Wikipedia’s bias

Just read an interesting article about systemic bias within Wikipedia (via Boing Boing), namely that the nature of its authorship means it predominantly focuses on topics that appeal to the white, male, Anglosphere. The self-regulating nature of Wikipedia is a major help here, and the sensible discussion on how to combat the problem does it great credit.

But it doesn’t quite touch on the biggest gripe I have with Wikipedia, which is its temporal bias. Far too much of the site is dedicated to very recent events, in fact some pages border on obsession with the news. For instance, take the page on Tony Blair. There is (roughly) twice as much written on events surrounding him in the 9 months of 2004 than there is for his entire career up to 1997 or his first term in charge. Some of it is mind-bogglingly trivial – does anyone care that he didn’t win last year’s Nobel Peace Prize? What does the purple condom incident have to do with Blair himself?

There is very little on his political influences, his early friendship with Gordon Brown, how he made law and order a central plank of Labour policy with “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. His many changes/fiddles to the constitution merit just a paragraph. There’s not a sniff on social policies like the minimum wage. Kosovo merits a single sentence. In short, it is a poorly balanced portrait of the man himself.

Now of course, I could go and edit the page, that’s the entire point of Wikipedia. But this page is only an example of Wikipedia’s obsession with current events (which are more heavily covered online, and so easier to source). Hopefully, the call to use more offline and historic material that comes from the article above will help alleviate the problem, even though it has not been directly addressed, but it means a radical change from the obsession with the contemporary that Wikipedia institutionally possesses.