In yesterday’s blog posting, I mused about the quality of information on Wikipedia about Canadian mining companies–basically said it is lousy. Then I wondered if the open model of Wikipedia would beat out the closed model of the Encyclopedia Britannica and other sites where you pay a fee to access information.
I repeat below an insightful comment made on my posting. It is from Patrick Littlejohn, a Masters Student at the University of British Columbia.
I’d bet that each model will find a niche that it’s best at. For example, Wiki blows EB out of the water for all things computer science, statistics, high level mathematics, number theory, astronomy, and physics.
I think this is because the types of people who know most about these topics have worked in open source style projects before (especially computer scientists). It’s also good for pop culture stuff because there’s a rabid fan base with time to spare for every movie, TV show, etc you can think of.
It’s worse for applied physics/chemistry, engineering, mining, business, both because of the demographics that use Wiki (more young people than old) and because the movers and shakers in this latter category are too busy moving and shaking to add to Wiki.
In my mind Wiki is the ultimate starting point, rather than the be-all & end-all. If you treat it as what it is – a quantum encyclopedia where facts may or may not be correct, then it is an excellent resource, no matter what you’re doing.
I am impressed and persuaded by his point that Wikipedia information on mining etc. is “worse” because the movers and shakers in the industry are busy moving and shaking.
The issue then is can the industry do anything about it, and if it can do something, should it do something about it?
The mining industry cannot send high-level delgations to Wikipedia asking for better coverage. The mining industry cannot set high-paid lawyers on those who write the scurrilous stuff on mines in Wikipedia. The mining industry cannot organize a committee to study the problem and then recommend that a government entity set about rewriting Wikipedia entries. Business and politics as usual fail the mining industry in this instance.
Maybe the mining industry need not do anything about the terrible quality of postings about mining on Wikipedia. Maybe as the baby boomers in mining become old farts and retire, they will find themselves with nothing to do. Maybe they will discover the delights of adding to Wikipedia and distill their knowledge into outpourings of wisdom on new wikipages.
It is arguable that no such thing will happen. Retired mining experts will take their time and money to Hawaii, the beach, and the booze; and wiki be damned.
Maybe every mining company and every consultant to the mining industry should designate their most intelligent and most prolific writer, and enable them with an hour a week, and a mandate to add mining intelligence to Wikipedia. There will be setbacks as the anti-mining forces retort and remove and revise to emphasize their ideology. But no matter, eventually from the turmoil of the mass of the commons, a truth emerges. You may not like Bush or Clinton, but there are informative pieces on them in Wikipedia. Surely it cannot be hard then to get informative pieces on mining.
Or do we need an industry-sponsored Encyclopedia Mining? Considering that I do not have a subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica, what hope is there that other retired folk will pay to access Encyclopedia Mining?
Actually the question is why should I pay to access Encyclopedia Mining when the information I desire is available free via Google on the websites of the mining companies and associations that interest me. And sometimes when, as on CIM sites, I cannot get anything but the paper abstract, I e-mail the author and generally the paper is forthcoming. Sure it takes a bit of time, but I have time, and it costs nothing to browse the web awhile.
The only time I fork out money for information, is when I know it is of the highest possible quality and insight; and there is no other free-access channel. And thank goodness, there are very few places where the information is of high quality and insight. So my outlay for un-free information is low, at least by comparison with the cost of my other vices. Closing point: if you have a bit of time, spend your money on vice rather than on information; information is essentially free, vice is not.