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Wikipedia and Operations Research

Wikipedia is in the news, due to some inaccurate/obnoxious/insulting entries regarding a journalist and alleged involvement in the Kennedy assassinations.

Wikipedia is an interesting effort to harness the knowledge and energy of hundreds of thousands of people to form a new type of encyclopedia. The key aspect is the ability to freely enter information (or misinformation) and edit what is there.

The entry for operations research is pretty good, covering both the general (what is OR) and the specific (some military and other examples). The pointers are well selected. The “history” gives all the past edits, and it is striking how many edits went into this entry alone. That is one advantage of multiple people working on it: 100 edits don’t seem bad if 50 people are doing them.

But what is to stop someone from putting “Operations Research is an upsidedown cake with cherries” into the entry? As this Wired article describes, with enough interested volunteers, such vandalism can get corrected within minutes. Of course, that assumes the entry is in an area with knowledgeable and active volunteers. I wonder how much misinformation is stored in the backwaters of wiki.

Despite the doubts, I think a wiki based Encyclopedia of OR would be a tremendous asset for the field. While some expert-based encyclopedias are fine (Gass and Harris have a good one, at an astounding $620 new), a community based wiki would be more up-to-date and be able to cover far more.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Francisco | May 19, 2006 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir,

    I think this could be of your interest since explains a recent case explaining about the wiki phenomena.

    http://www.economist.com/surveys/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=6794228