The reliability of Wikipedia (En)

The English Wikipedia was started in 2001 with the purpose of serving as a free content, web based encyclopedia that is accessible to all who have access to the internet. It primarily serves as a reference to almost anything one can think of. For example, if you happened to be unfamiliar with the Chernobyl Disaster then you would be able to find plentiful information via Wikipedia (among other sources). Wikipedia allows anonymous editing and submission of articles which means that anybody can contribute to the content of this encyclopaedia; information may also be removed.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to such an open system.

As already mentioned, anyone can add and/or edit articles which means that a collective wealth of knowledge can be consolidated and viewed from a central location. This provides the potential to have all knowledge pertaining to a particular subject, topic or otherwise unfamiliar subject to be available to anyone who seeks it. This also provides the ability for global collaboration – people in Australia can just as easily contribute to the work of someone that originated in the United Kingdom. Such editing is instantaneous and thus there is no need to wait for these edits to be approved or published by an administrator or publisher. Finally, using Wikipedia is a simple task and can be learned quickly therefore providing wide access to publishing for non-technical web users.

That said, certain advantages may prove disadvantageous from an alternative perspective. In particular, the potential for disinformation, spam and vandalism is present due to the simplicity of being able to edit documents. Vandalism can include inaccurate information, spam posts or simply the removal of information but due to the fact that Wikipedia records every change made, the ability to revert to an article’s pre-vandalised state is usually a viable solution.

Wikipedia is generally reviewed as a reliable source of information but because of the open nature of creating content, inaccuracies and misleading (malicious or otherwise) content can sometimes be presented. Being maintained by the public, these erroneous scenarios are usually corrected quite quickly and the majority of users will never come across such a situation. There are some controversial issues surrounding the use of Wikipedia in the past which can be viewed here. This link details concerns such as the quality of writing within articles, vandalism and the accuracy of information within articles.

Overall, the concept of Wikipedia is brilliant and, for the best part, works very well but as with any open technologies there will always be issues. It is reasonable to assume that generally, Wikipedia will provide you with accurate and relevant information and corroborating such information with other online sources is a task not too difficult for anybody with the computer literacy to make it to Wikipedia. Despite what Wikipedia has to offer, it is always wise to cross reference information with several sources.

Piracy and freedom on the internet

Over the last several years, combating piracy has been at the forefront of government objectives, at least in the USA and the UK. Speaking as a citizen of the UK, the effects can’t really be felt unless you intend to break the law (steal some movies over the internet or something). The concern, however, is how far will it go? Will these new obsessive objectives extend beyond their intentions and impede on ones free speech and does anybody really have the right to try and tame the internet?

Several high profile actions have occurred in the UK recently, most notably the requirement of ISPs to blacklist particular websites on order of the Courts. These orders are primarily issued to prevent the theft of intellectual property but as noted on Wired.co.uk’s take on the situation, these orders are influenced solely by private corporations and associations such as the BPI. This is, of course, a major blow to the piracy societies on the internet but it is in no means an end to the piracy problem – just a slight setback. It is also incredibly undemocratic. We have no explicit law being broken other than a breach of copyright and yet unelected persons and bodies are directly influencing the outcome – taking their case to court and seemingly having the courts issue orders left, right and centre that demand that ISPs block the stated websites with no input from society.

I don’t like it but I do understand. The censorship of pornographic and otherwise adult material is also kind of understandable. I just find it hard to wrap my head around any form of censorship, it shouldn’t be happening.

Take a look at this news article which describes David Cameron’s plans to require all ISPs to censor pornographic material to ‘protect’ children. Fair enough. But it’s a major invasion of privacy, for one, as internet customers would be required to request the removal of the filter from their ISP account if they so wish to view such material thus exposing their private habits and/or interests and two – it could get a lot more out of hand. It’s the start of censorship. These internet filters are brazenly implemented with full public knowledge but do the public really understand the gravity of what is happening? Such filters can just as easily be used to target anything the government deem unfit for society to view, irrregardless of whether or not the content is immoral. More over, individuals should be allowed to access content as they see fit. Once upon a time the internet was a free place and, thankfully, it still is for the most part but the potential for this to just wash away in the blink of an eye is upon us. It’s like Pandora’s box has been opened and we just have to wait and see what’s next.

The Impact on Society of Social Networking on the Web

 

We’ve entered a new ere of social networking. Once upon a time you may have met your friends down the pub to discuss a spot of relativity theory and the non-existence of colours. Gone are the days of leaving your home! With the emergence of services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ you seldom have to see another living soul in the flesh to communicate. Granted, we also have phones which most certainly contribute to this detached and isolated individualism that is society but that’s for another day.

At the click of a button, following a few keystrokes, you can spark the debate of a lifetime from your very own home. Not to mention the fact that you can stay in contact with people you never see, subconsciously spy on the lives of others thanks to their willingness to post their daily routines on Facebook, daily, and abuse the fat kid that made a funny vine. Is this such a bad thing?

Communicating through internet based social technologies is such a beautiful concept, it’s ridiculously convenient and merely replicates what has taken places since the dawn of time in a way that conforms to the current technological advances.

But is it healthy?  Surely, for the weak of mind and less in confidence, social networking seems fantastic – but is it not a hazard to their health? Lack of direct human interaction is, in my most humble opinion, never a good thing and social networking simply adds fuel to the fire. If you don’t like going out, and you don’t have to go out, why go out? The web is giving birth to a new global generation of recluse!

Bullying is another issue that comes as part of the spiders lair that is social networking (the web, get it?)! If you thought you left bullying behind you when you finished school, you might just be mistaken. Enter: Cyber bullying! According to the Megan Meier Foundation 39% of Social Network users have been cyber bullied in some way. This site also goes on to say that 1 in 10 teens who are subject to cyber bullying will attempt suicide! It’s worth noting that this foundation was set up at the end of 2007 by the mother of Megan Meier after Megan committed suicide following cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying and health aside, privacy is the next big concern. Love your privacy? Leave social networking well alone. There are countless examples of big social networking companies abusing their power to make money with your data. Sure enough they give you the option to opt out (in some cases) or stop certain people viewing your profile on Facebook, for example – but you provide more than enough ‘anonymous statistical data’ for them to sell on and earn a buck or two from your name. Perfected surveillance as a business model.

Anyway, my word limit is swiftly running out so if I don’t stop now I fear that this post will henceforth become an essay. I implore you to look at the following 2 sections on wikipedia to gain a little more insight on the past and current behaviours of Facebook:- Data Mining, Surveillance