last revised: January 12, 2008

A Criticism of Wikipedia: Wikipedia and Japanese Archaeology

Home | Index by Charles T. Keally

This is the original version of a paper revised and published in Sophia International Review no. 30, 2008, with the title "Shards, Shells, and Wikipediasts: The Virtual Fate of Japan Archaeology." This journal can be obtained at:
Sophia International Review
Faculty of Liberal Arts
Sophia University
7-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 102-8554, JAPAN

Fax: +81-3-3238-4076

Wikipedia is supposed to be the ultimate in one-stop knowledge (information) shopping. I recently looked through the content of some of the pages on the subject I know best -- Japanese archaeology. To put the conclusion first: Wikipedia is a production by armies of totally unqualified amateurs writing about, discussing and arguing about subjects they are wholly unqualified to write about, discuss or argue about. No professional would join such a disussion because his/her informed voice would be drowned out by the cacophony of uninformed voices. Trying to fix the content of a Wikipedia article would be a waste of valuable time. It would be better to make one's own web site on the subject.

The basic concept of Wikipedia is that anyone who wants to can put up a page (write an article) on any subject he/she wants to write on, and he/she need NOT have any qualification to write on that subject. Then anyone else who wants to can modify that page and/or discuss various points of the content, and he/she need NOT have any qualification to write on that subject. All this is maintained on Wikipedia under four tabs: article tab, discussion tab, edit this page tab and history tab. Nothing in all the extensive verbiage on a topic gives the reader a means to judge the accuracy of the content -- and the verbiage seems endless on even simple topics.

To me it is glaringly obvious that the Wikipedia system cannot produce useful information. Yet I get the impression that a lot of supposedly intelligent people use Wikipedia like it was the source of "The Word" on whatever subject. And Wikipedia seems to be selling itself as such.

My profession for the past 40 years has been Japanese archaeology and prehistory. That is what I have been doing for a living, full-time, for four decades. Consequently, I probably am one of the better qualified people for judging the accuracy of Wikipedia's content on Japanese archaeology. (Readers can judge the accuracy of that statement for themselves by perusing my web site on Japanese archaeology at <>.)

I recently (September and October 2007) Googled several major topics in Japanese archaeology and looked over the Wikipedia content. It was far worse than poor, and all topics were full of errors.

There was no indication that any writer had even the slightest qualification to write on or discuss the topic, for example "Jomon Period." Most sounded like high school students. Some writers were admittedly not qualified -- a high school student arguing from a few paragraphs on the Jomon culture in his high school history book. Some of the content was irrelevant to the topic. Much of the discussion was -- here I search for an objective word that is printable in public. And all of the content was riddled with errors, with no way for the ordinary reader to discern fact from fiction, accurate from erroneous. Further, the quality of research these writers exhibited would fail their paper in a high school history research project.

The quality of the Wikipedia content in the field I know best leaves me no choice but to assume that that is the quality of the Wikipedia content in ALL other topics in that vast electronic encyclopedia. I have no choice but to assume all 7,000,000 Wikipedia articles in 250 different languages are equally unreliable sources of information.

Wikipedia was supposed to fill the minds of the world with all the knowledge the world ever produced. It was supposed to be the ultimate in one-stop knowledge shopping. In fact, Wikipedia likely is the greatest source of misinformation the world has ever had. Certainly, no one should use Wikipedia for any kind of information on Japanese archaeology or prehistory. I know that is largely misinformation.

The mystery here, to me, is why people who know they are not specialists or specially informed on a given topic nevertheless feel free to write all about it on Wikipedia and to get into lengthy discussions about it, too. That alone tells me the writers and discussants are not very intelligent. I get the impression these people writing on Japanese archaeology topics are equivalent to children playing grown-up. Are they aware of the seriousness of what they are doing?

The whole Wikipedia concept seems to me to be much like that concept that begins with "If enough monkeys...." And it seems to me that Wikipedia is producing about as much useful information as those "enough monkeys" are likely to produce.


