British Columbia

University of Victoria announces new Honorary Resident Wikipedian

A Q & A with the new new Honorary Resident Wikipedian at the University of Victoria.

Christian Vandendorpe says his role is to incite his colleagues to make Wikipedia better.

The University of Victoria has just named its first resident Wikipedian, Christian Vandendorpe, a professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa, and a former magazine editor and author.

He spoke with All Points West host Khalil Akhtar about his new position at the university.

What is going to be your role at the University of Victoria?

It's mainly, I would say, to draw attention to the importance of Wikipedia for the general public. And to act as a role model and to incite my academic colleagues to help to make this encyclopedia better.

How will you convince academics of the merits of wikipedia compared to a peer reviewed journal?

I don't tell them to abandon their general work and research, but to share their research online with open access so that people can use it to add to Wikipedia.

Secondly, professors have a responsibility toward the public good. And they have interest that their discipline be known correctly by the general public.

At what point in your life did you become an advocate for Wikipedia?

In 2005 I'd been scrutinizing Wikipedia ... In some cases I was really admirative of the quality of some articles, as well I was concerned about the poor quality of some other articles.

I studied the history of encyclopedias ... The first were far from what the Encyclopedia Britannica was at the end. Even the first edition of the Britannica in 1772 had many articles that were very stupid, like on the use of tobacco.

So it was easy to deride the beginning of Wikipedia as amateurish. But in fact you have a lot of people, tens thousands of people, collaborating, contributing to topics they know.

If you look at many articles in Wikipedia today you will find the quality and quantity of information much greater than in the Britannica.

We have an interest in making Wikipedia as complete and reliable as possible.

This interview has been edited for the web. To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: U of Vic's new wikipedian Christian Vandendorpe


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