“Wikilawyering” & the Demise of Wikipedia

PARC (company)
Image via Wikipedia

Sorry for my relentless potshots at Wikipedia, but I can’t resist. It paints a large target.

The Palo Alto Research Center has been examining Wikipedia and has concluded that it may be headed for a tumble. New article growth has flattened and declined and the community appears less welcoming to new contributors. Researchers believe these factors ultimately will compromise the quality of the on-line encyclopedic juggernaut in the long-haul.

The latter condition, in particular, is believed to represent a harmful trend away from broad contribution and toward a more limited, active and established group of editors. There is a significant increase in “reversions” of the changes made by casual editors on existing articles. The researchers opine that the trend signals community resistence to new content that may strengthen or tighten articles. Community resistence likely will result in new editors turning away from the community, thereby reducing the number of “eyes” available to spot article vandalism.

Furthermore, when it comes to weighing new versus existing edits, advantage goes to the more established Wikipedia editors who have a greater understanding of Wikipedia’s guidelines and “angles” than that possessed by new editors. Established editors can leverage their knowledge of the “rules” to engage in “wikilawyering” and beat down the changes from a procedural perspective.

Wikipedia’s own review team is attributing the greater number of edit reverts to spam.

Whatever the reason for the reverts, the net result on the integrity of Wikipedia as a solid reference guide is not a positive yield. Neither spam nor Wiki-administrative law-experts have the overall well-being of the end user in mind. File these concerns along with the many other chinks in the armor of the Number-One-Stop-For-Reference-Librarians-And-Other-Computer-Connected-Researchers in your virtual filing cabinet for easy reference.

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