MGT/521 - Management
May 21, 2012
There is increase in popularity and use of the Internet for research purposes by schools and students. Popular among the web-based information resource is the Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that uses wiki software for the creation and editing of contents on its site. The use of Wikipedia for research has increased over the years. It is the world's acclaimed 6th most visited website ("Most Popular Websites on the Internet", 2012) . This status is not without its own challenges. The main one being that of credibility. An online encyclopedia that allows anyone to edit its entries to some, limits its validity. This paper attempts to look at some of the reasons its credibility is in question.
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia. It uses a collaborative software known as wiki to facilitate the creation, development, and editing of entries by contributors who do so without pay. It is available in 285 languages with about 100,000 regularly active contributors. Once connected to the web users can write and edit articles on the site. Wikipedia has gained much popularity particularly because of its rich information and full accessibility of data. However, owing to its open-source management style that allows anybody to change contents, there has been a growing concern about Wikipedia's credibility as a source of information for academic work.
Wikipedia was founded as an offshoot of Nupedia, a now-abandoned project to produce a free encyclopedia. Nupedia had an elaborate system of peer review and required highly qualified contributors but the writing of articles was slow. During 2000, Jimmy Wales, founder of Nupedia, and Larry Sanger whom Wales had employed to work on the project, discussed ways of supplementing Nupedia with a more open, complementary project. Multiple sources suggested that a wiki might allow members of the public to contribute material, and Nupedia's first wiki went online on January 10, 2001. There was considerable resistance by Nupedia's editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a website in the wiki format, so Sanger coined the name Wikipedia, which is a portmanteau of wiki (a type of collaborative website, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning "quick") and encyclopedia. Wikipedia was launched on its own domain, wikipedia.com, on January 15. In May 2001, a wave of non-English Wikipedia was launched. (Wikipedia, 2012).
Supporters of Wikipedia believe contents are verified for accuracy, and monitored for consistency and currency. Nevertheless, at the rate contents are created and edited - about three million in 2008 and presently 21 million - accuracy cannot match the speed! Voss (2011) stated "Edit history and user contributions are auxiliary clues (to the quality of the site) but very time-consuming to review" (p.10). Even the founder of Wikipedia have expressed concern over the existence of such inconsistency and inaccuracy of contents. " Various experts (including founder Jimmy Wales and Jonathan Zittrain, Oxford University) have expressed concern over possible (intentional or unintentional) bias" ("Wikipedia", 2012).
Others contend that because Wikipedia is a huge information resource, which allows open inspection and arguments in which changes are debated, it is a useful source for scholastic work (Smooth & Crovitz, 2011). Many others argue that the errors found on Wikipedia are not uncommon to errors found in other encyclopedias. For example, In December 2005, the scientific journal Nature published the results of a study comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia and the printed Encyclopedia Britannica. The researchers found that the number of "factual errors, omissions or misleading statements" in each references work was not so different - Wikipedia contained 162, and Britannica had 123. This was not generally accepted as the makers...