Some Specific Criticisms: Wikipedia on the "Jomon Period"

Critcizing Wikipedia articles is like throwing rocks at a moving target while blindfolded -- the content changes frequently. And that is one of the major problems with Wikipedia: If the content changes so much, how can it be treated as reliable? But here are some of my specific criticisms of the Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period, as the content was on the days I viewed the article. The five major characteristics of the article that I evaluated are:

  1. References Cited
  2. Erroneous Statements
  3. Plagiarism
  4. Jomon Dates
  5. Writers and Discussants

1. References Cited:
The first thing I look at in any journal article or student research paper is the list of references cited, in order to see if the writer has done his homework or not. If not, then I discard the article or grade the paper F, without reading it. There is not sense in reading something if the author has not done his homework.

The references cited in this Wikipedia article on the "Jomon Period" are barely adequate for a high-school term paper; I would fail this paper for a college student who could not do better at finding references, both hard-copy and Internet sources; and I would fail a graduate student for the whole course if he turned in a paper with such a poor list of references cited (Jomon Period [], viewed: September 13, 2007). The list of references as copied directly from this Wikipedia article are:

The only truly good reference in this list is Junko Habu's Ancient Jomon of Japan. Her book is about as close to excellent has is humanly possible for a book dealing with a subject as large and detailed as the Jomon culture. The book has 262 pages of main text. The coverage is extensive and the detail well balanced on all topics. And the 55 pages of references, including an obscure article by me (Keally 1971), shows that Habu really did her homework for this book. These references also include 18 publications by Habu herself, and 15 by Kobayashi Tatsuo (see below). No statement in a research paper on the Jomon Period should contradict what is in Habu's book on the same topic, without making clear that the writer knows he is contradicting Habu 2004. This Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period fails on that point.

Habu's book on subsistence-settlement systems in the Moroiso phase of Early Jomon is good but very narrow in topic.

Keiji Imamura's Prehistoric Japan is a fair book, but it is very uneven. The content is very detailed on some topics and very slim on others equally important. The book covers all of Japanese prehistory, with only 87 pages on the Jomon. Further, Imamura's book has only 12 pages of references cited, with 13 references by himself and only three by Kobayashi Tatsuo (see below).

The Library of Congress materials were written in 1994 by a non-specialist and were out-of-date and poor the day they were put on the Internet. The other three references should not even be there. However, there are many other good resources that could have been used to enhance the content of the article.

References that should have been picked up for this Wikipedia article are:

Three of these four books are old and general works on Japanese prehistory. But they are all good books, and useful for a student research paper on the Jomon Period even today. However, any research into the Jomon Period should turn up Kobayashi Tatsuo's name. When I Googled <+jomon "kobayashi tatsuo" "tatsuo kobayashi">, Kobayashi's Jomon Reflections came up at the top of the list . Kobayashi is the leading Jomon archaeologist in Japan and one of the most prominant Japanese archaeologists. No research paper on the Jomon Period is complete without reference to publications by Kobayashi. The fact that his name is missing from the reference list for this Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period shows that the writer did not do his home work. This one missing author alone is enough to reduce a college student's research paper to a grade of D.

In the age of the Internet, no research paper is complete without a few references to materials available on the Net. This Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period links to several web pages, but it does not give any of these in the references cited list. They should be there.

On October 15, 2007, I Googled for the search terms <"jomon culture">, <"jomon period">, <+jomon +subsistence>, <+jomon +diet>, <+jomon +pottery>, <+jomon +dates>, <+japan +pottery +early>, <+japan +"early pottery">. Each of these search terms, or pairs of terms, produced two or three very useful web pages or web sites in the first 20 hits. Some of these are:

As far as I can determine, this Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period does not cite or link to any of these web pages.

These same search terms also turn up my web page [] in the first 10 hits for Jomon culture, subsistence and diet, and in the first 30 or 40 hits for the other terms. This Wikipedia article does not reference or link to my web site; it should. (Note that the Wikipedia article on the Japanese Palaeolithic does link to my web site.)

