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?