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A Wikipedia challenge

I should have realized the danger of stepping into the Wikipedia morass, and the comments on today’s earlier post further indicate my folly in doing so. You know, The New York Times gets things wrong, too. As an argument on a sophisticated level, it’s that all texts are constructs reflecting the attitude of the constructor rather than a verifiable external reality; on a less sophisticated level, it’s that all the other kids are smoking pot, too.

I’ve had enough. I’m bringing it down to this challenge.

In a previous post, Grant Barrett, a professional lexicographer and the kind of writer whose expertise should be welcome on Wikipedia, explained why he has given up on it:

Within my experience, every—all, every one, in toto, all inclusive, the whole shebang—Wikipedia article I have checked has had errors in it.

Many of the corrections I have made to Wikipedia in areas in which I have expertise were later erased or effaced, usually by the insertion of provably false information or nuttiness by some self-serving nutjob who doesn't know a dictionary from a dingo. The entry on "slang" comes to mind.

Why should I waste my time in correcting something that I'll just have to correct again? Like John, I don't have the luxury of being able to camp out and defend against ignorance, unlike my colleagues who keep the entry for "jazz (word)" in good order.

In all the justifications and expostulations about Wikipedia sent to this blog to date, no one has ever responded directly to Mr. Barrett’s criticism. So here is the challenge: Give me a response to this criticism that makes a persuasive case that Wikipedia is valuable despite these disabilities, and I will publicly repent of my criticism.

Otherwise, I will consider that Wikipediasts’ have failed to meet the challenge, that the criticisms posted in this blog are valid, and that further discussion is sterile. We will more on to more rewarding subjects.

I will approve all comments that are not outright abusive but will not respond to further comments myself.



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