My Experiences with Wikipedia

I have been venturing forth into the world of Wikipedia. For those do not know, Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia that is written by anyone who wants to come along and contribute. If someone else does not like what you wrote, they can change it. Then you can change it back. Or they may simply add material that is relevant but simply had not been addressed. Surpisingly, this usually does not dissolve into an infinite digression. The differences are discussed in a forum and if need be, someone from Wikipedia will resolve them.

I have edited a number of pages, usually simply adding external links so that readers can look into the various viewpoints in more depth. But, I have provided substantial editing to two Wiki-entries:

Wikipedia: Jesus-Myth

I found this entry as a “stub” (a short descriptive place holder) and added the history of the Jesus-Myth idea, the present academic perspective, and arguments for and against. I also fleshed out the links to provide more balanced resources and internet sites. The silliest changes I have had to fend off and correct has been one contributor’s insistence that the entry should have a section claiming that it does not matter whether Jesus existed or not. I took the case to the Discussion board and that seems to have settled the issue, though the advocate of the latter idea has so far not made an appearance.

Wikipedia: The Massacre of the Innocents

This entry was largely developed, but contained some inaccuracies and simply lacked some relevant data. I added in some material and clarified other points. Another contributor altered my edits somewhat and added some information about Josephus. In response, I clarified some of the misleading characterizations of Josephus’ writings about Herod’s atrocities, but left some of the other changes alone because they were fair additions.

On a whole, my biggest fear – of contributor anarchy – appears on first impression not to be as bad as I had expected. Of course, users should be warned because though articles may not change significantly from day to day, significant changes do occur and smaller changes compound daily. There is a continuous tug-of-war, and the religious entries seem to attract people of strong conviction from both sides.

Additionally, there is plenty of what is called "vandalaism"; people who alter the site to make silly, insulting, or taunting comments. For example, the Jesus page will say "Jesus was gay" until someone changes it back. Fortunately, such changes are usually caught quickly and eliminated from the board. Still, be careful if you are cutting and pasting that you get the text that you want.

There is one more warning I would give. Most encyclopedias, in my experience, give some attention to the minority viewpoint while focusing on the majority position. At Wikipedia, their NPOV (Non-Point of View) policy results in much more attention being given to the minority viewpoints. Sometimes very minority viewpoints. The majority view is usually identified as such, but it is not always given attention proportionate to its predominance in academics.

All that being said, I find Wikipedia a useful “quick” resource on various issues. It also has the advantage of being linkable, so it inevitably is gaining more and more notoriety around the ‘net. For that reason alone, informed laypersons and even professionals are needed to “police” this resource to ensure that as little misinformation and propaganda as possible is distributed.


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