An article from a few days ago in Wired caught my eye this morning.  In What Would Jesus Wiki? author Michael Calore talks about Conservapedia, an "alternative Wikipedia" that presents history from the perspective of (religious) conservatives.

Conservapedia operates on the belief that Wikipedia's content maintains an unacceptable liberal bias.  Here are a couple of snippets from the site's "Examples of Bias in Wikipedia":

  • "Polls show that about twice as many Americans identify themselves as "conservative" compared with "liberal", and that ratio has been increasing for two decades. But on Wikipedia, about three times as many editors identify themselves as "liberal" compared with "conservative". That suggests Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public."
  • "Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English-speaking users are American. Look up "Most Favored Nation" on Wikipedia and it automatically converts the spelling to the British spelling "Most Favoured Nation." Look up "Division of labor" on Wikipedia and it automatically converts to the British spelling "Division of labour," then insists on the British spelling for "specialization" also…Within entries British spellings appear in the silliest of places, even when the topic is American. Conservapedia favors American spellings of words."

In total, there are a list of 31 reasons why Wikipedia is liberally biased.

Calore's article goes on to note that Conservapedia has been the butt of jokes in the blogosphere since the site's inception in 2006, due to some of its unconventional articles on historical topics skewed to fit the mindset of "the religious right, social conservatives and creationists". 

Calore's article also mentioned another conservative wiki, CreationWiki, an online encyclopedia dedicated to portraying Creationism.  It's also worth noting that the Bible encyclopedias Theopedia and Wikible require editors to agree to statements of faith (here and here) before participating on the site.

Just as a quick test, I searched for the word "dinosaur" on both of Creation Wiki and Conservapedia. Both CreationWiki and Conservapedia suggest that dinosaurs coexisted with mankind in the Garden of Eden and on Noah's Ark.  Hmm.

The creators of CreationWiki and Conservapedia were so disturbed by the contents and biases in Wikipedia that they were compelled to create their own, equally biased version of the online encyclopedia.  This got me thinking.  While blogs and user generated content are great for getting different perspectives and opinions on issues, the web is providing an avenue for more and more people to project their own individual ideas, which may or may not be true, to the masses.  Because of the increased ease with which people access mass publication channels nowadays, I really think that people need to start taking sites like Wikipedia, Conservapedia, etc. less seriously.  We all know by now that most of Wikipedia's articles are written by everyday people who may or may not have any idea what they are talking about. So there's really no need to overreact about the (in)accuracy about the site's content.  Please, just take Wikipedia's articles with a grain of salt.

To illustrate the idea of the extent that wikis have spread like wildfire, and truly are accessible to anyone who wants to write about anything, I did some quick web surfing and found some pretty interesting (odd?) examples of wikis:

Wikible (pronounce why-kai-bul).  A wiki for Biblical information.

Classic Encyclopedia.  A wiki that bases all its information on the 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (published in 1911!!)

Armeiapedia.  A wiki dedicated to all things Armenian.

STOwiki.  Star Wars encyclopedia.

There is even a wiki dedicated to providing patently false information….Uncyclopedia, which offers "content-free" articles.  Check out their article for "dinosaurs"…the "original owners of Earth who sold it to the martians on a whim for a bag of magic beans".

If everyone took sites like Uncyclopedia, Classic Encyclopedia, or Conservapedia as seriously as Wikipedia, we would probably be hearing a lot more stories like the Fuzzy Zoeller fiasco from a couple of weeks ago.  I think these sites really prove the veracity of the old saying "Don't believe everything you read".  Maybe the creators of Conservapedia should have thought of that before they went to the trouble of building an entire encyclopedia.