I discussed how Wikipedia is more of a work in (constant) progress, rather than a finished product. A big part of how that happens is the ongoing discussion that contributors have. There is a little magic tab at the top of each Wikipedia article that will take you into the discussions that give you a look at the “editorial” process at Wikipedia. Since everyone can contribute and edit, the editorial meetings are as open as the rest of the process. You can learn a lot about an article or subject by reading the discussions. Or at least take the measure of a particular contributor.Discussions are great to look at whenever you see flags on an article about tone, accuracy, or controversy, and offer insight into what’s going on. I have two favorite examples of this. The first is for the article on Jesse Jackson which needless to say has a lot of controversy and contention associated with it (in addition to vandalism). It’s interesting to see the discussion at this time (and it will change if you catch this article more than a month or so after it’s published) about Jesse Jackson’s remarks regarding Barack Obama. Last time I looked (a year ago) there was a lot of commentary around the PUSH years in Chicago, and vandalism. The great thing about the discussion tab is that with a controversial public figure, you can at least see the discussion and process of how things came to the current point they are at.Next, on more obscure topics, you can get some illumination or insight you might otherwise not get. I found this when looking at the Wikipedia page on the Hmong (which are a significant portion of my student population). The discussion page for Hmong had a very interesting discussion about the term “Miao.” This ethnic group had originally come out of China, into present day Laos/Vietnam, and now in refugee camps in Thailand, with some coming to the U.S., where the term is considered derogatory. Some contributors from China where contending that with changes following the revolution, it no longer had a stigmatized status in China proper. It showed the various layers in this ethnic group because of it’s long diaspora status. -ALICE MERCER

Carolyn Foote’s wonderful article on the Wikipedia discussion page

Related Stuff:

Wikipedia: I’ll need a citation for that…

Wikipedia: who, what, how, and so on

Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem on Wikipedia: A Template For Collaborative Student Research

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Photo credit: zoe prinds-flash on flickr

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