Don’t you think Wikipedia is too complex and too comprehensive?

Before I get into this topic, I must admit that I am a huge fan of Wikipedia. There are a few human efforts that can get close to the treasure house of knowledge that Wikipedia is. Its always available for anyone to refer to and there are no irritating ads all over the site. Its truly a democratic site – Run by the people for the people. What more can one ask for?

One of the biggest strengths of Wikipedia is its comprehensiveness in dealing with any topic under the sun. But does the complexity of presenting the topics require a re-look?

For example, have a look at this paragraph:

“Ants form symbiotic associations with a range of species, including other ant species, other insects, plants, and fungi. They are preyed on by many animals and even certain fungi. Some arthropod species spend part of their lives within ant nests, either preying on ants, their larvae and eggs, consuming the ants’ food stores, or avoiding predators. These inquilines can bear a close resemblance to ants. The nature of this ant mimicry (myrmecomorphy) varies, with some cases involving Batesian mimicry, where the mimic reduces the risk of predation. Others show Wasmannian mimicry, a form of mimicry seen only in inquilines” – Wikipedia article on ants.

How about writing it like this?

“Ants form close long term interdependent relationships with other species including other ants, insects, plants and fungi. They are preyed upon by many animals and certain fungi. Some arthropod species (insects that have segmented bodies and joined limbs) that bear close resemblance to ants can mimic ants and spend part of their lives inside ant’s nests. They do this either to save themselves from predators or to feed on ants, ant larvae, ant eggs or even ant food.”

Though the details and the links to further details in the Wikipedia articles are appreciated, we would prefer to read continuously on a subject without having to refer to further details for each and every technical term used in the passage by opening all the links given in a paragraph. The link could be there, but a small explanation (perhaps in brackets, as I have used in the re-write) could help us continue to read without any interruption.

Secondly, I think there are too many technical terms used in every article which makes it complex and difficult for normal people to read and understand the article. It would be better if these terms are simplified and the articles written in a simplistic (understandable in a single read) style.

Third, the articles are sometimes too big and too comprehensive. The above linked Wikipedia article on ants for example might take more than couple of hours to read fully (I gave up after about one hour!). Of course, if a subject has so much material to be covered then it needs to be covered comprehensively – I understand that. And Wikipedia makes it simple by giving a lot of helpful subtopics.

But still, consider that any average publication on the Internet is not more than 600 – 800 words. That’s the attention span of the average netizen reading articles online.

So, what do you people think? Does Wikipedia need a comments system like Blogs for getting reader feedback? What’s your experience with Wiki and what are your ideas?

Destination Infinity

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23 Replies to “Don’t you think Wikipedia is too complex and too comprehensive?”

    1. Thanks for your comment Bikram. Wikipedia is a great effort, and with some small changes they can make it likable for all!

      Destination Infinity

  1. The articles are difficult to comprehend at times but I think it gives me the opportunity to learn the topic in grater depth. Had they not used the terms “symbiotic association” and “Batesian mimicry” my learning would have been superficial.
    As far as the length is concerned they cover everything right from the history, origin to the modern day significance of any given topic which I find quite interesting.
    Instead of giving everything as a big article, which looks quite formidable, they could probably change the user interface a little bit.

    1. I agree with Chavvi, that the links does learning more good than harm. Most of the people refer to Wikipedia to understand what it is rather than doing a research. So, for those people the study ends in the first sentence or paragraph itself.

      For slightly curious individuals, these links help a lot, and as you go deeper down the links, the pages are not very long as the information fed by fellow wiki people is less. Anyways interesting take. I am sure people in wiki are striving continuously to make it better.

    2. Good. So, let them keep the links for people who want to research more on the subject but for people who want to read about a subject continuously and without interruption, they can consider writing a few words about what the link means just after the link within braces?

      That way, people can get into the links as well as read continuously without losing the meaning.

      About the length of the articles, I agree that there is no option. If a subject needs to be covered comprehensively, it has to! But, they could consider some changes in the user interface.

      Summary that they give before any article is a great idea. That helps a lot of people but sometimes its as complex as the article itself!

      Destination Infinity

    1. Maybe they can have a pop-up box in every link, so that people can understand the gist of that link without having to visit that page.

      Destination Infinity

  2. Wikipedia is good for doing holiday homeworks of kids. The kids got good grades this year.
    A man has the tendency to filter and keep the information he wants too. So exhaustive and simply written materials are ideal.

    1. I don’t have much complaints on the ‘exhaustiveness’ part of wiki – Its inevitable and its good too… But yes, I think the text has been presented in a complex way. Yeah, its a good source for doing holiday homework – kids no longer need to go to the neighborhood libraries to refer to the encyclopedias.

      Destination Infinity

    1. That’s true. Every one likes it as it is an easy source of information but they could simplify their writing style a bit?

      Destination Infinity

  3. Absolutely true…. need some sort of system to simplify the content so that all could grasp and understand.. use of highly technical terms and terminology should be avoided..

    1. Or, they could just have a pop up to give us the meaning of the technical term when me mouse over the word, so that it will be easy for us to understand what we are reading and keep reading.

      Destination Infinity

  4. Hi Rajesh,

    Nice blog. I agree with you.

    Have you tried Visie? Visie is a wiki and a community of professionals and subject matter experts. The wikis on visie are simple and are created for indian consumers and professionals. You can also collaborate and share info though facebook.

    Visie has just launched and is growing. Would you like to moderate content on visie?

  5. Wikipedia is WAY too complicated and poorly written when it comes to biology articles. Its horrible really. Countless other websites are better sources for biology information than Wikipedia. But Wikipedia is the top hit on Google for any science information, so often college, middle, and high school students miss the other superior sources available.

  6. I agree completely! Wikipedia seems to be written as a doctoral-level reference. Just try to read anything under the general subject of physics and you’ll see what I mean. I tried looking up Feynman diagrams and gave up after about 3 sentences. That’s why there’s a simpler version of Wikipedia currently being authored.

    1. I hope that the simplified wikipedia covers all topics comprehensively, like the main version wiki. We badly need one.

      Destination Infinity

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