Friday, August 17, 2007

The Kamm Recorder On Wicked Wikipedia

Oliver Kamm's criticism of Wikipedia seems to me to go well over the top. Whilst it is obvious to many of us that Wikipedia's entries can be (or become) distorted by a combination of errors and manipulations, this is hardly a unique problem when it comes to our handling information.

Newspapers, journals (even those from academia), magazines, books, conferences and chats in the pub all suffer from similar defects.

He argues that Wikipedia suffers from the "free-market dogmatism of the libertarian Right" and the "anti-intellectualism of the populist Left". So what's new? These sound like good descriptions of the Daily Mail on the one hand and of the popular politics shelves at Waterstones on the other.

Isn't the best approach to treat Wikipedia and the other avenues with a pinch of salt and to try to double-check claims wherever they come from? Yet we all have to start out from somewhere in checking out passing events in the world - even if (or especially) these are put forward on his blog by the anti-blogger known as Oliver Kamm.


Paul O'Hara said...

Hate to admit it but in the university I go to I know students who use wikipedia for disseration info sadly. you're right to say treat it wikipedia with a pinch of salt. I think its a great site. Oliver Kamm must feel threatened by it!

Harry Barnes said...

paul o'hara: when marking essays, sensible University Lecturers need to check that answers aren't pinched from wikipedia. But it is covenient to turn to. Pity they only have little more than a stub on me. And I added the link to this blog!

Gregory Kohs said...

If you think Kamm feels threatened by Wikipedia, how do you think Jimmy Wales feels about Kamm? Wales said of Kamm's arguments:

"This is preposterous."


"It is hard to know how to coherently respond to ignorant ranting which appears to make no attempt to even connect at any point with the facts of reality."

If you want somebody who sounds threatened, there you have it.

Harry Barnes said...

Gregory Kohs: criticism about Wales to see that wikipedia is as comprehensive and reliable as possible are important. As are encouragements to his users to check out what they look up. But a blanket criticism that indictates we should never use wikipedia as a source (even in a critical frame of mind) seems to me to be counter-productive. At one time I had the brilliant resources of the House of Commons Library and its reseachers to turn to for information. Now I basically have the internet, my files and my home and the public library to turn to. But wikipedia will be often be a first (but by no means a last) port of call. Its inadequate nature is obvious if you just luck at the stub about myself - and I had to add the link for this blog!

Danivon said...

Wikipedia is flawed, but is a useful starting point for research, or if you just want a quick idea on a topic. It's great if you hear a name of a minor figure in history but can't remember who they were.

Oliver Kamm, however, is by the evidence of his own blog pretty much obsessed with a small number of issues, the reliability of Wiki being one, blogging (apart from his own) being a bad thing, Neil Clarke apparently failed to sue him once and he has a famous uncle. I read his site as an excellent self-parody.

Harry Barnes said...

Danivon; Wikipedia is certainly useful as long as it is not taken as gospel (and the reader is aware of its methodology) - but that is true of any source of information.

I find some of Kamm's negative criticisms to be worthwhile (but not on Wikipedia and blogging) and I pick up on some of his references for he knows some interesting writings by others. But I seldom go along with his more positive claims.