Why to use Wikipedia: answer for Eye on DNA

Hsien-Hsien Lei knows perfectly how much I admire and respect her work (first at Genetics and Health, now at Eye on DNA), but this time, I have to disagree with her post on why not to use Wikipedia. I would like to answer all of her points, and try to give a clear overview of this serious question. (She said, I say)

  • The information is biased.

Doesn’t matter. I don’t care about who writes an article, I just want to see as many references as possible. If a professor writes something in a Wikipedia or in a Nature article without proper references, then someone should trust it? I don’t think so. The only job of Wikipedians these days is to fill the articles with proper references.

  • Edits are futile.

Yes, it’s always hard to work in a community. If you put something in an article that shouldn’t be there, then it’s going to be removed. If you put something good and someone removes it, then you have dozens of possibilities how to revert it. A whole process was made to help editors who have problems like you’ve mentioned (a possible enemy for example). Sometimes it takes time and energy, it happens.

  • The Wikipedia community is exclusionary.

Self-promotion is a serious problem. A medical Wikipedia entry mustn’t contain links to blogs or other homepages (except official ones) as you can’t consider those reliable sources of information. Wikipedians don’t have a hobby to remove any self-promotional link, just try to make the articles objective and reliable. We have clear guidelines about what self-promotion means.

  • Wikipedians are defensive and always on the attack.

I think you had a bad experience, that’s why you said that. When you have to handle really thousands of vandals, then it becomes harder to assume good faith. Wikipedia can’t gather only exceptional and perfectly cultured people. Wikipedia is like a country, it consists of various persons. If you have a problem with an editor, you still have at least a dozen of chances how to prove your point.

  • Wikipedia isn’t the only source of information.

Of course! But Wikipedia is not created for experts, it’s the encyclopaedia of laypeople. Of course, other, well-illustrated and useful scientific sites are much better than Wikipedia. But do all of those sites provide total explanations of genetic diseases, or definitions of gene, DNA or PCR reaction? I’m pretty sure that you can find relevant information about these expressions somewhere around the internet, but Wikipedia tries to give it to you in one place. And what is the most important thing; and please, never forget it: Wikipedia is a work in progress

Hsien, you must know that we’re on the same side. Our goals are the same, believe me. The only difference is that I’m a Wikipedia admin and that’s why I tried to answer your questions, concerns. I just want to have a universal database of knowledge accessible for everyone. If it is called Wikipedia, then let it be. I hope you rethink some of your points. If not, at least, we had an interesting blogflame. 🙂

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