Digital History: Civil War Fredericksburg

Week 6: Wikipedia

February 15th, 2010 by Megan Mc · 1 Comment

Wikipedia is one of the sites I go to if I have to find a basic overview of a subject. I know, at times, it’s not a very scholarly source of information but it can be helpful in finding out basic information on a subject. I was also unaware that the discussion  and history tabs existed, they turned out to be incredibly interesting when looking at how an article evolved.

I decided to look the wikipedia entry for Piracy in the Caribbean which I was looking at for my Pirates of the World class. It has changed immensely from it’s first appearance. It began as a huge block of writing on the 21st of Nov 2002. Definitely not very easy to look at and read. As time goes on it increases in length but is still in huge paragraphs. I would’ve thought by the end of 2003 it would have been altered greatly, coinciding with the release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie but it just lengthened. Finally in January 2005 a significant change in the appearance. Lines dividing the sections appear. Then on the 30th of January a table of contents suddenly popped up but it was rather hard to find as it was under a massive “intro” paragraph which was basically the entire article. Soon enough someone moved it to the top of the page, making it easier to see. In May 2005 a mention of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies was added.

One thing that bothers me is even as late as May 20th, 2005 there is only one source cited, I feel like there definitely would have been more sources based on how much is in the wiki article. On Feb 24, 2006 the page gets a bit… odd looking it seems like someone attempted to edit the page without knowing what they were doing there is alot of gibberish. On April 18th, 2008 the wikipedia page was vandalized, which is quite a common occurrence since it is a community edited encyclopedia, of sorts, anyone can edit it and it’s up to other editors to fix things.

The vandalism was quite… interesting not like the one that appeared in the Heavy Metal Wiki page video where they just repeated the same thing over and over,  this person changed the article to say, “The man cause of Piracy is of course George Bush. Piracy in the Caribbean resulted from the lucrative but illegitimate opportunities for common seamen, such as George Bush, to attack European merchant ships (especially Chuck Norris’s fleets sailing from the Caribbean to Europe)…” Someone noted it in the discussions page and the error was soon fixed.

The discussions tab proved to be incredibly intriguing. Especially the the part on NPOV (neutral point of view). Someone was concerned about the fact that the article seemed to come from a very Anglo-centric point of view. The poster discusses the fact that it leaves out many French and Spanish pirates which were present in the Caribbean during the “classic era” of piracy. In fact, most if not all the pirates we have learned about were Spanish, Dutch, or French. The only two I can think of off the top of my head are Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake. I feel like NPOV is a difficult thing for people to accomplish and could be brought up for many articles on Wikipedia as well as many history books.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Mary Ann // Feb 16th 2010 at 12:19 am

    Yeah, number of sources is definitely an issue with Wikipedia, and I think that if they provided greater proof that their information comes from legitimate places they wouldn’t have the reputation that they do. But I think that the conversation on the discussion page of the Pirate site is a perfect example of what is neat about Wikipedia. Debates like that can occur and the results added into the site at any moment, rather than having to weight for the next series of a book to be published.