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Is Wikipedia a black hole?

January 22, 2007

Over the weekend, Wikipedian-in-Chief Jimmy Wales decreed that all links on the site would be tagged as "No Follow." That means, in essence, that the links become invisible to search engines like Google's. The engines won't take the links into account in ranking search results. Wikipedia is adopting the policy to reduce spammers' incentives to add spam links to the encyclopedia. I wonder, though, if it could also have the effect of reinforcing Wikipedia's hegemony over search results. The sources cited in Wikipedia, many of which are original sources, will no longer get credit for their appearance there, which should cause at least a little downward pressure in their own search rankings (hence providing a little more upward pressure, relatively speaking, for Wikipedia's articles). Although the no-follow move is certainly understandable from a spam-fighting perspective, it turns Wikipedia into something of a black hole on the Net. It sucks up vast quantities of link energy but never releases any.

UPDATE: Search engine expert Philipp Lenssen seems to agree:

Such a change in Wikipedia, with [its] millions of pages – many of which rank excellent in Google and have a high PageRank – has a potentially strong impact on Google search results. Google relies on links to determine its result rankings, and thus huge amount of outgoing links on Wikipedia do their share in influencing that ...

What happens as a consequence, in my opinion, is that Wikipedia gets valuable backlinks from all over the web, in huge quantity, and of huge importance – normal links, not “nofollow” links; this is what makes Wikipedia rank so well – but as of now, they’re not giving any of this back. The problem of Wikipedia link spam is real, but the solution to this spam problem may introduce an even bigger problem: Wikipedia has become a website that takes from the communities but doesn’t give back, skewing web etiquette as well as tools that work on this etiquette (like search engines, which analyze the web’s link structure). That’s why I find Wikipedia’s move very disappointing.

Seth Finkelstein also comments on the move.

UPDATE: Amit Agarwal provides an illustration of how the no-follow rule may affect other sites, particularly smaller ones:

Say you discover a cool feature in the iPod (called Stylus) and blog about it. Tomorrow, the Wikipedia contributors append the details of iPod Stylus (your discovery) to the Wikipedia page on iPod. They do attribute your blog but search engines will never see that attribution (or read your blog via Wikipedia) because of the rel=nofollow tag. Now that Wikipedia enjoys higher credibility and trust (read PageRank), the search algorithms will rank the Wikipedia iPod page higher than yours (for queries like iPod Stylus) because the search engine bots are not aware that Wikipedia's content is actually based on your blog page. Result, your site appears after Wikipedia in the "iPod Stylus" search results and you get less or no traffic while Wikipedia gets to enjoy all the fruits of your labor.

UPDATE: Shelley Powers suggests that the best solution may be for search engines to ignore not only links from Wikipedia but links to Wikipedia as well:

Wikipedia is now one of those rare sources on the web that has a golden door. In other words, it doesn't need an entry point through a search engine for people to 'discover' it. If anything, its appearance in search engine results is a distraction. It would be like Google linking to Yahoo's search result of a term, or Yahoo linking to Google's: yeah, we all know they're there but show me something new or different.

Interesting.

UPDATE: The official announcement from Wikipedia says that the no-follow tags are being added "for now," so this may be a temporary measure intended to frustrate an immediate spam threat.

UPDATE: Andy Beard distills the problem nicely. (But what's with those snowflakes?)

Comments

"Link energy" -- that's a good one. I'd like to see a grand unified theory of link mojo (seriously).

But the thing I don't get, though, is the heart of your gripe against Wikipedia, Nick. Is there something I missed in a former post?

I think it's healthy to be skeptical -- as you have been -- of grandiose claims about the revolution of peer production, but are you really on board with Tim Bray's criticism that Wikipedia is too big and insufficiently Webby? That strikes me as inconsistent with some of your prior statements.

So what's so bad about Wikipedia being front and center on Google's listings? Apparently, it's winning in the marketplace -- is there a market failure of some sort we need to be worried about?

Posted by: Greg L [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 09:56 AM

is there a market failure of some sort we need to be worried about?

Not that I can see. But what interests me more is the question of whether, and in regard to the Web in particular, there can be market success and cultural failure. It's that question, among others, that makes the Wikipedia phenomenon interesting to me.

"Link energy" -- that's a good one. I'd like to see a grand unified theory of link mojo (seriously).

