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1 Definition

Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information. (Wikipedia:About, retrieved 15:55, 10 October 2007 (MEST).)

See the wiki article for some information about wikis in general and a little discussion about wikis in education and see also Open source and Open content and Open educational resources

The purpose of this article is summary some work about WikiMedia (i.e. Wikipedia and other content sites) and to provide some crucial links for "Wikipedia research".

2 The Wikimedia Galaxy

Wikipedias are just one kind of websites that Wikimedia sponsors. In addition to these best known encyclopedias, there are other services, including:

Some of these are in principle of great interest to education and the "greater public" is not always aware of their existence. Most services exist in several languages and some in many. Language versions are sometimes not just translations, but present information in different ways.

However, Wikiversity seems to have trouble getting of the ground. Many courses a seriously underdeveloped and we wonder if a decentralized approach (e.g. various institutions hosting various topic-specific mediawikis) couldn't do a better job. In other words, Wikiversity might just become a clearning house instead and maybe a mirror. Also read Is the Wikimedia Foundation going to close Wikiversity? (March 2010). As for myself (Daniel K. Schneider), I prefer Wikibooks.

In addition to content-oriented sites, the Wikimedia foundation includes a number of "project" sites.

3 Wikipedia research

Wikipedia is the object for many types of research, such as social networking analysis, wiki dynamics, visualization. See also the Wiki metrics, rubrics and collaboration tools article for some interesting pointers.

There are dozens of peer reviewed articles dealing with various facets of Wikipedia. A subset is listed in the Academic studies of Wikipedia article. An incomplete summary of research topics is provided in Academic studies about Wikipedia.

Wikipedia as an academic source lists articles that cite Wikipedia (yes you can!) and Wikipedia in research is an opinion piece on using Wikipedia in research.

4 Wikipedia in education

There are two major uses cases: Use Wikipedia as a resource or have students learn by contributing to Wikipedia.

Wikis such as Wikipedia can be successfully used as content resource in various subject areas (in the same way that one use paper encyclopedias and other on-line resources). Mileage a teacher can get from Wikipedia and similar web sites varies a lot. In some areas, cover of Wikipedia is very good, in others it is not. As an example, coverage of color is very good. A lot of debate concerns the question whether one can trust Wikipedia articles. For graduate teaching this is rather irrelevant (Daniel K. Schneider thinks). Students should be able to figure if a Wikipedia article is based on refereed scientific articles or technical literature such as standards. They also should follow up these links and be able to come up with their own assessment. Wikipedia is just an entry point! Finally, in the social sciences in particular, even peer-reviewed articles do not necessarily contain knowledge that one can transfer from a research context to practices. Just recall all the big ongoing debates, e.g. the the media debate or comparative analysis of major instructional design models.

Studies show that writing-to-learn activities in Wikipedia can be beneficial for learning. E.g. Carver et al. (2012), Patten et al. (2012) and Chiang et al. (2012). See the Wikipedia Education Program for more information about the the Wikipedia's initiative to have “professors around the world assign their students to contribute to Wikipedia for class assignments.”

An other issue concerns research and debate. Teaching at university level (in particular in research universities as opposed to some teaching universities) also exposes students to research and debate. Contents that refer to current research are not allowed in Wikipedia and debates only a little bit. This is the main issue Daniel K. Schneider has about Wikipedia: Authors don't sign and there is no debate. Encyclopedias are an illusion, most knowledge is not safe nor universal.

Finally, there are alternatives to Wikipedia for teachers afraid to expose students to the world of the wisdom of the crowds, e.g.

  • Global: Citizendium
  • In EduTech: Orey, M. (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia. HTML

5 Software

Software developed for Wikipedia can and is used for many different purposes. This Wiki is just one of the many examples. Portalware, i.e. wiki technology used is redistributed under the label of MediaWiki. So this wiki is not a wikipedia, but a mediawiki. Btw. you can trust this wiki even less than wikipedia. First of all it's a place to collect thoughts and opinions and to link them. It's a place to make you think and to help you exploring, not a place to copy/paste knowledge into your head ...

