[Foundation-l] Academic article review

Delirium delirium at hackish.org
Sat Mar 7 06:56:18 UTC 2009

Pharos wrote:
> My experience has been that, although certainly there is room for
> expansion in scientific articles on specialty topics, Wikipedia
> already has much better coverage of science than any print
> encyclopedias, and most basic scientific subjects are treated fairly
> completely.
> In contrast, Wikipedia's coverage of the humanities is often inferior
> to the better print encyclopedias, and even with very basic subjects.
> This is perhaps because the humanities lend themselves less to easy
> summary, as there is usually a great variety of scholarly opinion on
> basic subjects, unlike in science.

I don't think that's actually true. I think some areas, like evolution 
that you mentioned, are covered reasonably well, because there are 
enough Wikipedians who have an interest in and reasonably decent 
knowledge of the field to write a good article, and perhaps more 
importantly to fend off non-good contributions or edits to the article. 
In many areas of science this is not true.

Oddly for a computer encyclopedia, our computer science articles are 
largely quite poor, except in "pop computing" types of articles like 
discussions of the Linux kernel or tech companies, which are decent. My 
personal area of professional expertise is artificial intelligence, and 
our articles on *that* subject are so bad that I'm embarrassed to try to 
introduce academics in my field to Wikipedia, since I know they'll 
probably look those articles up first and be turned off by the 
AI-kookiness that pervades them.

I think if the humanities on average are worse than the sciences on 
average, it's mostly down to who we have as contributors versus don't. 
Of course, complex fields with a variety of scholarly opinion are harder 
to cover, but we cover them fairly well where we have a lot of dedicated 
contributors with detailed knowledge of all those opinions, and badly in 
areas where we don't, or where they're outnumbered by people who don't 
really know what they're talking about.


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