Me too.

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 11:00 AM

There is a deeper layer to this-- it is Google and Page Rank that provides the incentive for spam link injectors ("people" who do everything possible to abuse other open sites to inject unwanted links in pursuit of more Google Rank)? Millions of small individual blog publishers, wiki-ists, web sites with comment forms are left to battle this, looking for blacklists, captchas (or shutting off comments).

Where are the great minds of Google? Kill the incentive, kill the problem. Nofollow does not do much, and here, as you imply, does harm, I thought Google was not in the "evil" business, but the thousands of spam url attempts on my blog, to web URLs that even make me blush, is pretty evil.

Posted by: Alan Levine [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 11:28 AM

One solution would be to institute a "cooling-off period" and whitelisting. Links would have nofollow until they have been around for a month. Presumably, any spam links would have been removed by then.

Of course, spammers will then try to attack the more obscure articles, hoping to evade scrutiny.

Posted by: Fazal Majid [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 11:36 AM

Greg L, the answer to your question is that Nick hates Wikipedia because it represents a challenge to his strong sense of elitism and personal cultural superiority. Nick can't stand the thought of an entity which asserts authoritativeness but has none of the institutional infrastructure that Nick has been brought up to worship. There are no old white guys who have ultimate editing authority, you don't need to have been educated by old white guys to participate, and the content is not geared exclusively to the tastes of old white guys.

This anti-elitism is unpalatable to Nick, it offends his credo. Thus he continues to attack Wikipedia at every turn in the vain hope that his superseded notions can be at all relevant in a world which has passed him by.

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 12:26 PM

Please note that Paul's long-distance diagnosis may, as these things tend to do, reveal more about him than it does about me.

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 12:49 PM

Paul,
Are you arguing that the Wikipedia is authoritative?

It has nothing to do with elitism or personal cultural superiority - rather everything to do with social homogeny.

It makes me sick (and should make everyone equally sick) to see teenagers, high schoolers, university students and professionals neglect the value, purpose and exercise of primary source research - and instead just post a link to the Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has its place and provides value - but to value it as holy scripture is naive and a testament to someone's lack of education and ability to question "authority."

Posted by: IsaacGarcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 12:50 PM

I wanted to suggest white-listing to counter balance this shift, but someone did it for me; this move sounds simple and efficient, considering the enormous constraints on Wikipedia servers. A note, however: Google doesn't rely that much on PageRank -- which is patented to Stanford, I believe.

Paul,

Jimbo is white, male, and old by Internet standards; should we have to wait for him to be old by Nick's standards? ;)

Seriously: editorial process has proven its worth since at least Gutenberg, or the Council of Jerusalem. User-created content has proven it can do some Bush-bashing (I won't comment on whether editors proved able of that).

I'm not going to lie and pretend I like journalists: comments by-pass the inefficient letters to them; but there is no excessive elitism in thinking editors still have something to offer that alleviates us from gregarious attitude.

Posted by: Bertil [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 01:03 PM

IsaacGarcia: Many, many articles on Wikipedia are authoritative. Not all, of course. And those that are provide external links specifically so that those who are interested, such as those students you mention, can follow up if they so desire. Do you remember what online research was like before the one-two punch of Wikipedia and Google? Research on the Web was far more difficult, using clunky search engine interfaces which often took 20+ pages to results to get to the real meat. At the very least, Wikipedia is a baseline from which to grow your knowledge. Its authors do not pretend to represent the full extent of knowledge, otherwise the site would not include hyperlinks.

Nick: that's just the sort of non-response I would have expected from someone who can't take criticism yet feels the need to dish it out so often.

Bertil: Ah, but Jimbo thinks young. Also, he doesn't have to approve (or delegate the approval of) everything that gets published, unlike an editor-in-chief. I am not saying that editors are obsolete, merely that the Wikipedia model is also valid enough for its own purposes and should not be looked down upon merely because it is not "professional".

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 03:05 PM

Wikipedia ... should not be looked down upon merely because it is not "professional".

I fully agree. And it should not be put on a pedestal merely because it is not "professional." It should be seen for what it is, no more, no less.

someone who can't take criticism yet feels the need to dish it out so often.

That's it, Paul. I'm banning you from commenting on my blog.

(Just kidding.)