In addition to the overall weakness (scarcity) of the references, there are many other problems -- the format is inconsistent, the capitalization is inconsistent, the content is inconsistent, there are errors in the titles, the titles are in quotation marks instead of italics. Even a high school student should get the bibliography (references cited) list done better than this. The writers of this Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period clearly have NOT done their homework for references or for bibliography format.

As a Wikipedia article, or as a student paper, this article on the Jomon Period fails even before I read the content. So what is going to happen to this paper if I do read it?

2. Erroneous Statements:
If I decide to read an article, I am always alert to erroneous statements, because, if I find errors in the information I know, then I have to assume that there are errors in the information I do not know already. Too many errors means I should discard the article. This Wikipedia article on the "
Jomon Period" (, viewed: September 13, 2007) fails on this second grading point before I am even halfway through reading it.

Error #1:
The article begins with a grossly erroneous statement, one that is very out-of-date:

Most scholars agree that by around 40,000 BC glaciation had connected the Japanese islands with the Asian mainland.
This statement is taken directly from the Library of Congress source cited in the references. [Library of Congress Country Studies,] (At the bottom of the Library of Congress text it says "data as of January 1994".) In fact, however, the generally accepted view is that the main islands of Japan, except Hokkaido, have not been connected to the continent by a landbridge since 430,000 years ago (also given as 300,000 years ago). For more details see my web page on landbridges in Japan and the references given there. []

Furthermore, even before the Library of Congress article was written in 1994, there was general agreement among the geologists and paleontologists that the main islands of Japan had not been connected to the continent via a landbridge for at least 130,000 years, since the beginning of the Late Pleistocene (Takahashi 2007: 7-8, 14). In an article published in 1991 (Keally 1991) I have the statement:

But there is general agreement today that the Tsushima Strait between western Japan and Korea, and the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido, remained open throughout the Late Pleistocene, and that only Hokkaido in the north was connected directly to the continent by a landbridge (Ohshima 1980: 35-36; Kamei and Research Group 1981: Mogi 1981: Kawamura 1985: 352: Ota and Yonekura 1987: 71; Kawamura et al. 1989).
The authors cited for this statement in my 1991 paper are Japanese geologists and paleontologists whose research focuses on the question of landbridges between Japan and the continent. These are all primary sources published by specialists in the field being discussed, not secondary sources by people who are not specialists in the field, such as archaeologists with little understanding of the natural sciences. Moreover, landbridges 40,000 years ago are irrelevant to discussion of the Jomon Period.

Error #2:
Further down in the article is the statement: "...lived in caves and later in groups of either shallow pit dwellings or above-ground houses." This is basically wrong. In fact, the Jomon people rarely used caves, even in the earliest phases of the culture, and they continued to use caves occasionally throughout the whole Jomon Period. Caves were never a distinctive characteristic of any phase of the Jomon culture, although they are more noted in the literature for the earliest phases. Above-ground dwellings also were not common, or at least not commonly identified by archaeologists.

The Jomon people did use caves and above-ground dwellings. But this statement is erroneous in the emphasis it gives to these two rare kinds of shelters.

Error #3:
The author of this article says that "the earliest forms of farming are sometimes attributed to Japan (Ingpen & Wilkinson 1993) in 10,000 BC." The citation refers to: Encyclopedia of Ideas That Changed the World, Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson, 1993, ISBN 0-670-84642-2.

I have never heard of Ingpen or Wilkinson; they probably are not very qualified to be making such statements about the Jomon Period. The date given suggests they are referring to finds from the Torihama Shellmound, but possibly some other site in southern Kyushu. But "farming" was never a part of the Jomon subsistence strategy, although there is now little doubt that the Jomon people did cultivate a few plants from quite early on (Habu 2004: 59-60, noted above under "References"). But cultivated (domesticated) plants were never more that perhaps 1% of the food base.

