And Take Your Flappers With You!

Not satisfied with mangling facts and figures about Google, Information Retrieval Systems or the Internet in general, in his latest rant, Michael Gorman sets his sights on the big fish: Wikipedia. It’s really always been about Wikipedia for him. Trashing Google, bloggers, and Burst Culture is just a side project. He’s really pissed off about Wikipedia and what it does to authoritative credibility in general but his in particular. As his posts have been hosted thus far by the Britannica Blog, that’s no real surprise, seeing as how they’re primary competition comes form Wikipedia:

All the central institutions of Western society have responded in a similarly reactive and alarmed manner. Many of these institutions are driven by the middle aged and old acting in a domain that is widely perceived to be the province of the young. This discontinuity is not helped by reliance on a series of urban myths about the supposed uniqueness of the young generation based on the idea that its members have no useful memory of the pre-Web life. Let us leave aside the fact that the “uniqueness of the young” has been proclaimed every 15 years or so for almost the past century—from the energetic flappers of the1920s to the lethargic slackers of the 1990s.

He’s finally become that stereotypical cranky old man, ranting about young people on his lawn. And flappers. I’m not going to parse the rest of his two part rumination on why Wikipedia, and by extension the whole entire Web, sucks. And flappers. It’s more of what we’ve already seen: over simplifications, generalizations and straw men of unusual size.

Wikipedia works. This isn’t just a fan speaking, or some dirty webified Youtubian. I did graduate work on Wikipedia and found that it works pretty well, applying the peer-review concept on a larger scale. An article published in Nature two years ago reached the same conclusion: Wikipedia is just as good as Britannica in most places, better in some but could use a little more attention paid to the more complex, technical articles, a fact that Wikipedians have mentioned and addressed frequently. And, as we say on the Web, it’s just as easy to fix Wikipedia as it is to bitch about what’s wrong with it. But of course, Wikipedia won’t cut Gorman a check for his work, so why bother? No pay, no play for our Serious Academic.

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