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 03:19 PM

Now come on! This was just to stop a Spam attack. There's a lot of energy wasted creating and removing Spam. Can't believe they waited all this time to add the nofollow.

As for loss of ranking for sites they link to - genuine authorities on a subject doesn't need a link from Wikipedia to rank.

This should improve the quality of the information on Wikipedia.

Posted by: Nilhan [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 05:55 PM

Back to the SEO implications for a moment, if you all don't mind... one other implication of this:

Search engines value one way inbound links more than reciprocal links. Another implication of Wikipedia turning off the outbound juice is to increase the value the links that were already pointing to Wikipedia (in hte cases that those links were reciprocal).

So not only are they potentially pushing the original sources of content down by hiding the outbound attribution links, but they are converting what were previously reciprocal links to one way inbounds, thus increasing their value.

It's a sneaky tactic sometimes used by link swappers - offer to trade links with a site, then one month or so after the swap, no-follow the links (or just take them down completely).

Note: I'm not suggesting that Wikipedia is a sneaky link swapper - they don't have to be. I also believe this is the right move for Wikipedia. It's up to Google and others to adjust their algo accordingly.

Posted by: lorenzinho [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 07:17 PM

"Many, many articles on Wikipedia are authoritative. Not all, of course."

Which means none are.

Posted by: Mgmax [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2007 07:49 PM

A lot of the argument is to do with attribution and duplicate content.

I will give you a very direct example.

Who was the first person to liken Wikipedia to being a "blackhole of link equity" which everyone has picked up on?

I have written another shorter piece now that is more suitable to a general audience.

Exactly Why Nofollow at Wikipedia is bad

Posted by: AndyBeard [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:06 AM

lorenzinho: It's called "PageRank-hoarding" in SEO-ish jargon.

Paul: Umm, what is "the Wikipedia model"? I'm serious. You say: "has none of the institutional infrastructure ...". But Wikipedia has an *enormous* amount of *different* institutional infrastructure. This isn't even arguable. It's got committees and petty power-tripping and fiefdoms and an absolute ruler of it all. And *institutionally*, it worships the dead white male sources, going so far as to infamously reject people's own statements about their life in favor of what some dead white male institution wrote!
The key element seems to be that while doing this, it somehow manages to pull off a sneering attitude to *individual* experts, giving the suckers a thrill of being able to lord it over The Man. But what does that prove? Only that if you can get grad student types to work for free by telling them they're getting back at professor types, many of them can be deluded by this sort of emotional appeal.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:22 AM

Don't you think Wikipedia is making brave decisions of late. I have written about what happens next on the MediaVidea blog.

Posted by: Pramit [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:49 AM

If this is a temporary measure to stop a spam attack, it's a stupid one. If there's one thing everyone can agree on about nofollow, it's that it does absolutely no good in the short term. The benefit (if there is one) is seen a month or two later in search results.

Posted by: Michael Moncur [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 01:46 AM

Yes Seth, Wikipedia has institutional infrastructure, but of a far different kind to the Encyclopedia Britannica, or a university. That was the point I was making by saying "none of the institutional infrastructure that Nick has been brought up to worship". Apologies if I did not make myself clear.

I don't get why people complain so much about NPOV. It's not as if you could ring up the EB and get them to change what they wrote about you in their dead tree editions, or at least to the extent you can complain it's just the same process as Wikipedia. It seems like a perfectly reasonable rule to me for both EB and Wikipedia. Where people go wrong is in thinking they should be the ones rewriting the content, when in fact they should be pointing others towards independent sources of the real facts.

As for the professor/grad student analogy, to quote a Wikipedia-ism: "citation needed". :D

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 02:12 AM

[I'm drifting off-topic, but this attitude fascinates me]

Paul, why do you say it's "a far different kind" - that is, in what sense?
The major difference I see, is that while Wikipedia has an absolute *fetish* regarding that knowledge *is* what academic and mainstream media institutions say it is, it venomously disrespects the social recognition of expertise of the people who rank highly in those institutions. Rationally, that's very weird if you think about it (though actually rather common). It's sort of like being a big believer in Western medicine, and at the same time saying doctors don't know anything.

