Wikipedia is number 1 for many Internet users when it comes to researching information quickly and in detail. But the facts are not always correct, and reading is not always a pleasure. Wikipedia relies on the “wisdom of the many” – the more employees deal with a text, the better. Readers can check the version history (button at the top right) how many changes, so-called edits, an entry has been made. There you will also find last-minute changes. The rule here is: the younger an edit, the more critical it should be. Wikipedia is abbreviated as WP by abbreviationfinder.
- The links to external websites allow readers to check the Wikipedia entry for themselves.
- Many Wikipedia articles are as accurate as their counterparts in Brockhaus or Encyclopaedia Britannica.
- The party headquarters attach great importance to Wikipedia – and therefore often lend a hand themselves.
The Wikipedia authors themselves are critical of many articles. To find out where there could be problems with the content, it is worth taking a look at the discussion page (top left). If an article references many external sources, the authors have done their research – a good sign. The links to external websites allow readers to check the Wikipedia entry for themselves. The community marks selected articles as “worth reading” or “excellent”, recognizable by a small blue “L” or a green star at the top right. These texts are considered to be thoroughly researched and well-written.
Tools such as the Wiki-Watch.de portal help to critically examine entries. For example, users can see how many authors were involved in a text or how many sources there are. Such formal criteria help to assess the seriousness of an article.
Many Wikipedia articles are as accurate as their counterparts in Brockhaus or Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is not uncommon for the community of authors to update current events within a very short time and usually iron out mistakes quickly. If the “wisdom of the many” fails, however, embarrassing mishaps can occur. Some blunders at a glance:
The Freiherr zu Guttenberg has many first names. Wilhelm is not one of them. When the CSU politician became Minister of Economic Affairs in February 2009, an anonymous joker cheated on Wilhelm in his Wikipedia biography in addition to the numerous other names. Although this error did not stand on the side for long, numerous media apparently took it over from the online lexicon without checking it.
The American journalist John Seigenthaler was shocked to find out in September 2005 that he was implicated in the murder of John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby in Wikipedia. The claim stood uncontested online for months. The case sparked heated controversy among Wikipedians as to how the lexicon could become more reliable.
Political trench warfare
The party headquarters attach great importance to Wikipedia – and therefore often lend a hand themselves. In 2007, a computer from the Hessian CDU headquarters processed the entry about the green state politician Tarek Al-Wazir. The Union referred to an intern. A year later, an unknown author tried to put US politician Sarah Palin in a better light by deleting the unflattering passage about her nickname “Sarah Barracuda”. The community has meanwhile blocked the entry for editing.
Companies have also tried again and again to enhance the entries about themselves or their products. Microsoft, for example, deleted a critical passage about the susceptibility of its Xbox 360 game console to errors. The oil company Chevron-Texaco immediately made an entire text about biodiesel disappear. The manipulations were noticed – an instrument called Wikiscanner was able to trace the changes back to the providers.
Wikipedia has achieved world fame, but in the shadow of the hands-on lexicon there are a number of projects that are also dedicated to building free knowledge. Volunteers collect photos, graphics and maps, work on a dictionary and a collection of quotes. As with the online encyclopedia, the Wikimedia Foundation is behind it. The most important projects at a glance:
Wikimedia Commons is a database for media files – mainly photos, but also videos, maps and graphics. Private individuals and public institutions have compiled more than 7.8 million documents. The Federal Archives, for example, made 100,000 historical photos from German history available. The authors use this fund to illustrate their Wikipedia articles. In principle, however, anyone can download and use the files, including commercially: Free use is a prerequisite for the community to accept the images.
In Wikiquote, users collect quotes from more or less famous personalities. There are now more than 7,500 articles there, sorted by person, subject or even films – as is well known, a rich source for bonmots. Quotes from writers or book authors are limited to ten per person, for copyright reasons. It is different with politicians and athletes. Franz Beckenbauer and Gerhard Schröder have their say in detail.
Wiktionary is a lexicon in which the user community collects the meanings, origins or pronunciation of words. There are entries in 170 languages, including Tibetan and Romansh. As expected, however, the largest is the English section with more than two million entries. The German dictionary has easily reached Duden thickness with 127,000 entries. The first word in German, registered in April 2002: Metamorphose.
Another project of the Wikimedia Foundation started in 2006: Wikiversity – an online platform “for collaborative learning, teaching and research”. Students and scientists should be able to work together without having to set up their own technical infrastructure. The virtual university, however, is relatively empty: So far there are 27,000 articles in 12 languages, in the German-speaking section only around 200 users are registered.