posted on May, 26 2011 @ 10:38 PM
I would like to weigh in on this.
I see Wikipedia as a phenomenal resource and one of those little gems the the internet has gotten correct. Wikipedia is not, nor is meant to be
definitive or complete. When used as intended (as an at a glance general reference or a starting point for more in depth research) Wikipedia is a
There have been numerous studies with the goal of quantifying wikipedia's accuracy, most notably a rather infamous Nature magazine study conducted a
few years ago between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica showing Wikipedia to be as factually accurate as Britannica (something which did not sit
well with the encyclopedic heavyweight).
The open source argument that anyone can edit Wikipedia is a double edged sword in that anyone can just as easily update and correct misinformation
and thus far that seems to be as efficient of a fact check system as exists. Far superior to the old fashioned yearly updates once sold by the
Encyclopedia publishers. Incorrect entries are nearly always quickly challenged with fact and corrected by documented source material. Its simple
enough to prove one way or the other, try an erroneous Wikipedia edit and see how long it remains?
I often get a chuckle on the ATS forums when a perfectly accurate citation is dismissed offhand because it is sourced to Wikipedia, yet an anonymous
blog or youtube video is accepted carte blanche. Wikipedia is certainly adequate for the depth and breadth of the average ATS topic, I have yet to see
anyone who dismisses a Wikipedia link offhand successfully challenge the information presented much less cite a single current Wikipedia inaccuracy as
an example ( instead preferring to buoy their position via a wall of smiles and a comment about sheeple ) . It seems to be the same mindset who insist
everyone knows NASA lies, but cant really give a definitive example .
The classroom ban on using wikipedia as a source has nothing to do with quality of information, rather the policy is rooted in the need for for an
individual to develop the tools to know how to properly research a given subject for oneself. When I was in school, we weren't allowed to use
handheld calculators, not because the answer they provided were incorrect but because understanding the mechanics of a problem was as important as the
answer itself. For proof look no farther than the bottom of a given Wikipedia page, while Wikipedia might not be a valid source for the purpose of
academia, the references used to validate the entry most certainly are.
Where people get in trouble with Wikipedia is that there can be a substantial foundation of knowledge required to understand even a quick answer to
given subject. An example would be an aircraft wing. I can spend an hour reading the wiki entry on aerofoil design and have a general idea what makes
a wing produce lift but without having the necessary education in mathematics and physics I don't have the intellectual tools to apply the
information to build my own airplane.
The greatest flaw I see in the Wikipedia system is that the quality of writing is sub par at times, entries can be incomplete and some of the more
controversial subject matter can be prejudiced by individual contributors personal bias through means such as selective omission.
Like any other individual resource, vetting is important through cross reference and confirmation of source material. If something sounds odd or If
you are in doubt about a specific point, it is a small matter to click the footnotes and follow a citation to its source to judge for yourself.
Bottom line, yes Wikipedia is reliable and anyone denigrating Wiki based on accuracy would be hard pressed to provide an original example.