If the answer is "We can work for free!", well, what's so great about that?
(really, it's "By doing free work, we can delude ourselves that we get *intellectual* status, just like the academic and mainstream media institutions.". But you *don't*. All you do is work for free :-()

What you're missing is that fetish for academic and mainstream media institutions. Yes, people want to be believed over what someone else writes about them, most especially lazy or careless journalists. If it's a case of your word against theirs, do you see how very very strange it is to say "Sorry, we cannot recognize *your* expertise in your life. The *only* sources of legitimate expertise are what "old white guys" write, and you need to go find one of the "old white guys" writing another statement before we'll believe you"? (i.e. they're expected to meekly share the fetish even when they're personally affected by it being wrong!)

You're framing it in terms of being a control-freak, which is an automatic dismissal. But the deep question is what sort of mentality says that in every his-word-against-mine conflict, a mainstream media writer's product is to be believed ("privileged" in academese) over the person being written about? Think about this, really.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 04:33 AM

Doesn't this have to do with Wales' recent announcement that his for-profit outfit Wikia is setting up its own search engine, wikiasari. Last month he commented,
“Google is very good at many types of search, but in many instances it produces nothing but spam and useless crap. Try searching for the term ‘Tampa hotels’, for example, and you will not get any useful results…Essentially, if you consider one of the basic tasks of a search engine, it is to make a decision: ‘this page is good, this page sucks.’ Computers are notoriously bad at making such judgments, so algorithmic search has to go about it in a roundabout way…But we have a really great method for doing that ourselves. We just look at the page. It usually only takes a second to figure out if the page is good, so the key here is building a community of trust that can do that.”

See: http://search.wikia.com/wiki/Search_Wikia

Posted by: Norm Potter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 04:41 AM

I can't help but think that this is a huge step towards completely ruining the spirit of the project. It seems to go against what social media is all about, 2 way communications. On the net that road isn't always travelled in words but in links and trackbacks and relevancy. Hording indeed.

Posted by: smoMashup [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 10:25 AM

Thanks for the link Nicholas

Snowflakes...

Well I live in Poland, and last year we had 6 months of sub zero temperatures.

Last week I was happily going outside in a t-shirt

Plus the Wordpress Plugin was something I had developed a year ago, gets about 100 downloads per day (in season), and I get more positive comments than negative.

Posted by: AndyBeard [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 10:48 AM

We live in a competitive world. Is it impossible to imagine a scenario where search engines adapt their alghoritms to ignore the "No Follow" directive for the Wikipedia domain ?

So far, search alghoritms are proprietary (i.e. secret = black box) so I wonder if violating technical standards (like HTML) can be detected and if penalties would occur for such an act.

Bottomline, I do not think that in an interconnected world one party can bend the rules while the others stay still.

Posted by: Dragos [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:46 PM

Seth, I see no problem with being institutionally suspicious of anyone who potentially has an agenda to push within the pages of Wikipedia. The agenda-pushing is canonically true about people editing their own biographical entries, and is also true of people who have a vested interest in the subject of other entries.

Would you rather have a history written by the participants, or their hangers-on? I would not. That is not history, it is propaganda. Encyclopedia entries should never be written by the subjects of those entries.

Apart from NPOV, the Wikipedia rule you seem to be railing against most is the rule against including original research, discussed here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:No_original_research

If you are of the opinion that encyclopedias should be filled with primary reporting, as if they're an extension of magazines or technical journals, then I have no way of arguing with you since you don't understand what an encyclopedia is for. There are a gazillion other places on the Internet to publish your personal opinions, recollections and theories, but Wikipedia is not one of them.

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 03:17 PM

Dragos,

re: Is it impossible to imagine a scenario where search engines adapt their alghoritms to ignore the "No Follow" directive for the Wikipedia domain ?

Google, in announcing that it was embracing the no-follow tag, said: "From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel='nofollow') on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results ... We've also discussed this issue with colleagues at our fellow search engines and would like to thank MSN Search and Yahoo! for supporting this initiative."

That seems clear, though I've seen other bloggers argue that it could choose to ignore no-follow tags. That seems, though, like it would violate Google's pledge to site owners.

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 03:29 PM

Back to the for-profit Wikia search engine in the pipe. Is this a threat to Google? Can Wales make a buck out of it? Will it be better than Google?
Down the road, maybe it would make better sense for Google to index everything BUT Wikipedia...