Kobayashi Tatsuo's Jomon Reflections (pp. 72-97, noted above under "References") has a good discussion of the Jomon subsistence strategies. Kobayashi references Junko Habu's Ancient Jomon of Japan pp. 59-60 (noted above under "References") for details on domesticated plants in the Jomon Period. Habu gives the oldest date as Early Jomon. If the writer of this article on the Jomon Period had done his homework, he would not have cited Ingpen and Wilkinson 1993 on the topic of possible Jomon farming. In fact, he should have cited Habu 2004, a reference that is in the bibliography list given with this article. Further, an Internet search for the terms <+jomon +domesticates> would have turned up my web page on the Jomon Culture in the second position [] and a very good article by Dr. Richard Pearson (a specialist in Japanese archaeology) in the third position (Pearson 2004) []. My web page on the Jomon Period discusses the Jomon diet briefly and links to an English-Language Bibliography for Jomon Subsistence and Diet Studies. Pearson's "New Perspectives on Jomon Society" is a general article but it provides some very useful ideas on the topic of the Jomon diet; it should be referenced.

The Jomon people did not farm; they cultivated a few domesticated plants. But "sometimes" gives too much emphasis to an activity that was actually rare. And the evidence for domesticated plants before Early Jomon is very questionable and suggested only in 1 or 2 publications that I know of.

Error #4:
Under the "Discussion" tab is the statement: "Also, the section with the heading 'Neolithic...' contains a passage about pottery indicating a sedentary life, since ceramic breaks easily... For a direct opposite of this, see this quote, from page 923 of William Hurley's Prehistoric Japanese Arts: Jomon Pottery. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 73, No. 4. (Aug., 1971), pp. 922-925):

The earliest Jomon pottery appears to be associated with hunting and gathering peoples and the ceramics are suggested as antedating specimens on the continent by several millennia as the Fukui Cave examples are dated at 10,750 ± 500 B.C."

First, William Hurley did not write an article titled "Prehistoric Japanese Arts: Jomon Pottery"; he wrote a review of J. E. Kidder's book of that title. Second, an article title is not italicized; the journal name should be in italics. And, third, "hunting and gathering peoples" does not mean a mobile way of life. The Jomon people were a hunting-gathering-fishing people, but they were sedentary. Japan is a rich country. If a hunting-gathering-fishing people controls their population, as the Jomon people mostly did, and if they know their environment well, as the Jomon people did, and if they exploit the resources wisely, as the Jomon people did, then they can live by hunting, gathering and fishing mostly within a radius of about 5 km of their settlement (Akazawa 1980).

This Wikipedia article on the Jomon Period has too many obvious errors. It fails even before I finish reading it.

3. Plagiarism:
I also stay alert for signs of plagiarism as I read, especially when reading student papers. This Wikipedia article on the "Jomon Period" has a lot of plagiarized material, text that is almost identical to the text of the source it is based on and without any citation to indicate that source. Changing a few words here and there is not "writing in your own words," it is still plagiarism. Compare the following pairs of text:

Pair #1:

