Strong opinions, weakly held

Missing the point

Christopher Diggins warns us not to trust computer science articles on Wikipedia. Here’s his admonition:

This is not the first time a Wikipedia computer-science definition has made me want to pull my hair out. In the end I don’t care, as long as people don’t make the mistake of taking Wikipedia definitions seriously. Just remember that in Wikipedia the definitions are written by random people, and edited by random people, not experts.

My question to Diggins would be, “Did you fix the definition that offended you?” He took the trouble to write up what’s wrong with the definition on his own weblog, but didn’t bother to update the article in question. Instead, someone else who probably read his weblog entry has done so.

The article has also been the subject of much thoughtful discussion, contrary to the impression that Diggins gives that it was written by some “random person”.

I would further challenge Diggins to point me to a better definition of type safety that’s readily available on the Web. It’s better to work to improve the imperfect resource we have rather than to bash it without offering any alternative.


  1. Hi there, another thing could be that MS is doing something similar so it could be a plant from them. I would go a little forward & say it’s better to ‘ve atleast an imperfect resource then no resource at all.

  2. Thanks for publicising this. Some contentious Wikipedia articles, such as the article on the Patriot Act, are very difficult to change, because any change gets reverted by people with opposing viewpoints. This of course doesn’t mean that Christopher Diggin’s problem article was in that class, but it does explain why some people get discouraged and give up fixing things. It gets frustrating wading through all the arguments and making changes that disappear.

    Wikipedia is, in spite of this, generally of high quality and an excellent reference, occasional mistakes and all.

  3. Really interesting! it´s the first time i heard about it!

  4. As Rogers Cadenhead pointed out a few weeks ago, the article on Thimerosal is the perfect example of Wikipedia back and forthism.

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