Posted by: Norm Potter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 07:01 PM

Paul, let me make sure I understand, is your answer to my question of "In his-word-against-mine, why do you believe a reporter over the person being written about?", that someone who claims a reporter is wrong always counts as "has an agenda" ["to push within the pages of Wikipedia"], but the reporter is not ever counted as "has an agenda" [since they're not writing on Wikipedia]? This isn't much of a answer - it's pretty much just restating that you believe reporters over other people all the time. Your answer is basically circular - the question *presupposes* a difference between the reporter and the person being written about.

"Would you rather have a history written by the participants, or their hangers-on?" - Well, my question is why the participants are *ignored* and all power is vested in what's previously written by "old white guys who have ultimate editing authority, ... educated by old white guys ... geared exclusively to the tastes of old white guys.".

I mean, you write such sneering, dismissive, belittling takes on people who feel aggrieved by those old white guys, and how what those old white guys write is the proper source of knowledge ("what an encyclopedia is for") ... and then you tell us how different Wikipedia is from Encyclopedia Britannica.

In fact, you're essentially arguing Wikipedia is more British than the British - you won't even deign to acknowledge a journalist might get it wrong in writing about a person, which is really amazing.

Don't you see ANY problem here? How there's a problem between that "old-white-guy"-institution fetish, and the claims of being avant-guarde?

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 08:07 PM

Seth, my answer to that question is: The question is irrelevant to discussions about Wikipedia, because an encyclopedia is not where such debates should take place.

Encyclopedias are not small claims tribunals where sources can argue the toss with journalists or academics about their works. Perhaps there should be a site unconnected to Wikipedia where arguments between journalists and sources can be played out in full and in public. Then Wikipedia can link to that. However, such a debate is not suitable for the pages of an encyclopedia.

You seem to think encyclopedias should be about finding the One Truth, where its authors quest to discover the true meaning of everything. This is a fallacy. Encyclopedia authors should make every effort NOT to make judgments. As their verifiability rule states: "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth". You seem to be having trouble grasping this concept, Seth.

Encyclopedias are not meant at all to be canonical repositories of every fact about every subject. They were only ever designed as starting points for further research. Only stupid people would want encyclopedias to contain the static "truth" and not be part of an ongoing dialogue, because that would encourage them not to think, not to make their own intellectual decisions.

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2007 12:33 AM

Paul, I'm going to try one more time, since you keep begging the question, I'm afraid I'm repeating myself: What do you *mean* by "none of the institutional infrastructure that Nick has been brought up to worship", except we-work-free! and don't socially respect the idea of *individual* expertise (indeed, are socially hostile towards the very concept, as part of the motivation for getting unpaid labor out of suckers). I think we've established that Wikipedia has a slavish, dogmatic, worship of the "old-white-guy" institutional idea of *knowledge* (and, playing armchair analyst, in a way that's a classic example of insecurity and defensiveness). You appear to have trouble with the concept that this idea is even arguable (I should hasten to say I'm pretty devoted to it myself, but I do understand it's not unchallenged, and it has some notable downsides, most strongly felt by those non-white or not-guys.).

I grasp the concept of "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth", I just boggle at someone who thinks it's a good idea, and *at the same time* can flame about old-white-guyness and claim some sort of revolutionary stance . While perhaps not exactly a contradiction, it does seem to be a kind of bona-fide doublethink.

Please note, repeating some variation of "Encyclopedia" is *defined* to be what's previously written by "old white guys who have ultimate editing authority, ... educated by old white guys ... geared exclusively to the tastes of old white guys.", is just going around the doublethink outlined above. The issue isn't the definition, it's why you hold this old-white-guys definition as sacrosanct, yet claim Wikipedia is something different in terms of institutional infrastructure (excepting again the difference that it's free labor and demagogic motivation).

[P.S.: Call me stupid, but I don't WANT any "ongoing dialogue" where some ranter off the street has the same conversational weight as an expert who has studied the topic for decades - everybody may have a right to an opinion, but their opinons are not equally right].

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2007 02:01 AM

Seth, you keep making wrong statements. Wikipedia does not lack respect for individual expertise. It merely does not want its articles to be written by a person who relies on their expertise alone and can not back up their assertions with citations and references. If someone with individual expertise wants to write an argumentative essay elsewhere on the Internet which displays all of that expertise in high-quality prose, then that essay will most likely be linked to on Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia is not the place to publish argumentative essays.