WIKIPEDIA: [the article begins with:] Most scholars agree that by around 40,000 BC glaciation had connected the Japanese islands with the Asian mainland. Based on archaeological evidence, between 35,000 BC and 30,000 BC Homo sapiens had migrated to the islands from eastern and southeastern Asia and had well-established patterns of hunting and gathering and stone toolmaking. Stone tools, inhabitation sites, and human fossils from this period have been found throughout all the islands of Japan. Additionally, a 1988 genetic study points to an East Asian base for the Japanese people. (, viewed September 16, 2007)
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- JAPAN: On the basis of archaeological finds, it has been postulated that hominid activity in Japan may date as early as 200,000 B.C., when the islands were connected to the Asian mainland. Although some scholars doubt this early date for habitation, most agree that by around 40,000 B.C. glaciation had reconnected the islands with the mainland. Based on archaeological evidence, they also agree that by between 35,000 and 30,000 B.C. Homo sapiens had migrated to the islands from eastern and southeastern Asia and had well-established patterns of hunting and gathering and stone toolmaking . Stone tools, inhabitation sites, and human fossils from this period have been found throughout all the islands of Japan. (, viewed:September 16, 2007)
Pair #2:
WIKIPEDIA: [Further down in the text is:] More stable living patterns gave rise by around 14,000 BC to a Mesolithic or, as some scholars argue, Neolithic culture, but with some characteristics of both. Possibly distant ancestors of the Ainu aboriginal people of modern Japan, members of the heterogeneous Jomon culture (c. 14,000-300 BC) left the clearest archaeological record. (, viewed September 16, 2007)
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- JAPAN: More stable living patterns gave rise by around 10,000 B.C. to a Neolithic or, as some scholars argue, Mesolithic culture. Possibly distant ancestors of the Ainu aboriginal people of modern Japan, members of the heterogeneous Jomon culture (ca. 10,000-300 B.C.) left the clearest archaeological record. (, viewed September 16, 2007)
These pairs of text show that the writer of the Wikipedia article is plagiarizing from the Library of Congress source. There are no citations given with the statements, only a comment in the references cited list that material comes from the Library of Congress source. And the Wikipedia wording is almost identical to the Library of Congress wording, only a few words having been changed. Further, a close comparison of the rest of the Wikipedia text and the Library of Congress text shows other plagiarized statements.

I would grade a high school paper D with a warning about plagiarism; I would fail a university student for the course for this kind of plagiarism, and, if the degree of plagiarism were extensive enough, which it is, I would move to have the student expelled. A graduate student would earn immediate expulsion from the university for this degree of plagiarism.

4. Jomon Dates:
The dates for the Jomon Period given in this Wikipedia article are the standard generalized dates, and almost identical to the dates I have on my web page on the
Jomon Culture []:

Wikipedia Dates Keally Dates
Incipient14,000-7500 bcIncipient11,000-7500 bc
Initial7500-4000 bcEarliest7500-4000 bc
Early4000-3000 bcEarly4000-3000 bc
Middle3000-2000 bcMiddle3000-2000 bc
Late2000-1000 bcLate2000-1000 bc
Final1000-400 bcLatest1000-500 bc
  • the 500 bc date I give for the end of Jomon is based on the Latest Jomon-Early Yayoi transition; that date would be a few centuries older for the Latest Jomon-Incipient Yayoi transition in Kyushu
  • these dates are roughly the same as those given by Habu in Fig. 2.5 (Habu 2004: 39)
  • Habu gives more detailed views of the Jomon dates in Fig. 2.6 and Table 2.4, based on Keally and Muto 1982 (Habu 2004: 41-42)

But that is where the similarities end. First, the Wikipedia date 14,000 bc is a calibrated radiocarbon date, whereas all the other dates in that list are uncalibrated dates. The chart of dates on my web site says very clearly that all the dates given are uncalibrated dates. And the Wikipedia discussion of Jomon dates (under the "Discussion" tab) is confusing and mostly erroneous. The writers involved in that discussion clearly do not know the detailed dates for the Jomon Period, nor do they understand the dating methods. Trying to discuss the problems in that confusing discussion would be very difficult and probably mostly useless.

For those who are interested in comparing the Wikipedia discussion of Jomon dates to the dates given by the Japanese specialists in the field, the following chart will be helpful:

