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Wikipedia is used by many people as a first resource when doing a quick search on a topic of interest, largely because it also often provides links to a myriad of other inputs. I just read a piece by ZME Science which makes the following remarks:

 

Sverker Johansson could encompass the definition of prolific. The 53-year-old Swede has edited so far 2.7 million articles on Wikipedia, or 8.5% of the entire collection. But there’s a catch – he did this with the help of a bot he wrote. Wait, you thought all Wikipedia articles are written by humans?
Read more at This author edits 10,000 Wikipedia entries a day
 

 

 
Lsjbot’s entries are categorized by Wikipedia as stubs – pages that contain only the most important, basic bits of information. This is why his bot works so well for animal species or towns, where it can make sense to automatize the process. In fact, if Wikipedia has a chance of reaching its goal of encompassing the sum of the whole human knowledge, it needs bots. It needs billions of entries, and this is no task a community of humans can achieve alone, not even one as active and large as Wikipedia.
Read more at This author edits 10,000 Wikipedia entries a day

 

 

 

http://www.zmescience.com/research/w...nce%29#!bf3Iwr

This is very interesting to me and explains why many of the pages contain only very basic content, presented in a similar format. I was wondering how many of you were already aware of this and what your thoughts and comments are regarding the use of Bots as research assistants and authors.

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Very interesting indeed. This information could re-ignite the academic debate on the accuracy of Wikipedia and whether it should be used and trusted as a source of referencing in scientific article writing. The advice given to scientific writers to date is to back up a Wikipedia citing with at least one other scientifically accredited or recognized source.

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I find that for general principles wikipedia is excellent. Something like Newton's Laws of Motion is going to be subject to so many views that errors, or inconsistencies will be removed.

 

It is the specialist areas in which I would be more cautious. I new of a contributor through another forum whose grasp of geology was questionable at best, yet he was entering a detailed discussion of the geological history of a complex area. Very dangerous.

 

However, even in these cases, I find it invaluable for an overview - even if it might be biased - and I then consult the references and their references until I am comfortable I've got a reasonable consensus view of the topic.

 

 

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I suppose it makes sense for data specific entries as noted in the article I cite, animal and plant species, demographic information on towns and cities etc. It also helps that Wikipedia is expected to reference and provide links to the sources of the information it is drawing from so that makes it a decent springboard if it provides additional credible links.

 

I think what astounded me the most was the fact that one author, with the aid of bots accounts for 8.5% of the entire breadth and compass of Wikipedia. Ten thousand edits a day, 2.7 million articles...that's huge!

 

The source of the source of the source...

 

At another forum I was on, there were bots scraping the site and for a while the site was put on lock-down, available to members only. When a story like this pops up, I can't help but wonder if the bots were sourcing information for Wikipedia. I gather that they were not trying to hack personal information, just 'grazing' on posts made by members.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I find that for general principles wikipedia is excellent. Something like Newton's Laws of Motion is going to be subject to so many views that errors, or inconsistencies will be removed. It is the specialist areas in which I would be more cautious. I new of a contributor through another forum whose grasp of geology was questionable at best, yet he was entering a detailed discussion of the geological history of a complex area. Very dangerous. However, even in these cases, I find it invaluable for an overview - even if it might be biased - and I then consult the references and their references until I am comfortable I've got a reasonable consensus view of the topic.

I tend to not use Wikipedia as my only source of information on a subject because it is only as good as the writer's knowledge. Some of the writers are not as knowledgeable as they should be and therefore don't really give you complete or accurate information.  I usually click on the references as well, sometimes getting better information from the reference than the article itself.

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