As for my statement about institutional infrastructure, the difference is between Newtonian theory and quantum theory, determinism and probabilistic logic. Wikipedia's philosophy is seated firmly in the quantum camp, whereby there can be no objective Truth, only subjective observations made by sentient humans. The natural extrapolation is that anyone trying to assert a single Truth is trying to distort reality. Thus Wikipedia can only refer to external data and must let the reader decide on their own personal truth.

This does not mean that ranters have the same conversational weight as experts. Another implication of using quantum logic is that each outcome has a probability. Each article effectively assigns a probability for each statement contained within it via the language constructs used around those statements. This is another crucial point: yes, old-white-guy sources are included and are often assigned high probability by the author, but the alternative sources are also included, no matter how wacky - unlike the EB - and are ranked accordingly. At least, that's the theory.

Quantum theory may be many decades old, but it is still revolutionary when compared to many cultural institutions which are still mired in 19th century traditions. Insecurity, you accuse me of? The very building blocks of reality are insecure. More people should realise that.

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2007 03:16 AM

>>>[Paul writes..]Do you remember what online research was like before the one-two punch of Wikipedia and Google? Research on the Web was far more difficult, using clunky search engine interfaces which often took 20+ pages to results to get to the real meat. At the very least, Wikipedia is a baseline from which to grow your knowledge.

"Research on the Web" is an oxymoron and your last sentence is particularly terrifying to me.

I've done my fair share of research in Graduate School (Literary Criticism, thank you) and know plenty about digging deep, synthesizing materials, cross referencing bibliographies and periodical journals (many of which are NOT indexed by Google or consumer search engines) - and Google and Wikipedia represent the fluff at the top of knowledge (some would argue that its the cream) rather than the depth. In time, this will most likely change (I hope) through vehicles such as Google Scholar and other periodical search engines.

[Side Note: This might be shocking to you - I'm not an Old White Guy, I'm a Young Hispanic from South Texas]

A legitimate "researcher" isn't going to waste his or her time "Googling" or "Wikipeding" for clues.

Relying on Google or the Wikipedia as a "great place to start" is equivalent to asking a mob for directions or voting for the prom queen - they represent a popular consensus of what the mob believes to be 'important' and 'relevant' not a true representation of (or even a slice) of what is really 'out there.'

And, it saddens me that High Schoolers are quick to substitute laziness for rigouer when urged to 'dig deep for answers' and 'challenge authority' and their first instinct is to search google or wikipedia.

Perhaps the idea of "traditional" research has already been retired to the Halls of Valhalla or the Elysian Fields.

Posted by: IsaacGarcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2007 03:35 PM

"Legitimate researchers" normally wouldn't bother with print encyclopedias either, so I'm not sure what your point is. Encyclopedias are about delivering summaries of general knowledge to the masses. If a high schooler visits Wikipedia and nothing else, that's their problem, it's not a flaw of Wikipedia. The very same criticism could be leveled at print encyclopedias.

Or is your complaint that Wikipedia is too easy to access? Maybe everyone should be forced to go to libraries to learn things, like in the olden days.

Posted by: Paul Montgomery [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 25, 2007 04:09 AM

(Just a note, I slightly grammar-corrected the part of my post Nick quoted... with thanks to Nick!)

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 27, 2007 07:41 AM

I've been hearing wikipedia get a lot of negative press over using no follow. Personally i prefer it this way as it gives more creditability to the information being posted, knowing its not someone making up information to get his site promoted.

This being said though the biggest threat to wikipedia is definitely its censoring by government organisations, and them using it as a propaganda tool.

Posted by: WhyBother [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 24, 2007 01:46 PM

So this "nofollow" feature means that Wikipedia copies and slightly modifies the results of the work of others and then points to the source but does not help the search engine score of the source. On its technical merits, I agree with the decision. The links should point to supporting material based on a user clicking through and not just for traffic for that site.

I find the notion thatv Wikipedia skims off the results and eventually takes full credit for owning that knowledge. That must be a lot like skimming money off the world economy by working for an options trading company. That must be a lot like what Wikipedia is almost certainly doing in effect every year when a new edition of Encyclopedia Britannica comes out: just skim off the new results and incorporate them into Wikipedia, like skimming cream out of a bucket of milk. But what happens when the cow dies?

Posted by: SallyF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 19, 2007 01:33 AM

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