by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
notable, wikipedia


Wikipedia Focuses On Notable Subjects For A Reason

from the critical-mass dept

Techcrunch has a profile of Biographicon, a site that touts itself as a site "for everyone's biography." I wish them the best, but I think they might have some trouble making their concept work. The idea behind the site is that it would be similar to Wikipedia, but without the notability requirement that limits Wikipedia entries to relatively famous individuals. The problem is that Wikipedia imposes these limits for good reasons. Although I've criticized Wikipedia for applying the requirement too strictly, I think it rests on a fundamentally sound insight: the wiki editing process will only work if there is a non-trivial number of people who aren't closely tied to the subject. One of the core tenets of the Wikipedia editing process is that the articles are not the authors' own opinions. Rather, they are summaries of facts that can be found in reliable sources like newspapers and magazines. This helps make the articles even-handed by giving the process some degree of objectivity. Anyone can look at the reliable sources cited and verify that they're being summarized accurately. The problem that Biographicon is likely to face is that the only people with information about most people (or the motivation to write an article about them) are the people themselves, and those with close ties to them. As a result, a Biographicon page will likely be little more than personal home page, often maintained by the subject or his close friends. The other option is even worse: somebody's enemies might come along and add unflattering information about an individual, sparking a prolonged edit war. Either way, there's no reason to expect the pages that result to be particularly accurate or well-written. The "wisdom of crowds" only works when you're able to muster an actual crowd, and it looks to me like Biographicon will have difficulty achieving the necessary critical mass for pages about people nobody's heard of.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2008 @ 12:06pm

    The notability requirement has annoyed groups to starts their own specialist version of wikipedia though.

    For example, Comixpedia.org is a specialist wiki dedicated to the world of online comics. It already have 3,000 articles.

    Heck, my own wiki, Libregamewiki.org, a wiki that explore the world of FOSS games, is started as a partial response to the notability requirement.

    The thing is, the vague notability requirement is driving off content and enthusiast of obscure subjects such as webcomics and FOSS video games. It sparked a few word of wars and hostility between wikipedia contributors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    angry dude, 6 Mar 2008 @ 12:54pm


    A lecturer gives a presentation at some remote kibbutz

    "This is a skull of Karl Marx when he was 8..
    and this is a scull of Karl Marx when he was 15.."

    A question from the audience:
    Excuse me, sir, how can one man have two sculls?

    "Where are you coming from, fella ?"

    From academia, sir

    "Then get the f*** out of here, go back to your academia, this is a lecture for retarded kibutz workers !!!!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2008 @ 12:59pm

    But *mostly*, mostly. The things people try to push as notable (and I've seen both biography and FOSS game disputes) are... just not notable and obscure. ESPECIALLY the FOSS games.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Jake, 6 Mar 2008 @ 1:37pm

    In all fairness to Wikipedia, they are on a finite budget and totally reliant on contributions from the public, and a page that gets two thousand hits a year takes up as much space on their servers as a page that gets two thousand hits a week. As much as I'm sure they'd like to be, they can't be all things to all men and have to prioritise. If you have a particular, specialist interest that only a relative handful of people share, Wikipedia's UI and code are open source; I've even seen Comixpedia appear as a source for a presumably rather less-detailed Wikipedia article on a particular comic series.
    On the other hand, if they don't do this already it might be a helpful gesture on Wikipedia's part to automatically redirect users to an example like libregamewiki.org if they type 'FOSS Games' into the search box. I also agree with the first commenter's point that the notability threshold needs to be clearly defined; some kind of probationary period, after which it's taken down if it doesn't get a certain number of hits, perhaps?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2008 @ 2:58pm

    Biographicon isn't that almost the same as Myspace with out the networking features.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2008 @ 6:59pm

    Wikipedia is not wisdom of the crowds.

    Wikipedia is not 'wisdom of the crowds.' It fails on the 'independence' criteria established by Surowiecki.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Sodium, 17 Mar 2008 @ 10:56pm

    WIKI on Tips

    Why not a WIKI on Tips and check list of subjects of everyday life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Sdium, 17 Mar 2008 @ 10:57pm

    Re: WIKI on Tips

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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