  Radiocarbon Ages Calibrated Dates
Incipient Jomon: Plain13,500-12,700 BPca. 16,200-15,000 calBP
Incipient Jomon: Linear-relief12,700-11,400 BP15,000-13,300 calBP
Incipient Jomon: Nail-impressed, etc.11,400-9800 BP13,300-11,200 calBP
Middle Jomonca. 4800-3900 BPca. 5450-4500 calBP
Late Jomonca. 4100-3100 BP4550-3250 calBP
Jomon-Yayoi Transitionca. 2700 BPca 2850 calBP
Incipient Yayoi: endingca. 2600 BPca. 2700-2750 calBP
  • this chart is modified from Keally 2004: 46
  • the dates are based on Fujio et al. 2006; Harunari et al. 2003, 2004; Imamura et al. 2007; Keally et al. 2003; Kobayashi 2006; Kobayashi et al. 2002, 2003, 2004; Nakamura et al. 2001; Taniguchi 2004
  • these authors are archaeologists and specialists in AMS radiocarbon dating, working together
  • BP and calBP dates can be converted to BC or BCE dates by subtracting 1,950 years, or a rounded 2,000 years
  • the Incipient Jomon Plain Pottery in the oldest sites dates about 16,000-15,000 cal BP; the following Linear-relief Pottery about 15,000-13,300 cal BP; and the Punctated, Nail-impressed, Impressed-cord, and Rolled-cord pottery types about 13,300-11,200 cal BP

For more detailed information on Jomon dating see the following links:

And for discussion of some of the problems in Jomon dating see the following links:

5. Writers and Discussants:
As far as I can determine from the content of this article on the Jomon Period and the discussion about it, and from the bios of the writers and discussants, none of the writers or discussants has even the slightest bit of qualification to be writing on or discussing the Jomon Period.

Some contributors are university students or recent graduates with an interest in Japan, but no education or experience in Japanese prehistory. Others are just people interested in things Japanese. One was "purged" from Wikipedia because of a conflict with the adminstration. One gives the impression of being a huge egotist, writing myriads of articles on topics all over the spectrum.

What these writers and discussants say about themselves in their bios suggests to me that they are enjoying this great fun on the Internet but that they are completely unaware of the seriousness of what they are doing.

The bios on these writers and discussants say clearly that they are not qualified to write on or disucss the subject they are so freely writing on and discussing. And they are doing a terrible job of it. They are not even qualified to be writing research papers for college courses. I would expect better from a high school student. But it takes a lot of time to review all the information ABOUT a Wikipedia article in order to try to judge its potential validity. That would be a huge waste of time if the judgement is negative. And a user certainly cannot waste that much time for every Wikipedia article he wants to use. But the Wikipedia system necessitates judging each article separately.

In contrast, printed encyclopedias and scientific and academic journals do not require much time to evaluate, and, once one article is evaluated, all articles are effectively evaluated. Printed encyclopedias and journals are not perfect, they have errors and the writers, editors and publishers have biases which influence the content. But these printed sources of information have long-established reputations for general accuracy. They also have production systems that ensure the highest level of reliability. Wikipedia cannot match these printed resources.

This is not an elitist idea. It is simply practical. Researchers are doing serious work; they are not playing. They want to get the most likely valid information as easily and quickly as possible. That is not possible with Wikipedia.

This is perhaps the greatest problem in the Wikipedia system -- the great amount of time required to check the potential accuracy of the information in any one article, and the fact that a "valid" conclusion for the information in one article CANNOT be applied automatically to any other article.

Hence, I have chosen the safer, easier and faster approach -- a conclusion of "invalid" (a grade of F for a high school research paper) on one article is the best evaluation for all other Wikipedia articles. I am sure there are some very good and accurate articles in the Wikipedia encyclopedia, but I do not have the time to check each one for accuracy.


Some Additional Criticisms of Wikipedia from Japanese News Articles

Article #1
An article in my local Japanese-language newspaper (Yomiuri 2007a) reports that a Japanese Imperial Household Agency employee was punished for editing several articles on Japanese prehistory that he(?) found on Wikipedia (probably in Japanese but not specified). In the article on "Imperial Tombs" in Wikipedia was the sentence: "There is the view that the Imperial Household Agency fears evidence will be found that destroys the emperor system from its very base." The employee of the Imperial Household Agency changed that content to read: "The imperial tombs are presently the places of worship by the imperial family, so archaeologists cannot be granted free access."

