor (or any other random person) have any interest in "defending Wikipedia"? It's not his project. It can be hard to remember that to the rest of the world we're just another website -- a prominent one, yes, but something in which they have no personal investment. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 03:04, 13 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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