Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Editors Needed for Online Encyclopedia

Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopedia, and its articles frequently appear near the top of Google searches. This encyclopedia is maintained by volunteer editors, but anyone with a web browser can edit these articles. The goal of its founders is to create the largest encyclopedia in the world -- all cross-referenced, edited, and unified in format. So far, there are more than half a million articles in English.

This encyclopedia is published using an unusual copyright policy that allows anyone to make derivative works, or just do a bulk copy, for free, with the provision that any such works are also free in the same way. This has led to wholesale copying of Wikipedia in various formats, and will almost certainly lead to this being the most widespread electronic reference source for the near future; printed versions are already appearing. Web sites frequently link to Wikipedia as a reference source.

The importance of this to Catholics is tremendous. For example, I used Google to search for "Roman Catholic Church" and got these top links:

  • Catholic Online

  • The Holy See


  • Wikipedia article "Roman Catholic Church"

  • So, if anyone wants to know more about the Church, the very first reference article they see is the Wikipedia article.

    This article is probably not written by a Catholic and does not have a Catholic point of view, which is understandable, since this is a general-purpose encyclopedia that has a 'neutral point of view' policy. However, there is a need for more Catholics to work on this project to ensure an accurate portrayal of Catholicism.

    Catholicism-related articles tend to have far higher criticism than other articles, while fringe groups often get a free ride on promoting their views, neutrality notwithstanding. I've noticed that much Historical-Critical nonsense is often accepted as fact, and not qualified with opposing and traditional views.

    On big articles, there may be hundreds of editors watching every change closely, so a new user can't just make a controversial change and expect it to last online for more than an hour. Wikipedia has a mechanism in place for a discussion on every topic. Vandalism is also quickly detected and eliminated. Also, normal rules of courtesy and friendship apply. Breaking these rules can even get you banned from editing the encyclopedia.

    There are many gaps in this encylopedia, so creation of new articles is always needed. For examples, many U.S. Dioceses, including some in Missouri, aren't listed, nor are many famous Catholics.

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