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Wikipedia now gaining credibility?

May 13, 2008

As soon as Wikipedia got big, it became fashionable to bash on it: “But it’s not a scholarly source.”  True enough, and it wasn’t hard to find entries that lacked credibility. But kudos to Wikipedia for recognizing their limitations, and taking steps to address them. 

To reach its goal of academic standards, said Wikipedia’s web site, it set up an assessment scale on its English-language site. The best encyclopedia entries are ranked as “Featured Articles,” and run each day on the home page

To be ranked as a “Featured Article,” Wikipedia said an entry must “provide thorough, well-written coverage of their topic, supported by many references to peer-reviewed publications.”

Of more than 10 million articles in 253 languages, only about 2,000 have reached “Featured Article” status, it said

Now some folks in higher ed are beginning to embrace Wikipedia as part of the academic process. This included assigning students to write a Wikipedia entry in lieu of a term paper:


As an experiment, last January [Prof. Jon] Beasley-Murray [of Latin American literature at the University of British Columbia] promised his students a rare A+ grade if they got their projects for his literature course, called “Murder, Madness and Mayhem,” accepted as a Wikipedia Featured Article.”

In May, three entries created by nine students in the course became the first student works to reach Wikipedia’s top rank.

Their articles, about the book “El Senor Presidente” by Nobel prize-winning Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias, ran May 5 on Wikipedia’s home page..Monica Freudenreich, who worked on the Asturias entry, said she liked the fact her contribution will survive online. Usually term papers “end up in a binder than eventually sits under my bed,” she wrote on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia itself invites professors “to use Wikipedia in your class to demonstrate how an open content website works (or doesn’t).”

But the experiment has had controversies, including student work that was instantly deleted as not “notable.”


What do you think of Wikipedia’s growing academic cred? Is this an isolated incident, or are you seeing professors and higher ed in general becoming more open to the role of an open-source content provider? At the end of the day, do you see much of a difference between traditional expressions of knowledge and Wikipedia? 

I have to confess, I’m partly interested in this because I’ve been developing another open-source project (much more limited scope than Wikipedia, but still useful I believe). It’s still a work-in-progress so I’m not ready to unveil it yet, but the issues of credibility in relation to open-sourcing are very much relevant.

One Comment leave one →
  1. mozey permalink
    May 13, 2008 10:03 am

    Interesting question :) i’m soo tempted to hammer on you with “WACHU WORKIN ON”. But instead:

    At work (enterprise tech), we use wikipedia ALL the time to reference new technologies in our emails, or to describe stuff in slideshows. So it is credible in that sense!. Kind of like a thump prints, will guide us one way, but we are NOT building a case on it!.

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