🙂 Let me try writing it as a syllogism

All professors are important.
All important people are in Wikipedia.
All professors are in Wikipedia.

It is the simplest form, a so-called a-a-a syllogism, you can use the mnemonic trick Barbara.

Well, I wish it were that simple. I am sure that most professors can be found in wikipedia. However, like other groups of persons, their representation is rather diverse. Unfortunately, this is also true for professors of computer science (even those of the computer science institute at TUM) who by rights should have a little more of an affinity towards wikipedia.

In order to test my theory in private, I looked up famous professors of computer science in wikipedia. They all were or are still active as professors at TUM. Besides, their sur-names all start with the letter “B” and I personally know them quite well:

F.L. Bauer, Rudolf Bayer and Manfred Broy.

Looking at the articles on these three professors, you will notice immediately that they are not orthogonal. It starts with the pictures: there is a picture of Prof. Bauer, but there is none of either of the two others. But the structure and density of information, too, differs hugely. We find the item “life” in the article on Prof. Broy, but not in any of the others. Much is said about the teaching career of Prof. Bauer, which I sadly miss in the articles of Professors Broy and Bayer. And so on, and so forth – may the interested reader himself take a look.

The consistency of articles describing persons is a common wikipedia problem. Naturally, it does not stop at university professors are concerned.

What strikes me about the three professors mentioned in my example is that much that is essential about what these people did for teaching and research is simply left out. Their (positive) influence on business, too, is neglected.

Well, basically this is no surprise, because most likely it was these professors’ subordinates (both students and assistants) who tried to describe their boss in wikipedia. And, naturally, the bosses have no time to correct the articles (neither should they, according to the understanding of wikipedia!)

For me, it is inconceivable that universities, such as TUM, do not approach this issue with enthusiasm. First and foremost, the most important representatives of TUM should be cultivated. In my personal opinion, that is an important part of promotional work. Being a one-time student of TUM myself, I would find it nice to see the important persons at TUM represented in wikipedia in a well-structured and universal way. It would improve the reputation of TUM.

And other things promoted at TUM, too, should be written about in wikipedia.

An example is the unternehmerTUM at TUM, which is only mentioned in a short sentence along with the general TUM article (which, incidentally, also might benefit from improvement). I only find “Unternehmertum” as a general term in wikipedia, not the “unternehmerTUM” of TUM or ManageMore. I am sure the problem of relevance could easily be overcome when we are dealing with issues as important as this.

And the TUM herself knows best where she is making really important contributions to our society! This is why I think the Technical University of Munich should have a central department where all wikipedia entries that have anything at all to do with TUM are monitored both with respect to structure and content. It would be an exciting job and I am sure some honorary TUM employee or ex-TUM employee would be happy to do the job.

The Technical University of Munich spends quite a lot of money on publicity, and that is a good thing. But part of this investment would be better used if it improved sustainability, rather than seeking gaudy effects. And if the TUM and the people working along with its institutions and highlights got a high-quality representation in the world’s most important encyclopedia, this would certainly be quite remarkable.

By the way:
All I said about TUM is just as true for other relevant institutions and enterprises. It would probably be a good idea for every press department to have its own “wikipedia page”. And maybe the “person in charge of wikipedia” would be more important than the “person in charge of SEO”.

🙂 For those who do not know: SEO is short for Search Engine Optimizing.

(Translated by EG)

2 Kommentare zu “Wikipedia and I #10 – “Why is it That Universities do Nothing to Improve their Reputation in Wikipedia?” or “The Consistency Problem””

  1. six (Tuesday August 4th, 2009)

    Lieber Roland, schiebst Du mit Deinen Vorschlägen Wikipedia nicht eher in die Richtung “konventionelles Lexikon”? Sind nicht gerade die “freihändigen Strukturen” das, was eine “offene Quelle” ausmacht? Und dass Professoren in “unterschiedlicher Berichtstiefe” dargestellt werden, hat das nicht was mit unterschiedlicher Persönlichkeitstiefe zu tun?

  2. rd (Tuesday August 4th, 2009)

    Lieber Detlev, ich meine nicht. Jeder, der mithilft, Wikipedia nachhaltig zu verbessern, ist doch willkommen. Und warum sollen nicht auch z.B. von Unis eingesetzte Profis wichtige Dinge in der Wissenschaft verbessern. Und es ist ist auch kein Widerspruch zu einer “freien Enzyklopädie”, wenn z.B. für die Beschreibung des Wirkens eines Professors eine allgemein gültige Basisstruktur entsteht, die so wesentliche Punkte wie Forschung oder Lehre enthält und die meisten Artikel zu Professoren sich an dieser Struktur zumindest orientieren.
    Und andere Institutionen (wie Unternehmen) sind nach meiner Meinung auch gerne gesehen, wenn sie mitwirken, Artikel qualitativ zu verbessern. Natürlich müssen die genauso ihre Beiträge belegen wie jeder andere Mitwirkende.
    Zu der Berichtstiefe: Die scheint mir nur davon abhängig, ob der Professor einen Fan hat, der ihn besonders mag und die Zeit aufbringt, ihn in Wikipedia zu würdigen. Mir kommen da manche Professoren zu kurz weg.

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