6 Wikipedia's editing rules and article ratings

At the core of Wikipedia's editing rules are the five pillars that we quote from Wikipedia's Wikpedia article:

According to the rules on the English Wikipedia, each entry in Wikipedia to be worthy of inclusion must be about a topic that is encyclopedic and is not a dictionary entry or dictionary-like. A topic should also meet Wikipedia's standards of "notability", which usually means that it must have received significant coverage in reliable secondary sources such as mainstream media or major academic journals that are independent of the subject of the topic. Further, Wikipedia must expose knowledge that is already established and recognized.[60] In other words, it must not present, for instance, new information or original works. A claim that is likely to be challenged requires a reference to a reliable source. Among Wikipedia editors, this is often phrased as "verifiability, not truth" to express the idea that the readers, not the encyclopedia, are ultimately responsible for checking the truthfulness of the articles and making their own interpretations. Finally, Wikipedia must not take a side. All opinions and viewpoints, if attributable to external sources, must enjoy an appropriate share of coverage within an article. This is known as neutral point of view, or NPOV. (retrieved Jan 24, 2010).

6.1 High quality articles

Based on various content and style rules, Wikipedia put in place a system to identify high quality articles. There are three main kinds: featured articles identified by a little Cscr-featured.svg ,good articles represented by Symbol support vote.svg, and A articles identified by a little Symbol a class.svg.

Each day, Wikipedia (en) displays a different featured article on their main page.

Cscr-featured.svg Featured articles exemplify their “very best work and [are] distinguished by professional standards of writing, presentation, and sourcing”. Featured articles must be respect some sets of criteria:

  • General Policy Guidelines must be respected, in particular content related-ones (article titles, image use, neutral point of view, no original research, notability, verifiability, etc.)
  • It should be well-written, comprehensive, well-researched using reliable sources, neutral (presenting views fairly and without bias) and stable.
  • It should respect all style guidelines, including a good introduction and consistent citations..
  • It should use appropriate media with appropriate captions.
  • The article should be written in summary style, i.e. focus on the essential.

Symbol support vote.svg Good articles have been evaluated by an uninvolved editor against a minimum standard of quality. A good article should respect the following criteria:

Symbol a class.svg A-class articles are similar to good articles. The main difference seems to be that these cover a subject in detail, following the Wikipedia:How to write a great article guideline. “ It should be of a length suitable for the subject, appropriately structured, and be well referenced by a broad array of reliable sources. It should be well illustrated, with no copyright problems. Only minor style issues and other details need to be addressed before submission as a featured article candidate.” (Grading scheme template, 12/2013)

6.2 Wikipedia's assessment system

As of December 2013, Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Assessment defines the grading scheme used to qualify articles. It distinguished between standard grades (e.g. FA, A, GA) and non-standard grades. In addition, the Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Release Version Criteria defines importance, as a combination of manual assessment and analytics based on links/hits, as explained in the Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Article selection article.

According to the Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Assessment article (dec 2013), “The quality assessments are mainly performed by members of WikiProjects, who tag talk pages of articles. These tags are then collected by a bot, which then generates output such as a table, log and statistics.” This procedure seems to work. However, we can't resist commenting that a solution based on Semantic MediaWiki using Semantic Forms and Semantic Result Formats would allow users to pull information together in a more easy and flexible way. Of course SMW may add other complications, e.g. the need for more CPU power.

The full grading scheme is available as a so-called template that can be customized for various purposes: The Grading_scheme template's documentation is well done (expand the "show" buttons" and it also includes some examples.

Various wiki projects / subject domains then can customize this template and/or add additional grading criteria.

Articles that are different from content pages, in particular lists and pictures also can be rated.


6.3 Article creation and revision procedure

As explained in Wikipedia:Starting an article (12/2013), articles can only be created by registered users. Anonymous users can submit a request for article creation.

At some point, it was planned to introduce a flagged revision system, i.e. people can edit, but someone has to approve these edits. This is now practiced in the German Wikipedia, in some other MediaWiki sites (e.g. Wikibooks), but not on the English Wikipedia.

7 Criticism

Of course, there is a number of criticism that one could address to Wikipedia.

Overal, we (Daniel K. Schneider) think that the task of creating a universal encyclopedia that pleases everyone is not possible and for various practical, economic, political/ideological and epistemological reasons. Since there must be some control over contents - just image billions of junk web pages that spammers would create - there must a set of clear editing rules and a body who exercises control. It now appears that various Wikipedia communities are in the hands of a clique or several cliques that enforce editing policy in way that some people don't like. For example, Points of Views (POV) are not allowed, i.e. most Wikipedia editors in power believe that truth should be universally accepted, can be accepted as neutral point of view (NPOV) and be backed up by serious sources. From a philosopher's point of view, this stance doesn't make sense, since every knowledge is contextualized and that includes POVs. Of course, it gets worse when Wikipedia editors enforce their own non-neutral POV, but then we can find such bias in any publication ...

