Could Wikipedia get too big to fail?

It does so indirectly. If he were to chase off all the pseudoscientists, cranks, people who get off by publishing pictures of their fetishes, and people who think they are saving African children by documenting every appearance of sandwiches in Firefly, then he would decimate the Wikipedia user base. The most enthusiastic cheerleaders and donators would turn away from Wikipedia, and the free ad for Wikia would dry up. The Wiki business model is fundamentally dependent on producing a poor-quality encyclopedia about nonsense, which is where it differs from respectable reference sources that need to pass muster with librarians and experts in various fields in order to continue making sales to educational institutions.

I’d be interested to know how much of Wikipedia is useful info and how much is “poor-quality encylclopedia about nonsense”.

Actually the vast majority of info in Wikipedia I think is reliable-the exceptions are blatant vandalism (ie, “Barack Obama is a evol Muslim terrorist”) or minor inaccuracies (like the exact formula for chemical compounds). And this is an occasional Wikipedia vandal that says so.

The biggest challenge that Wikipedia faces isn’t funding, IMHO, but internal politics.

Anyone who’s spent a lot of time editing Wiki will have been told at least once that “Wiki isn’t about Truth, it’s about Verifiability”, which means a lot of information in niche or special-interest areas that’s well known in those fields but hasn’t been published in any “Wiki-approved” source.

It’s a big issue for the military history side of things, for example- a particular editor might know that Event X happened at Battle Y in place Z because their grandfather was actually there, but since “My Grandfather was there and he said…” isn’t “Verifiable”, it can’t be included.

The actual foundation behind Wiki- a free Encyclopaedia- isn’t going anywhere. But there are calls for the “Editable by anyone” aspect of it to be dropped, or at least severely curtailed. It’ll be interesting to see how Wiki evolves in the next 5-10 years or so…

I think it depends on how we define “useful info.”

I’d be interested to know what portion of total Wikipedia articles are totally meaningless to people who aren’t fans of the television show, movie, manga, or comic book series that the page is associated with.

For example by my quick count, there are at least 133 separate articles devoted to the television series “House.” I can only imagine a similar number for similar shows, and far larger numbers for some of the really popular manga/anime series, or the hard core sci-fi shows like Battlestar Gallactica (or the relaunch), which tend to attract the type of people who would pound out a ton of articles.

I’ve seen entire articles about relatively minor Star Trek characters, I can only guess how many total articles in Wikipedia deal with Star Trek alone. (A google search indicates possible upwards of 43,000…)

I’m not saying any of this is necessarily “useless info”, but I’m also not sure it is “important” info. Encyclopedias are traditionally quick-references for general knowledge, not collections of vast numbers of fan-pages of various entertainment franchises.

I remember several years ago when WIKI was the next big thing in IT. Everybody was going to transfer their Knowledge bases and repositories to WIKI. I don’t know of an organizations that have done it though. There is usually only some link to a wiki title page with no depth.

It’s not a bad idea, or a bad format for storing Knowledge, but as I pointed out several times, you need a critical mass to make it viable. I told them they needed to hire a temp to move the entire existing base to it, and people will use it and add. But nobody will put it to places, and noone will put it in an empty useless place.

No they ain’t at least for Star Wars. Wikipedia doesn’t have articles for major Star Wars characters like San Hill! We have Wookiepedia or Memory Alpha for that.

When I first encountered Wikipedia, that was kind of my reaction as well. “What kind of encyclopedia is this, anyway? What’s with all these articles about episodes of TV shows and obscure punk rock bands and Mancunian cricket teams?”

But it isn’t just popular TV shows that Wikipedia gets so fanatically in depth about. Wikipedia has an article on World War II, as any encyclopedia would. Separately, it has an article on the Pacific War as one of the main theaters of World War II. And an article on the Guadalcanal Campaign of the Pacific War. And an article on the Battle of Edson’s Ridge within the Guadalcanal Campaign. And an article on U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Merritt A. Edson.

And it’s not just World War II (or the American Civil War) which gets that kind of treatment. There’s a whole series of articles on various aspects of the Italian Wars of the 16th Century–probably well over 100 separate pages on them in fact, counting the articles on each separate war within that series of conflicts, articles on important battles, articles on the commanders of the various sides, articles on the treaties signed and the alliances formed, etc., etc., etc.

In the end, the depth and breadth of Wikipedia are a strength, not a weakness. It’s not like all the articles about Star Trek “get in the way” somehow if you’re trying to look up the War of the League of Cambrai. And if you do want to look up an episode of Star Trek, the articles on the War of the League of Cambrai won’t slow you down from doing that, either.

I got zero sympathy for anyone who bitches that wiki doesn’t have enough serious articles. If you find an oversight, park your fat lazy ass in a chair and write it yourself, you fat lazy asshole dickface schmuck.

The problem with that approach is that the “regulars” swoop in on the article and either eviscerate or delete it for not having enough references (in the approved formats, of course!)

There’s an insane amount of work involved in writing an “A-class” or “Feature Class” article- as much, if not more, than some of the Master’s-level essays I have written at University.

