Conservapedia:Is Wikipedia really as bad as it is made out to be
From what I have seen, Conservapedia was set up in response to at least two features of Wikipedia which did not appeal to those who created this site:
- a perceived liberal bias on Wikipedia, with Conservapedia claiming Wikipedia to be six times more liberal than the American public, and
- the feeling that the majority of articles on Wikipedia are not befitting a website designing itself as an encyclopaedia. Examples that have been given are the Wikipedia articles on the word "duh", singles by obscure music bands and arcane British royalty.
I would first like to make it clear that I am not attempting to promote Wikipedia or demean Conservapedia in any way. I would like to take these arguments as regards these two features and discuss the flaws I see in them, and I hope that other individuals on this site, whether they agree with me or not, can conduct this discussion fairly.
First, in response to the argument that Wikipedia can not be regarded as a proper encyclopaedia because of its perceived liberal bias, it is important to distinguish one fact. Wikipedia is available around the world, and is immensely popular in many nations all across the globe, not just in America. Many people from each of these nations contribute to the site, which is best evidenced by the many different language versions available. However, since Conservapedia's argument refers primarily to the English-language Wikipedia, it is that which I will limit my discussion to.
The assertion that Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public does not appear to take into account that Wikipedia is used and edited by people all over the world. Naturally, even if Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public (I'm not taking sides), that is only because it is contributed to by other people besides the citizens of the United States. I would argue that Conservapedia users need to take this into account, also as regards their own site, which is attracting attention and contributors outside of the United States. Promoting the American viewpoint is perfectly acceptable, but it must be remembered by everyone that there is a whole world outside the United States. Wikipedia reflects this, and so must Conservapedia.
As regards the many examples listed on the "Examples of Bias on Wikipedia" page, I am not saying that Conservapedia is wrong. All articles on all wikis (including Conservapedia) are victim to the subjective viewpoint of the author, and therefore bias and falsity are obviously going to appear. However, I do argue against the seeming implication I have seen on the aforementioned page, as well as in a news story which recently appeared on the Conservapedia Main Page that a negative, or percieved negative element edited in by one user reflect on Wikipedia as a whole. The news piece details the fact that the Wikipedia article on Chris Benoit carried information on the recent tragedy surrounding the Benoit family before the police were informed. While the fact that the information was released on to Wikipedia in this fashion is disturbing and suspicious, the tone of the news piece (I regret that I cannot find it as it has been replaced by more recent news, if someone could tell me how to recall it I would be grateful) suggested that Wikipedia as a whole was suspect in this event. This is simply not the case. If one individual posted suspicious information on to one page, that does not and can not mean that every user on Wikipedia is an accomplice to this act, as was implied by the news piece.
In conclusion, I would argue that the assertion that Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public is not correct to use on the site, as it does not take into account the fact that both Wikipedia, and indeed Conservapedia, are used and contributed to by people across the world. I would also argue that the perceived imbalance does not actually exist in a global context. It has to be remembered that America is just one part of the world, and that American conservatives are just one part of its population.
Secondly, as regards the assertion by Conservapedia that Wikipedia features articles on items unbecoming of an encyclopaedia, I would like to make the following argument. We live in a changing world; the world of instant communication. An online encyclopaedia of any kind has obvious advantages to a paper encyclopaedia: new information about certain topics can be added easily, pages are monitored to ensure the information on them is up to date, and the volume of information can be much greater than a paper encyclopaedia, or even a paper encyclopaedia set could ever hope to offer. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word "encyclopaedia" as "a comprehensive reference work containing articles on a wide range of subjects or on numerous aspects of a particular field, usually arranged alphabetically." Wikipedia certainly covers a "wide range of subjects", and it is this that makes it so popular. While individuals on this site may complain that an article on the word "duh", the song "Honk If You Love Fred Durst" and 19th-century Vice-chancellor of Oxford University Henry Liddell are not fit to belong on an encyclopaedia, I would argue that the only reason for this perception is the adherence to the traditional image of an encyclopaedia as being a paper reference book into which only important scientific, religious, political, historical and social information was included in concise articles because of realistic restraints about the size of the book (or set of books).
As methods of retrieving information have developed greatly, I would think it natural that online encyclopaediae such as Wikipedia (and perhaps in the future, Conservapedia) include such varied information. Rather than thinking of such sites as "encyclopedias", I would argue that they have more become compendiums of knowledge, a store for the world's rich and diverse information. Obviously being open to editing can result in flaws, errors, bias and occasional hoax articles (indeed Conservapedia is guilty of some of these, however that is for a different discussion); but I believe that the good aspects of any online encyclopaedia, be it Wikipedia, Conservapedia or even Wookiepedia outweigh the bad ones.
Thank you for reading. What do you think? Argonaut 20:15, 1 July 2007 (EDT)
I just have to reply here, for I don't agree with the question itself. Conservapedia and Wikipedia are just two different wikis, each with its own perspective, policies and target audience(if that's the right word). They are just for different people with different opinions, so I don't see why people are getting so worked up about it. NPOV!!!NPOV!!! NPOV!!!--Faizaguo 12:27, 18 June 2008 (EDT)
The liberal bias produces an effect far more deleterious than one can account for merely by saying, "Oh, but people all over the world, not just the United States, contribute to it." The dispute between liberals and conservatives is often a dispute of fact. When people cannot agree on the facts, debate is impossible. And if, for example, the United Nations were to pass a resolution saying that two plus two shall be equal to five, or that the value of "pi" shall be an even 3--well, I fail to see why the citizens of the United States--or for that matter the subjects of the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth of Nations--need accede to or comply with such resolutions.
Now about the objection concerning frivolous entries: Arcane British royalty is not the primary objection, nor should anyone pretend that it is. When I, for example, say that Wikipedia has certain entries that ill befit an encyclopedia, I am not talking about articles on, say, Prince Michael of Kent. Unhappily, the sort of articles that I am talking about, are on subjects that are not fit for discussion in polite, mixed company and especially not on a site accessible to minor children. In fact--and I am prepared to swear to this in a court of law, if necessary--some of the articles in Wikipedia on these "blue subjects" are directly copied from another London-based wiki devoted entirely to the particular "blue subject" in question--and without attribution, either, though the articles do give an external link.
- What if the UN were to pass a resolution saying that 3 is even or that the Commonwealth has subjects? =)
- Sorry, I couldn't resist, but I am really struggling to understand what these examples are supposed to mean. Just because there is a remote possibility that the UN could make some stupid resolution that everyone would ignore, the citizens of each country should collectively ignore the rest of the world? I honestly have no idea what you mean. Anyway, these "impolite" articles you talk about. To arrive at one on Wikipedia, a user would need to type in an "impolite" word, just as they could on, say, Google, where they would probably find far more offensive material. Besides, I really can't think of a subject which is excluded from polite conversation for a good reason - it's mostly just culture-specific taboos that we were brought up with. For example, you may well have no problem talking to a complete stranger about a recent murder (which is widely accepted as being immoral), but would you want to bring up sex (which isn't)? I certainly wouldn't, though I realise it is completely irrational.
- As for the more frivolous or obscure articles which seem to be criticised here a lot, if the Wikimedia Foundation is happy to host them, I really can't see a possible problem. Nobody forces you to read these articles, and if you aren't interested in their subjects, you probably never will. And just because you aren't interested in, say, obscure species of beetle or individual episodes of TV programmes, doesn't mean no-one else should be - after all, someone was clearly interested enough to write the articles. EmanresU 17:20, 16 July 2007 (EDT)