Wikipedia’s Old-Fashioned Revolution

As one who eagerly waited for each new year book for our World Book set, and then set about diligently pasting in all of the update stickers, while eveyone else I knew was raving about Encarta, I was a bit slow to the online encyclopedia.  But as today’s Information Age column in the Wall Street Journal makes clear, Wikipedia’s underpinnings are based on traditional concepts of authority:

As Andrew Lih points out in his new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the Greatest Encyclopedia,” Wikipedia’s research principles are as traditional as its operating model is revolutionary. Founder Jimmy Wales says the only nonnegotiable policy is a “neutral point of view,” with entries edited to eliminate ideological bias. The other key principles are verifiability by authoritative sources and a related prohibition on original content.

The guidelines for adding entries to this open-to-all encyclopedia reject open-to-all sources: “Gather references both to use as source(s) of your information and also to demonstrate notability of your article’s subject matter. References to blogs, personal websites and MySpace don’t count — we need reliable sources.”

The guide credits old media and old-fashioned definitions to establish legitimacy. “These sources should be reliable; that is, they should be sources that exercise some form of editorial control.” These include “books published by major publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly journals . . .


The Wall Street Journal, Monday, April 6, 2009, p. A13

Information Age

By L. Gordon Crovitz

Wikipedia’s Old-Fashioned Revolution

Unloading Information Overload

L. Gordon Crovitz’s Information Age column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Unloading Information Overload,” cites the Atlantic Monthly article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, cites a new book, “Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age” by Maggie Jackson, and quotes the dean at the University of Chicago Law School thusly:

The University of Chicago Law School blocks Internet access from classrooms; the dean said, “One student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes, and within 20 minutes an entire row is shoe shopping.”

E-Books. Is the tide turning?

I see a much greater recent acceptance and use of e-books by our students.   A few earlier stabs with electronic casebooks here at the law school went nowhere, but this past year I’ve seen several students stop by the reference desk with an e-book open on their laptops.  Maybe the time has come for us to take a closer look.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s The Wired Campus feature made this note last Friday:

Research Libraries Embrace E-Books

Sixty-nine percent of university research libraries plan to increase spending on e-books over the next two years, according to a recent study published by Primary Research Group Inc. . . . 

Clearly e-book technology has improved dramatically in a short period of time. Only a year-and-a-half-ago college librarians were saying that e-books were not ready for the campus environment.


The study shows that the larger the library the more interested it is in purchasing e-books. And it also shows that foreign libraries are more attracted to e-books, than libraries in the U.S.—Andrea L. Foster

And L. Gordon Crovitz’s “Information Age” column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Social Networking in the Digital Age,” includes this little bit of related information:

. . .

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos disclosed [at The D: All Things Digital conference] that for books available on the Kindle electronic reader, some 6% of Amazon sales are now for the digital version. He enjoys physical books, but their future is in doubt now that there is the more powerful way of reading through electronic devices.

. . .

Wikis in government

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting “Information Age” article on its opinion page.  L. Gordon Crovitz reports on a research project by Don Tapscott called “Government 2.0: Wikinomics, Government & Democracy.”   “The goal is to use Web-based collaboration to ‘reinvent government’.”  The WSJ piece reports that “[t]he federal government has launched several wikis . . . Intellipedia lets 37,000 officials at the CIA, FBI, NSA and other . . . agencies share information and even rate one enough for accuracy . . .   Diplopedia lets State Department staff share information. . . . ”  The article is available at:


Marcus C. Peacock, Deputy Administrator U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has a letter to the editor in the June 2, 2008 Wall Street Journal, “Wikis Are Helping Our Government.”

In his letter Mr. Peacock notes:

. . .

I launched one of the first federal blogs less than a year ago (see EPA’s Greenversations at It’s already transformed into an agency-wide dialogue with the public on everything my agency does.

In a test wiki last fall we collected more environmental information on the Puget Sound area in a couple of days than we could previously have done in as many weeks.  . . .