Jeffrey Pomerantz

Wikipedia as shared worldview

I’m still reading Here Comes Everybody. On p. 279, Shirky writes: Wikipedia, which looks like a reference work to the average viewer, is in fact a bureaucracy given over mainly to arguing. The articles are the residue of the argument, being the last thing anyone declined to disagree about. This made me think: in other words, Wikipedia is a massive experiment in shared understanding of the world. Shirky discusses “shared awareness” a lot.. Read More

Expertise swell in Wikipedia?

At the 2002 VRD conference, my now-colleague Phil Edwards (at the time we were both still mere doctoral students) presented a paper titled: Characterization of Volunteer Expertise Within the Internet Public Library Reference Service. In that study he found what he called “expertise swell.” In other words, novice IPL volunteers answer questions on a limited range of subjects (users submitting questions via the IPL’s Ask A Librarian webform can self-categorize their question into.. Read More

Empathy, 2 year olds, and the free rider problem

I heard this story on NPR recently, and then when I saw this tweet by @hrheingold, I remembered that I’d wanted to look up the article in Nature, which I did: Fehr, E., Bernhard, H., & Rockenbach, B. (2008). Egalitarianism in young children. Nature, 454(7208), 1079-1083. As the parent of a child who is deep in the throes of the Terrible Twos, I’m extremely interested in this research that shows that egalitarianism and.. Read More

What motivates Wikipedians?

So this is what I think about when I’m being insomniac during the holidays… As my dear readers are aware, I’m obsessed with the set of problems and/or questions (probably depending on how you look at it) surrounding the motivation for participating in and contributing to open projects such as Wikipedia, and the free rider problem and how to avoid it. There are a few articles that I’m aware of that address the.. Read More

Made completely out of goat cheese

Following up my previous post on the Wikipedia Scanner, I give you The Wiki Watcher, from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Apparently chèvre is used as a building material in Gainesville FL. Wikipedia says so, so it must be true.

100 times the information at 85% the accuracy

Scanner Tracks Who’s Changing What on Wikipedia, from NPR See Who’s Editing Wikipedia – Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign, from Wired Wikipedia Scanner — the brainchild of Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student Virgil Griffith — offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of internet IP addresses. Alarmingly,.. Read More

Kudos to the UW Libraries

It’s been a long time since I’ve done my librarians-need-to-take-professional-responsibility-for-the-reliability-of-Wikipedia-as-an-information-source rant here, mostly because I felt there was nothing more to say on the matter. However, I need to revisit it on account of this article in the latest D-Lib Magazine: Lally, A. M., & Dunford, C. E. (2007). Using Wikipedia to Extend Digital Collections. D-Lib Magazine, 13(5/6). In May 2006, the University of Washington Libraries Digital Initiatives unit began a project to.. Read More


Surfing the biblioblogosphere just now, I came across this post on Panlibus, about Wikicat. In simple terms the Wikicat project is attempting to assemble a bibliographic database [yes another one] of all the bibliographic works cited in Wikimedia pages. I can’t decide if I think this is a good idea or a dumb idea. I mean, another bibliographic database, that will in all likelihood replicate content that is available elsewhere? Contributes to information.. Read More

Had it taken place in the days of the Machine

A fascinating article by Jaron Lanier about why Wikipedia is an instantiation of a more insidious trend, the attempt to create an internet-based hive mind, of sorts: DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism …the trend has been to remove the scent of people, so as to come as close as possible to simulating the appearance of content emerging out of the Web as if it were speaking to us as.. Read More


Thanks to Jason for pointing this out (and yes, I’m more than a little behind on reading my regular blogs): Wikipedia has a Reference Desk. Apparently The Wikipedia reference desk works like a library reference desk. Though without the librarians, and, one presumes, using only one information source. Members of my beloved audience (all 3 of you) know that I’m a loyal fan of Wikipedia. And I am also a believer in the.. Read More