Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's on Wikipedia, what's not...?

When researching online you can never quite be too sure what you’re going to get. You go to your favorite search engine, type in some key words then review the results. The chances that one of those results are going to be a Wikipedia entry are very likely, and according to Royal and Kapila, especially if the content you are searching is relevant to the time. Royal and Kapila, authors of What’s on Wikipedia, and what’s not…?, conducted a research study to determine the content they found on Wikipedia. Their results yielded several forms of bias in the content of information found on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, free to all. Wikipedia is run by its users providing entries and constantly updating those entries. Royal and Kapila’s study looked for the relationship between currency, importance, population of countries and economic power in determining how much information was provided on each Wikipedia entry. By the conclusion of the study it was found that the content on Wikipedia relied heavily on those factors. With very few exceptions, all of the previous factors increased content and word count on the Wikipedia pages, especially when compared to text versions of encyclopedias.

The results from this study offer much to think about. I look at the results as an increase in the power of Web 2.0. We as users have found a way to filter out what we are really looking for. Chances are if you want information on something that happened last week, it’s not going to be in a print version of an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia of modern time. Those who want to look to the past can do so by looking elsewhere. Companies with more economic power are most likely more known to people, so why wouldn’t they have more information. Web 2.0 is all about technologies becoming more user friendly and if the content on Wikipedia is what the people want, then it’s fulfilling its purpose.

Royal, Cindy & Kapila, Deepina. (in press). What’s on Wikipedia, and what’s not…? Social Science Computer Review.

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