Bearing in mind that people writing Wiki articles are volunteers donating their time and expertise, there’s only so often someone can write a comprehensive, factually accurate article on an under-represented subject and have it reverted for not having enough references, not having references from the “right” sources, or for not maintaining a “Neutral point of view”, or any one of the thousand other reasons why Wiki articles aren’t as comprehensive or interesting as they could be, before someone says “You know what? I just can’t be bothered.”

I’m not sure either. What’s important ? And important to whom ? Who gets to decide ? I daresay Twilight trivia is gosh durned important to a 15 year old girl.

But that’s the nice thing about an internet encyclopedia, as opposed to dead-tree or even DVD ones : it doesn’t have to be contained within a set number of volumes. Objectively, no one has to make the decision of which article is important, and which one remains on the cutting room floor. Virtual space costs nothing. Put it all in, who cares ? If someone, somewhere thinks an in-depth biography of an obscure Star Trek mook is worth penning, then somewhere, someone is also probably looking for one.

Which is why I get very, very annoyed when tight-assed editors pull the notability card to axe decently written and formatted pages. Who gives a fuck if it’s about a 1932 Tadjik commercial or an obscure trash lit novel ? It’s already written. Somebody spent time to write it, do the research, nail the sources. Might as well keep the sucker. Terabytes are cheap.

Who is this directed at?

I believe if you review my post you will note that I said “Star Trek”, not Star Wars.

You can certainly find many individual articles about many specific Star Trek characters, both notable and minor.

I use Wikipedia all the time, I participate in a historical discussion forum and I often use Wikipedia as the “source of first resort.” In a more rigorous discussion forum you can’t use Wikipedia as a “cite”, but a well written article will have many references that you can use. In some ways I think the most valuable thing I get out of Wikipedia is it is a hell of a bibliography.

I think the quantity of “useful info” (e.g. history, geography, science, etc) versus “trivial info” (e.g. buffy, star trek, etc) comes into play when you start talking “too big to fail” implying government funding. If wikipedia has (as a proportion) the majority of pages dedicated to “trivial info” then I think it’s reasonable to question its value to society to the extent that requires society’s financial support to continue its lifespan.

I’m not disputing Wikipedia’s overall value and contribution, merely pointing out that it’s not as clear-cut as it may first appear and does need to be questioned the minute someone puts their hand out for money from the public purse.

p.s. “Virtual space” is not free, it costs money to host and serve content.

Well keep in mind the whole conversation about “importance” started when a poster asked how much of Wikipedia is about “nonsense.” As I said, I’m not sure how you define nonsense, but I will say that a large portion of Wikipedia is a repository for the research of fans of particular entertainment vehicles.

That’s honestly fine, and in fact there was a series I was heavily watching a few years ago and Wikipedia was a great resource on it. It had detailed episode guides, detailed character backgrounds et cetera. It really enhanced my understanding of the series as I watched it. Unfortunately one day I went to look something up and some new Wikipedia directive was in my face explaining that Wikipedia was removing pages that were just “episode guides”, or something of that nature. The result was over 5 seasons of page articles were gone over night. They’ve never been returned and I still don’t understand why; I just know that full length episode guides persist for many other shows, so I find it strange.

When we talk about “value to society”, I will say that long term the value of Wikipedia is very small. The value of that original concept, a “collaborative online encyclopedia” is extremely high. However, because of the sort of license that covers Wikipedia articles, and because all the information is now “out there”, it means that if for some weird reason the WikiMedia Foundation shut down it could easily be replicated.

Because Wikipedia is “open source”, it means that it doesn’t need to be protected, not really. If society feels it should continue, it will always continue in some form. Even if the foundation that runs Wikipedia is mismanaged some date far in the future and Wikipedia itself dies, once all that knowledge hit the internet in a form that can be legally stored and redistributed the survival of that information is no longer solely reliant on a specific foundation continuing its operations.

If the Encyclopedia Britannica shut its doors and refused to publish any future editions, then no one could take up the reins and republish old articles or even resurrect the old editions since they would be copyrighted works.

People who bitch that wiki doesn’t have enough serious articles.
I rather thought that obvious.

That would most likely be the pro-active decision of one (or a few) of the aforementionned tight-assed editors.

Yes and no.
The cost of hosting space is pretty negligible - the only necessary costs are one outdated box (even a 486 would do), a bunch of hard drives and some CAT cable to daisy-chain the new server to the rest of the bunch. How many wikipedia pages can you cram on a 20 bucks, 500 Gig drive ?

The real money sucker is the serving part, I’ll grant you that. Phat pipes don’t grow on trees, and renting the bandwidth adds up. However, if the information added by “unimportant” pages really is trivial, then it won’t be consulted much, will it ? No significant increase in costs there. And if it does drive up the costs, then by definition it’s not trivial - information that lots of people want to know is important information. Even if it’s Captain Picard’s bio.

Odd, since no one in this thread has done that I must assume you were trying to digress into a totally different line of discussion. Or was that all that you needed to say?