Wikipedia is an incredible source of knowledge with a vast amount of diverse information written through the collaboration of thousands of people. This is what Henry Jenkins describes as “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal”, otherwise known as collective intelligence (Jenkins). As discussed in Jenkins’ blog, it’s common for educators to criticize Wikipedia as a source for information because of its collective intelligence, which results in their “concerns about the credibility of online information” (Jenkins). Jenkins, however, disagrees with these educators and believes Wikipedia is a good tool for young people “to evaluate information” and “work together to achieve shared goals” by learning how to evaluate information (Jenkins).
The Wikipedia page for Coffee provides many examples of the capabilities of collective intelligence. This particular page was created April 8, 2004 and has been receiving constant edits from over 4,500 editors. 4,500 coffee enthusiasts, historians, biologists, and so on all came together to create an elaborate Wikipedia page over the course of 11 years. However, the vast amount of knowledge put onto this page did not begin to pick up and receive massive edits until 2006. This is largely due to the fact that the current number one contributor began editing in 2006. My hypothesis is that this editor, known as DMacks, began contributing valuable information that eventually encouraged others to begin branching off from his edits. From then until 2008 the number of edits continued to increase.
Despite the majority of the information on the page is about the production, health benefits, and chemistry of coffee, much of the discussion between the editors is heavily focused on the history of coffee. Historical content tends to be one of the most frequently debated topics in most Wikipedia pages (Jenkins). However, the editors discussion is very valuable to the success of a Wikipedia page because it allows them to give suggestions for ways to improve the page and it allows Wikipedia users to request information they believe to be valuable to the topic.
While Wikipedia does benefit from collective intelligence, it does have its problems. When reading the coffee Wiki page I didn’t notice any huge errors, just a few very minor numbers or statistics that I didn’t agree with, such as ideal brewing temperatures, which are subjective anyway. Wikipedia says the ideal temperature is anywhere from 185° F to 199°F, I prefer to brew mine at around 202°-205°F and in some cases certain brewing methods bring out more flavors with the temperature as low as 170°F, but that’s just me being a pedant, otherwise the information seemed to be pretty accurate. I was, however, surprised the page lacked information I think should be included, such as the Specialty coffee movement and the current movement of third wave coffee. These two movements have drastically changed the perception of coffee as a commodity to an artisanal beverage, so I was surprised that there was no mention of these two movements at all. The page also had little information on national coffee associations, specifically the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). There is however a citation from an article on the Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia website.
Wikipedia is a great source for learning the details of practically anything, but I don’t think it’s great for learning all the details. Instead I see it as a source that can give you a base amount of knowledge for a subject that will then lead you to finding more elaborate information.
Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART ONE).” Confessions of an AcaFan. Henry Jenkins, n.d. Web.
Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART TWO).” Confessions of an AcaFan. Henry Jenkins, n.d. Web.