Another difficult rule is notability. Now what is notable ? Is for instance, that company notable ?

Another often heard critique is that some contents are weak or plain wrong (whatever that means). What some people criticizing Wikipedia's accuracy do not understand is that any source of knowledge must be questioned (including refereed academic literature). The difference is just that you'll have to a bit more careful and critical in some cases than in others....

A good example of a known critical website is Wikipedia review. Read some discussions and follow up links. Also read our editing rules for a different approach that is more tolerant, but that also takes the stance that EduTechWiki readers are mature enough to have their own judgment.

8 Links

8.1 Articles, posts, etc.

  • Carver, B., Davis, R., Kelley, R. T., Obar, J. A., & Davis, L. L. (2012). Assigning Students to Edit Wikipedia: four case studies. E-Learning and Digital Media, 9(3), 273–283. PDF
  • Chiang, C. D., Lewis, C. L., Wright, M. D. E., Agapova, S., Akers, B., Azad, T. D., Banerjee, K., et al. (2012). Learning chronobiology by improving Wikipedia. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 27(4), 333–36. HTML
  • L. Endrizzi, L'édition de référence libre et collaborative : le cas de Wikipédia, INRP, Dossiers de la veille scientifique et technique, 2006 (HTML).
  • Giles Jim (2005). "Internet Encyclopedias Go Head to Head." Nature 438 (15 December 2005): 900-901. The Web version includes Britannica's rebuttal and Nature's response. HTML
  • Fister, Barbara (2007). Wikipedia and the Challenge of Read/Write Culture, Library Issues 27 (3). PDF
  • Hogg, J. L. (2012). Wikipedia: How Instructors Can Use This Technology As A Tool In The Classroom. Worldcomp’12. PDF
  • Liu Alan. "Developing a Wikipedia Research Policy." Kairosnews. 29 June 2006. A proposed policy for student use of Wikipedia, reprinted from the Humanist discussion list. HTML
  • Lessig Lawrence (2004). Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin, 2004. Website and PDF - HTML at Ebooks.
  • Patten, K., & Keane, L. (2012). Integrating Wikipedia Projects into IT Courses: Does Wikipedia Improve Learning Outcomes? AMCIS 2012 Proceedings. PDF
  • Poe, Marshall (2006). "The Hive: Can Thousands of Wikipedians be Wrong? How an Attempt to Build an Online Encyclopedia Touched Off History's Biggest Experiment in Collaborative Knowledge." Atlantic Monthly 298 (September, 2006): 86-96.
  • Rosenzweig. R. (2006). Can history be open source ? Wikipedia and the future of the past, in The Journal of American History , vol. 93(1), pp. 117-146, juin 2006. HTML Reprint
  • Sanger Larry (1006). "Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge." Citizendium. HTML (describes the rationale behind Citizendium).

8.2 Wikipedia education programme

8.3 Policy, Editing rules and quality

Rules and Guidelines
Quality of content
  • WikiTrust is a set of software implementing an algorithm that measures trust through reputation of authors and their involvement. The software includes e.g. a server plugin + a firefox plugin that will enable a new "Trust" tab on top of the wiki page. Works with some Media servers but you can install it in your own MediaWiki.

8.4 Wikipedia and Wikipedian science

Wikimedia (and therefore also Wikipedia) research is supported by Wikimedia and there is an official support structure plus content pages.

Official and semi-offical entry pages
  • Research:Index on Meta-wiki includes important WikiMedia links to research on Wikipedia and other WikiMedia content sites. It is maintained by the Research committee. However, articles in the "Wikipedia" category of Wikipedia seem to be missing from this index.
  • WikiMedia Research committee, created by the WMF staff consisting of Wikimedia volunteers, researchers, and Wikimedia Foundation staff. Its mandate is to help organize policies, practices and priorities around Wikimedia-related research
  • WikiMedia Research Newsletter
  • Resources, a rather disorganized list
Lists of publications about Wikimedia sites