Of course. Let me ask those who accept the original sentence: Are you going to let a bunch of archaeologists dig up your family graves just because they have some academic interest in your ancestry? Probably not. Well, the same feeling would be true for the Japanese imperial family. The Imperial Household Agency employee was punished for making this change (and other changes in other articles) from an office computer, but he was right to make the changes.

The idea that the Imperial Household Agency does not allow archaeologists to excavate the tombs because of fears of what they might find is an idea that is widespread. It is also an idea propagated by people with an anti-Japanese agenda.

Article #2
Another article in the evening edition of the same newspaper (Kondo 2007) three days later criticizes the content of a Wikipedia article on public construction projects in Japan (in Japanese). The article notes that someone has written into that article phrases that are good from the point of view of the bureaucracy:

This news article suggests that people with a specific agenda, not necessarily one for the public good, can influence the content on Wikipedia and hence the ideas of the people who use Wikipedia as a source of valid information.

Article #3
A news article on October 5th reported that Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has refused to accept Chinese censorship just to get into the Chinese market (Yomiuri 2007b). Both Yahoo and Google have accepted Chinese oversight and censorship, but Wikipedia has been blocked out completely for two years. The article goes on to say that Wikipedia articles are now written in 250 different languages, and that the number of articles numbers about 7,000,000.

Given my view that Wikipedia is likely to be the world's greatest purveyor of misinformation, and the realized likelihood that people with agendas will have strong influence on many of the articles, it is easy for me to see the Chinese point of view. However, I am against censorship.

Article #4
A second article on the same day (Yomiuri 2007c) reports that six employees of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were given strong warnings for using office computers to write into Wikipedia articles on subjects not related to work. These employees had written into articles 408 times since 2003, and 2/3 of the content was personal. And one employee erased the term "crushing defeat" and replaced it with "narrow defeat" in a Wikipedia article about the election defeat of an ex-manager of the Ministry.

This article makes clear how people with agendas can influence the content of Wikipedia, and not necessarily for greater accuracy or for the public good.


Concluding Remarks

Wikipedia is supposed to be the ultimate in one-stop knowledge shopping. However, it is not and cannot be used as a source of valid knowledge. It is a production by the mob. Its content can be mangled by anybody so inclined. And sorting out the reliable from the unreliable or outright wrong information is far too time-consuming to be worth the effort. It might even be impossible.

As sources of knowledge, old fashion printed encyclopedias still seem to be the best. At least we know there are good checks on the content. And prowling the library to use printed encyclopedias is fun and can also inform on many unsought topics.

On the Internet, Google, among others, is better than Wikipedia. It at least is posible to quickly assess the likely reliability of the information by checking the organization operating the web site or posting the information. For topics in Japanese archaeology, for example, archaeological organizations, museums and universities are probably reliable sites.

It is worth noting a comment on another subject, journalistic crowdsourcing, which is not at all unlike the process producing the content of Wikipedia:

But if the elitist fortress-newsroom mentality held John Q. Pubic at arm's length, it also kept PR flacks and unqualified hacks out of the newsroom. By forcing their beleaguered staffs to depend on outsiders for content, then running the content without much editorial oversight, newspapers may be taken in by crackpots and sly marketers who make Jayson Blair look like a grade-school plagiarist. Lobbyists and spin doctors have already taken notice of the new model. (Weinstein 2008: 73)
And finally, just Google <+wikipedia +criticism> and read all about it. On October 14, 2007, I got 2,150,000 hits and some very interesting reading in just the first 20. The web page in first place was a criticism of Wikipedia on Wikipedia (
Criticism of Wikipedia []). Also near the top of the list of hits was an interesting article in The Register by Andrew Orlowski, dated October 18, 2005 (Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems []). There were many other interesting articles; take your pick, or take them all. Most were quite critical of the whole Wikipedia concept and content; others were critical of the critics.


Some terms in the text that need further explanation. These terms are basic to my evaluation of Wikipedia articles or student papers.

References Cited