Wikipedia Wins in PEW Report

On his blog, Tame the Web, Michael Stephens pointed towards the following new report from the PEW Internet and American Life Project:

In this report, “Pew reports that 36% of online American adults consult Wikipedia. A table included in the report details top sites used for reference and education. Wikipedia has 24% use in a table provided by Hitwise of those types of sites.” (from Tame The Web: Libraries and Technology: Pew Report on Wikipedia and Reference Sites).

Another interesting fact in this report is that usage of Wikipedia increases in correlation to income. More respondents at higher income levels reported using Wikipedia. Also, not surprisingly, younger researchers were more likely to use Wikipedia than older ones. I was actually surprised that the disparity was not greater. Even 31% of those respondents aged 50-64 reported using Wikipedia.The report mentioned that over 70% of Wikipedia users connect to the site via search engines. Since Wikipedia includes a high number of internal links from article to article, it may generate artificially high results rankings for itself in search engines such as Google.

So what’s a library to do? Most likely, embrace Wikipedia. Michael suggests taking ownership of the resource by creating entries. We are certainly actively teaching students and faculty about its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a librarian reading this, how is your library responding to the rise in popularity and use of Wikipedia?

Inside Higher Ed :: A Stand Against Wikipedia

Today must be wiki Friday 😉 A report from Inside Higher Ed, quotes Wikipedia officials’ reaction to policies by university professors that ban the citing of Wikipedia in student bibliographies. Note that neither policy mentioned was designed to stop students from using Wikipedia as a starting point for research, but rather to keep them from stopping there!

Jobs, News and Views for All of Higher Education – Inside Higher Ed :: A Stand Against Wikipedia
Wikipedia officials agree — in part — with Middlebury’s history department. “That’s a sensible policy,” Sandra Ordonez, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail interview. “Wikipedia is the ideal place to start your research and get a global picture of a topic, however, it is not an authoritative source. In fact, we recommend that students check the facts they find in Wikipedia against other sources. Additionally, it is generally good research practice to cite an original source when writing a paper, or completing an exam. It’s usually not advisable, particularly at the university level, to cite an encyclopedia.”

Citizendium – Academic Wikipedia!

Here’s a follow-up to an earlier post, ( While some studies have shown that Wikipedia is similar in reliability to traditional encyclopedias including Britannica, many academics have still felt nervous about the fact that anyone can contribute to Wikipedia. While the content is usually accurate, it is often incomplete and, what’s of more concern, it changes so frequently that it is very difficult to rely on. Today, a new project that has been in the works is, for the first time, allowing the public at large to register. Read the announcement below. Think of it as Wikipedia with an Editor! If you are an academic with special knowledge to contribute, think about signing up today.

The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a “citizens’ compendium of everything,” is an experimental new wiki project. The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by adding “gentle expert oversight” and requiring contributors to use their real names. It has taken on a life of its own and will, perhaps, become the flagship of a new set of responsibly-managed free knowledge projects. We will avoid calling it an “encyclopedia” until the project’s editors feel comfortable putting their reputations behind this description.

Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade? Chronicle of Higher Ed Discussion

The Chronicle: 10/27/2006: Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade?
“Are Wikipedians good historians?” he asked. “As in the old tale of the blind men and the elephant, your assessment of Wikipedia as history depends a great deal on what part you touch.”

The Chronicle article discusses the pros and cons of Wikipedia as well as studies and experiments that have been done to test its accuracy. The results may surprise you!

Some of the key issues include:

1. Some studies have shown that Wikipedia is practically as accurate as other more reputable published encyclopedias. At least one experiment demonstrated the rapidity with which most errors are corrected. However, opponents argue that the time during which the mistakes are available as well as the ever changing nature of Wikipedia are problematic.

2. Proponents of Wikipedia argue that the knowledge of the masses is sufficient to ensure that errors will be caught and corrected. Others argue that the knowledge of experts is needed to ensure quality. Co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, is a strong voice for this point of view. In an article posted October 24, 2006, he argues for the role of the expert in Web 2.0 projects and describes a new effort to create a scholarly wikipedia called “Citizendium”,

Whatever experts think about Wikipedia, the truth is that students are using it. Therefore, my mantra is that we must teach Wikipedia and explain both its strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, experts who denigrate Wikipedia should perhaps jump into the fray and help to correct it or, alternatively, join Larry Sanger in creating an expert driven wiki encyclopedia, Citizendium.